The past simple with TO BE

The past simple with TO BEThe past simple with TO BE. On the previous page, we looked at how to form the past simple by adding +ed or +d to the verb. For example:

  • He played outside yesterday.
  • He lived in New York for 2 years.

On this page, we will look at what happens when we use the verb TO BE in the past. In the present simple, the forms of TO BE are am, are and is. Here are some examples of TO BE in the present simple:

  • I am in Spain.
  • She is 27 years old.
  • They are happy.
  • It is 2pm.

When we change to the past simple, the verb TO BE changes:

  • I am > I was
  • She is > She was
  • They are > They were
  • It is > It was

Here’s a table showing all the changes:

TO BE in the present simple TO BE in the past simple
I am I was
You are You were
He is He was
She is She was
It is It was
We are We were
They are They were

Now let’s look at making negative sentences. For example:

  • I was in Spain. > I was not in Spain. > I wasn’t in Spain.
  • She was 27 years old. > She was not 27 years old. /  She wasn’t 27 years old.
  • They were happy. > They were not happy. / They weren’t happy.
  • It was 2pm. > It was not 2pm. / It wasn’t 2pm.

Finally, let’s look at forming questions using the past simple with TO BE. This is easy – we just move the ‘be’ to the front:

  • I was in Spain. > Was I in Spain?
  • She was 27 years old. > Was she 27 years old?
  • They were happy. > Were they happy?
  • It was 2pm. > Was it 2pm?

Here’s a review of all parts of the past simple with TO BE.

+ ?
I was I was not / I wasn’t Was I…?
You were You were not / You weren’t Were you..?
He was He was not / He wasn’t Was he…?
She was She was not / She wasn’t Was she…?
It was It was not / It wasn’t Was it…?
We were We were not / We weren’t Were we…?
They were They were not / They weren’t Were they…?