Past simple affirmative sentences with the verb 'to be'



In today's lesson we find out how to make past simple tense affirmative sentences with the verb 'to be'. It will be helpful to look at making present simple affirmative sentences with the verb 'to be'.

Past simple tense word order

There are 2 past forms of the verb 'to be' namely, was and were. They change depending on the subject:

Subject
The verb 'to be'
Complement
I
(first person singular)
was
an unhappy child.
You
(second person singular)
were
14 years old in 1998.
You
(second person plural)
were
both good at Maths. 
We
(first person plural)
were
attractive teenagers. 
They
(third person plural)
were
extremely happy to see their parents. 
He
(third person singular)
was
a rebel.
She
(third person singular)
was
quiet in class.
It
(third person singular)
was
the best coffee in the world. 

  • John and Mary were bookworms.
  • Max was the perfect child.
  • My friend and I were always late for class. 
  • The dog was unhappy with its dry food. 

Common mistakes with affirmative sentences

Students often use the incorrect verb 'to be':

When I were a child, my parents was the most important people in my life. X
When I was a child, my parents were the most important people in my life. 

People was happier in the 1990s. X
People were happier in the 1990s.

Princess Diana were a humanitarian. X
Princess Diana was a humanitarian. 

Tommy and I was immature when we was younger. X
Tommy and I were immature when we were younger. 

Another common mistake is to use another main verb after the verb 'to be'. Look at these example sentences:

I was write a book. X 
They were played in the park. X
Mona was sing a song. X

The verb 'to be' is the main verb in these sentences. They are not helping verbs. You can only have 1 main verb in a simple sentence. If you want to say this, it is better to use either the past simple tense with other verbs or the past continuous tense. 

The verb 'to be' should be followed by a complement. A complement is usually a noun, an adjective, or a combination of the two. Look at these sentences:

John
was
a
hard-working
boy.
subject
verb 'to be'
(main verb)
article
adjective
noun


Max and Mona
were
excited about
their
presents.
subject
verb 'to be'
(main verb)
adjective + preposition
determiner
noun


The cat
was
very
hungry.
subject
verb to 'be'
(main verb)
adverb
adjective


The women 
were
nurses. 
subject
verb 'to be'
(main verb)
noun


Lesson Vocabulary

attractive (adjective) = beautiful/handsome. We use this word to talk about both men and women. 

extremely (adverb) = more than very

rebel (noun) = a person who disagrees with people in authority (e.g. teachers, parents, leaders, etc.) and shows this disagreement by acting different than normal

bookworm (noun) = a person who reads a lot

humanitarian (noun) = a person who cares about other people and who wants to make their lives better

immature (adjective) = you are immature if you think, act and make decisions like a child 


Exercise

Your turn! Use the following subjects to make past simple sentences using the verb 'to be'. 

For example: (0) Max and Mona - Max and Mona were the happiest couple until the divorce. 

(1) The mice  (2) The horse (3) The ladies (4) Avatar (5) My friends (6) My mother (7) People (8) Children (9) The oxen (10) The bookworms 

Please leave your answers in the comments section and I will give you some feedback. 

16 comments:

kazuo nishi said...

(1) The mice were so cute.
(2) The horse was really big.
(3) The ladies were so smart.
(4) Avatar was a very beautiful movie.
(5) My friends were all easygoing.
(6) My mother was a good pianist.
(7) Once upon a time people were happier compared to now.
(8) Children were always hungry.
(9) The oxen were extremely big and strong.
(10) The bookworms were very intelligent.

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Thanks for doing the exercise, Kazuo.

Very good! The sentences are all correct except for number 5:

5) My friends were all easygoing. X
My friends were all easy-going.
- There is a spelling mistake in this sentence.

Anonymous said...

1- The mice were obese.
2- The horse was the primery transportation in America.
3- The ladies were very sexy and attrative.
4- Avatar was a terrible film.
5- My friends were so kind with me.
6- I was born when my mother was twenty six years old.
7- I think people were less nervous before than now.
8- Long time ago children were obedient.
9- Oxen were useful for transport in my country.
10- The bookworms were very quiet.
Thank you
mt203948

Ирина said...

