Simple Present – Simple Past – contrasted

Differences and similarities in the Simple Present and the Simple Past

1. Use

Simple Present Simple Past
  • repeated actions
  • fixed arrangements, scheduled events (e.g. timetable)
  • sequence of actions in the present (first - then, after that)
  • instructions
  • things in general
  • after special verbs
  • action finished in the past (single or repeated)
  • series of completed actions in the past

2. Signal words

Simple Present* Simple Past
  • always
  • often
  • usually
  • sometimes
  • seldom
  • never
  • every day
  • every week
  • every year
  • on Mondays
  • yesterday
  • last week
  • a month ago
  • in 2018
  • this morning

* Signal words of the Simple Present can also be used in the Simple Past. This happens when you want to say that you did something regularly in the past (here: last week).

I often rode my bike last week.

3. Form

Simple Present Simple Past
infinitive → 3rd person singular (he, she, it): infinitive + -s
  • regular verbs: infinitive + -ed
  • irregular verbs: 2nd column of the table of the irregular verbs

4. Examples

4.1. Affirmative sentences

Simple Present Simple Past
I play volleyball. I played volleyball.
You play volleyball. You played volleyball.
He plays volleyball. He played volleyball.

4.2. Negative sentences

Simple Present Simple Past
I do not play volleyball. I did not play volleyball.
You do not play volleyball. You did not play volleyball.
He does not play volleyball. He did not play volleyball.

4.3. Questions

Simple Present Simple Past
Do I play volleyball? Did I play volleyball?
Do you play volleyball? Did you play volleyball?
Does he play volleyball? Did he play volleyball?

5. Spelling

Simple Present Simple Past
  • watches (-es after sibilant)
  • goes (-es after -o)
  • hurries (Change -y to -ie after consonant)
  • stopped (Double the consonant after a short vowel.)
  • loved (one -e at the end of the word → Add only -d.)
  • worried (consonant before -y → Change to -i.)