A verb in the ‘simple past’ always stands alone

New English word? Translate any word using double click.

If not, it is not a verb, but a participle. (Example: …have watchedwatched is a ‘past participle’)

What’s wrong with the following utterances (sentences people said – the * denotes a truly wrong form):

  1. *They might went
  2. *We could wrote
  3. …*to said..

Let’s look at some examples

Wewent  shopping in the afternoon. 
Theyplayed  cards last night. 
Imoved  last year. 
Shetaught  English (before she retired). 
Hesaw  nothing  
Welooked at  each other. 
The dogbarked  at the delivery van. 
Iwalked  my dog this morning. 
Theybiked  to work all year long. 
Wehiked in Italy this summer. 

If you wanted to express that none of the things stated above happened…..

Wedidn’tgoshopping in the afternoon.
Theydidn’tplaycards last night.
Ididn’tmovelast year.
Shedidn’tteachEnglish (before she retired).
Hedidn’tseeanything (note the change of ‘nothing’ to ‘anything’).
Wedidn’tlook ateach other.
The dogdidn’tbarkat the delivery van.
Ididn’twalkmy dog this morning.
Theydidn’tbiketo work all year long.
Wedidn’thikein Italy this summer.

The function of the English auxiliary is very important to understand. Whenever there is an auxiliary in a verb phrase: a form of BE or HAVE, may, might, should, could, must, will or would, the main verb – the verb that carries the meaning of e.g. an activity – is in the INFINITIVE form or a PARTICPLE. There are NO exceptions. It is ALWAYS like that. To understand DO or DID as auxiliaries you need to accept this fact of the English verb structure.

And after an infinitive TO (not TO the preposition), the verb is ALWAYS in infinitive form. So …to say and not …to said.

When we have a sentence in the simple past, that is all there is in the verb phrase: one verb in the simple past (see first group of examples). Nothing else.

Forming questions follows the same principle as stating something DID NOT happen. Using the examples above, form some questions.

Example: What did you do yesterday? When did you go shopping?

Note that, again, you have DID and an infinitive.


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