The simple past of to be questions English Beginners Course Lesson 28

Lesson 28


This tutorial is focusing on how to use  the verb to be in the simple past form.

Sometimes it is called the preterite and is used to talk about a completed action in a time before now.


1/Sentence Practice

I am happy to see you, Peter. I was hoping to talk to you yesterday. Were you busy in London?

Tell me about it. Later, now we will have another drink of water before lunch.

What were you doing? I was working at the language school. I was giving classes to intermediate students.

They were very easy to teach. Weren’t they Jeanne? Yes, they were. Jeanne was in the class. Weren’t you?

She was free because she did not have any classes herself. I was happy to teach because the students were receptive.

We did the past of to be, I am, is the present form and I was,  is the past.

I am; I was; You are; You were; He, she, it is; He, she, it was; We are; We were; You are; You were; They are; They were.

Was I? Were you? Was He, She, it?; Were we?, Were you?,  Were They?.

Were you confused Jeanne? No, I was not. I know how I have to learn and practise. In France, I wasn’t ready.

I was always looking for the logic. Now I accept that English is not logical. You just have to learn. haven’t you?

I did not know the importance of pronunciation. If you pronounce well, it makes listening easier.

If listening is easier then it is easier to memorise. If you speak English with a French accent it is difficult to learn English.



2/Vocabulary Practice

  • Were you?
  • I am happy to see you.
  • to be busy
  • Tell me about it.
  • Later
  • now
  • a drink of water
  • before lunch
  • What were you doing?
  • I was working
  • I was giving classes
  • to intermediate students.
  • to be free
  • to be receptive
  • to be confused
  • to practise
  • to be ready
  • always looking for
  • the logic
  • to accept
  • logical
  • the importance of pronunciation. to pronounce well, to make easier.
  • a French accent


The past simple of “to be” is irregular.

Let’s see how to form positive, negative, and interrogative statements!

Positive form of “to be” 

I was, you were, he was, she was, it was, we were, you were, they were

Negative form of “to be”  

I was not, you were not, he was not, she was not, it was not, we were not, you were not, they were not

I wasn’t, you weren’t, he wasn’t, she wasn’t, it wasn’t, we weren’t, you weren’t, they weren’t

Interrogative form of “to be”  

Was I? Were you? Was he? Was she? Was it? Were we? Were you? Were they?

Was I not? Were you not? Was he not? Was she not? Was it not? Were we not? Were you not? Were they not?

Wasn’t I? Weren’t you? Wasn’t he? Wasn’t she? Wasn’t it? Weren’t we? Weren’t you? Weren’t they?

When to use “to be” in the simple past? More examples

1/ completed actions – when it is over

It was in 1990.

They were backing singers back then.

2/ when I focus on the duration of an action:

It was on for two hours.

He was here for thirty minutes.

3/ when an action has happened once, never or several times in the past:

It was never that bad.

She was here once.

4/ for a series of actions in the past:

I was at the door. I knocked. The door opened.

5/ for facts or generalisations in the past:

He was the fastest runner in the world.

They were very famous at the time.

Signal words / adverbs of time that go with this tense:


Last week, last Friday, last time

2/ IN

in September, in 1995, in the summer


when she was a child

when I was 21

when that happened



the other day

Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers

When was the World Cup played in Italy?

It was in 1990.

How long was Peter here for?

He was here for 30 minutes.

Did you eat English food?

Yes, it was never that bad.

Do you remember Nigel Hamilton?

Yes, he was the fastest driver in the world.

Do you remember the Rolling Stones?

Yes, they were famous at the time.

Are you happy to see me?

Yes, but I was hoping to see you yesterday.

Were  you busy?

Yes, I was busy.

What  were you doing?

I was teaching at the language school.

What were you teaching?

I was teaching English grammar.

Why do you ask so many questions?

It is my job to ask questions.

Exercises Lesson 28

Comprehension Practice

Vocabulary Practice

Grammar Practice