Using the past simple

(also called the simple past tense)

When do we need to use the past simple tense in English? Remember, this is the basic past tense. We use it whenever we want to talk about the past and we don't have any special situation that means we should use the past perfect, present perfect, past continuous etc.

Here's when we use it:

1 Finished events in the past with no connection to the present:

Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa.
The Vikings invaded Britain.
2 With a finished time word (yesterday, last week, at 2 o'clock, in 2003):

I went to the cinema yesterday.
We visited Japan in 2007.
3 For stories / lists of events:

He went to a café, sat down and lit a cigarette.
Yesterday I went to the library, met a friend for lunch, and played tennis.
4 Details of news:

I've hurt my leg. I fell off a ladder when I was painting my bedroom.
I've been on holiday. I went to Spain and Portugal.
5 As part of the second conditional:

If I won the lottery, I would buy a house in Chelsea.
If she knew his number, she would call him.