Conjugation & verb forms of ‘to be’ in the past simple

(Formation of the simple past of the verb ‘to be’)

Table of contents – past simple of ‘to be’

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Formation simple past ‘to be’
  2. Verb forms simple past ‘to be’
  3. Further explanations and exercises

Formation of the simple past of ‘to be’

The simple past tense (sometimes simply called past) of to be is formed irregularly and has two different forms (was/were). In addition, the verb ‘to be’ can be utilised as a full verb as well as an auxiliary verb, in which case it forms part of the past continuous or the passive voice. Now, compare its occurrence as a full verb in the following examples and the table below:

  • Exemplary use and formation of ‘to be’ in the past simple:
    • “Although the flight was very expensive, we went on holiday.”
    • “In the amusement park, there were a lot of things to do.”
  • Watch out! In questions, ‘to be’ does not require ‘do’ or ‘did’ as an auxiliary (helping) verb:
    • “Where were you yesterday?”
  • Other verbs with auxiliary (then, ‘to do’ is needed in questions):
    • “Where did you stay yesterday?”

Verb forms of ‘to be’ in the past simple

Demonstration of the verb ‘to be’ when used as a main verb, i.e., full verb:

Positive/affirmative sentences

Person/pronoun Positive Interrogative form (question)
I/he/she/it He was. Was he?
we/you/they They were. Were they?

Negative sentences

Person/pronoun Negative Short form Interrogative form Short form of question
I/he/she/it I was not. I wasn’t. Was I not? Wasn’t I?
we/you/they We were not. We weren’t. Were we not? Weren’t we?

Further explanations related to the topic ‘Formation of ‘to be’ in past simple’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Conjugation and verb forms of the past simple of the verb ‘to be’’ and could be interesting too: