Grammar Talks 2-07 | Beginner | Past Tense - Be - Was / Were

Life History

Meg and Todd talk about times in their lives.
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Todd: Hey Meg, so let's talk about our life history.

Meg: Okay, let's do it.

Todd: So first, when were you born?

Meg: I was born in 1984. What about you?

Todd: I was born way before that. I was born in 1969.

Meg: Oh!

Todd: Yeah, a ways ago.

Meg: Not too long ago.

Todd: Yeah, 47 years ago, but yeah.

Meg: Okay, a long time ago.

Todd: Okay, so when did you graduate high school?

Meg: I graduated high school in 2003.

Todd: Oh my gosh. Really!

Meg: What about you?

Todd: Wow, I graduated high school in 1987.

Meg: Ah, when I was three years old.

Todd: Wow, yeah! Ah, we were probably about the same intelligence level about that time.

Meg: No, that's not true.

Todd: And when did you graduate from college?

Meg: I graduated from college in 2010. When did you graduate from college?

Todd: I graduated from college in 1993, so like you I took a little extra time to graduate.

Meg: Yeah, I took more time than normal.

Todd: And when did you get your first job?

Meg: I got my first job when I was 17 years old, I think. When I was still in high school.

Todd: What did you do?

Meg: I worked at a wedding shop, a wedding dress shop, so I helped to assist the customers and clean the dresses.

Todd: That's a cool job.

Meg: Ah, it wasn't so great actually.

Todd: Why?

Meg: Because brides can get a little crazy.

Todd: I can imagine.

Meg: What about you? When was your first job?

Todd: Well, my first unofficial job was when I was 13. I was a dishwasher.

Meg: Oh, at a restaurant?

Todd: Yeah, and I think it was illegal because I was 13. But yeah, I was a dishwasher. But then my first official job was at McDonald's.

Meg: Oh, what did you do there?

Todd: I made the filet-o-fish. But I got fired.

Meg: Oh, why?

Todd: Also, again I lied about my age. So actually wait, I was 14, and I lied and said I was 15 and they fired me, but I worked there for three months.

Meg: Oh, and you got paid?

Todd: And I got paid.

Meg: Well, that's good at least.

Todd: It was good times. Good times.

Meg: (Laughter)

Todd: OK, so when did you meet your best friend?

Meg: I met my best friend in 2007, so about 10 years ago. What about you?

Todd: Oh gosh, I met my best friend in high school, so I was a sophomore, a second year student, so that was 1984 or 1985.

Meg: Wow! So you've been best friends for a long time.

Todd: A long time, yeah, yep. So how about phones? When did you get your first phone?

Meg: Hmm! I think I got my first phone when I was also 17, the same year I had my first job. It was my first cell-phone, was that year. What about you?

Todd: Well, I got my first phone also when I was 17, but it was a real phone. My parents gave me my own phone line in my house, so I had a phone in my room. Back then that was common in the 80s, so young high school people would have their own phone in their house.

Meg: Yeah, some of my friends had that when I was growing up also, but I wasn't lucky enough to get my own phone until I could pay for it myself.

Past Tense - Be - Was / Were

The past tense refers to actions that happened and ended before the present time.

The be verb has two past tense forms, was and were. First and third person singular use was. We use the contraction wasn't instead of was not in spoken English.
  1. I was at home yesterday. I wasn't at work.
  2. It was a fun party. It wasn't boring at all.
  3. He was sad all day. He wasn't happy.
  4. She was a good teacher. She wasn't strict.
All plural forms and second person singular use were and were not. We use the contraction weren't instead of were not in spoken English.
  1. You were right. You weren't wrong.
  2. They were late. They weren't on time.
  3. We were happy with the food. We weren't disappointed.
  4. You were so noisy. You weren't very quiet!

Past tense verbs usually end with an -ed ending but only for affirmative sentences. For questions and negative statements we use did to express the past. See below.

(Q) Where did you work?
(A) I worked in an office.
(N) I did not work in the city.


There are three ways to pronounce the -ed ending.

1. -ed = /t/ Verbs ending with a non-voiced sound such as the following: -sh, -ch, -p, -k, -s, -t.

  1. I washed the dishes.
  2. I walked to work.
  3. I scratched the dog's ear.
  4. I popped the popcorn.

2. -ed = /d/ Verbs ending with voiced sound such as the following: -n, -y, -v, -m.

  1. I cleaned the room.
  2. I enjoyed the movie.
  3. I moved the chair.
  4. I timed the race.

3. -ed = /id/ Verbs ending with -d or -t.

  1. I wanted to go.
  2. I decided to stay.
  3. I needed to sleep.
  4. I started my homework.

Negative The negative form of a verb in the past tense uses did not and didn't.

  1. I did not work.
  2. I didn’t sleep much.
  3. We did not fly kites at the beach.
  4. You didn't wash your clothes.
Answer the following questions about the interview.

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