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Was - Were - Past Tense of Be

The verb 'to be' is used in many questions such as "Are you married?", "Where are you from?", "Are you happy?", etc. Once you understand the verb 'to be' in the present tense, learn the verb 'to be' in the past tense. Use this guide to 'was / were' and compare this form to 'am / is / are' of the present simple to compare the present to the past.

Was and Were in the Past

Read the following questions. Compare the simple present with the simple past in the first example and then complete the questions using the correct form of the verb 'to be' in the past.

Present Past
Example: Where is Jack today? Where was Jack yesterday?
What day is it today? What day it yesterday?
Where are they today? Where they last week?
I am at home this afternoon. I at home yesterday afternoon.
We aren't in school now. We in school yesterday.
What is that in your hand? What that in your bag this morning?
When is usually she at home? When she at home yesterday?
He isn't a teacher. He a teacher.

Now complete the following chart for the simple past of the verb "to be"

Present Past
Positive: I am, I'm
Negative: I am not, I'm not
Positive: I
Negative: I
Positive: You are, you're
Negative: you are not, aren't
Positive: You
Negative: you
Positive: He, She, It is, He's, She's, It's
Negative: He, She, It is not, isn't
Positive: He, She, It
Negative: He, She, It
Positive: We are
Negative: We are not, we aren't
Positive: We
Negative: We
Positive: You are, you're
Negative: you are not, you aren't
Positive: You
Negative: you
Positive: They are
Negative: They are not, you aren't
Positive: They
Negative: They

Notice that the short forms of the verb "to be" include: I'm, I'm not, You're, You aren't, He's She's it's, He she it isn't, we're, we aren't, etc.

The short form is formed by putting an apostrophe - ' - in the place of the missing letter.

Write some sentences using the verb "to be" in the past. Example: I was at a party yesterday.

This video focusing on past tense will help you practice both irregular and regular verbs in the past tense. Ellen Quish also provides learning notes and a transcript of the dialogue in the video.

Continue Learning for Beginners Unit 5 Past Forms, 'A' 'An' and 'The', Listening Comprehension

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ESL: Past Tense for Beginners

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