Simple Past: Negatives and Questions


In the simple past tense, negative and question forms are made using the auxiliary verb "do" (in its past form, "did") followed by the simple form of the main verb. This page explains the rules.

1. Forming a negative

Negatives in the simple past are formed by adding didn't (informal) or did not (formal) before the simple form of the verb. The verb BE is an exception to this; in the case of BE, we just add n't (informal) or not (formal) after "was" or "were":

Simple past statement Informal negative Formal negative
I had a car. I didn't have a car. I did not have a car.
You ate my toast. You didn't eat my toast. You did not eat my toast.
He was here yesterday. He wasn't here yesterday. He was not here yesterday.
They were in the park. They weren't in the park. They were not in the park.

2. Forming a yes/no question

Yes/no questions are also created using the auxiliary did. This time, the auxiliary is placed before the subject. The verb BE is an exception; in this case, we move BE before the subject. Here are the rules:

Simple past statement Yes/no question
He brought his friend. Did he bring his friend?
They had a party. Did they have a party?
You were here. Were you here?
She was sick. Was she sick?

3. Forming a WH- question

WH- questions (using words such as "what", "when", and "where") are also created by putting the auxiliary did before the subject (or moving BE, as explained above). Then, you add the WH- word at the beginning. Here are some examples:

Statement Yes/no question WH- question
The building fell down. Did the building fall down? Why did the building fall down?
They lived in Vancouver. Did they live in Vancouver? Where did they live?
The store was closed. Was the store closed? Why was the store closed?
They were wolves. Were they wolves? What were they?

When you are sure that you understand the lesson, you can continue with the exercises.