1 These mice were in the galley.
2 The brown horse was a large strong animal.
3 Our ladies were very beautiful.
4 Avatar was a picture of a person.
5 My school's friends were friendly to me.
6My mother was a serious and kind woman.
7These people were the members of our crew.
8Children were seldom happy.
9The oxen were overweight.
10 The bookworm was very literate.

tover berty said...

1. the mice was in front of me
2. the horse was very agressive
3. the ladies were singing some songs
4. Avatar was a good realisation nowhere days
5. my friends were not with me
6. my mother was sick
7. those people were at the conference
8. these children were in france
9. the oxen was big
10. the bookworms were here

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Thanks for doing the exercise, mt203948!

Here are my suggestions:

1) Good!

2) The horse was the primery transportation in America. X
The horse was the primary means of transportation in America.
- There was a spelling mistake.
- You should add 'means of'.

3) The ladies were very sexy and attrative. X
The ladies were very attractive.

- There was a spelling mistake.
- It is better not to use the words 'attractive' and 'sexy' in one sentence because they cancel each other out.

4) Good!

5) My friends were so kind with me. X
My friends were so kind to me.
- In English, we say kind TO somebody.

6) Good! You can also say: "My mother was 26 years old when I was born."
- We don't usually write out numbers larger than 10.

7) I think people were less nervous before than now. X
I think people were less nervous.
- You do not need to add 'before than now' because the past simple tense already does this job.

8) Long time ago children were obedient. X
A long time ago children were obedient.
- You need to add an indefinite article(a).

9- Oxen were useful for transport in my country. X
Oxen were useful as a means of transportation in my country.
- You should use the phrase 'as a means of transportation'.

10- Great!

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Thanks for the answers, Irina!

Here are some suggestions:

1) Good!

2) Great!

3) Good!

4) Avatar was a picture of a person. X
- This word 'Avatar' refers here to a 2009 movie by James Cameron. In your sentence the meaning of the word is 'a picture that represents a real person on the Internet'.

5) My school's friends were friendly to me.X
My school friends were friendly to me.
- In this sentence, 'school' acts as an adjective and 'friends' is a noun.

6) My mother was a serious and kind woman. X
My mother was a serious but kind woman.
- These 2 adjectives ('serious' and 'kind') are in contrast. The one is more negative(serious) whilst the other is more positive(kind). We should use a contrasting conjunction (but) here.

7) Great!

8) Good!

9) Very good!

10) The bookworm was very literate. X
The bookworm was literate.
- You cannot say 'very literate' because a person is either literate (able to read and write) or illiterate (not able to read and write).

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Welcome to my blog, Tover! Thanks for doing the exercise.

Here are my suggestions:

1) the mice was in front of me X
The mice were in front of me.
- Please use a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence.
- Please use a full stop at the end of the sentence.
- 'Mice' is the plural form of 'mouse' so it refers to 'they'. We should use 'were'.

2) the horse was very agressive X
The horse was very aggressive.
- Please use a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence.
- Please use a full stop at the end of the sentence.
- There was a spelling mistake.

3. the ladies were singing some songs X
- Please use a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence.
- Please use a full stop at the end of the sentence.
- This is an example of a Past continuous tense sentence.

4. Avatar was a good realisation nowhere days
- I'm sorry! I really don't understand this sentence. What do you mean?

5. my friends were not with me X
My friends were not with me.
- Please use a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence.
- Please use a full stop at the end of the sentence.

6. my mother was sick X
My mother was sick.
- Please use a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence.
- Please use a full stop at the end of the sentence.

7. those people were at the conference X
Those people were at the conference.
- Please use a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence.
- Please use a full stop at the end of the sentence.

8. these children were in france X
These children were in France.
- Please use a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence.
- Please use a full stop at the end of the sentence.
- Names of countries(e.g. France) should begin with capital letters.

9. the oxen was big X
The oxen were big.
- Please use a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence.
- Please use a full stop at the end of the sentence.
- 'Oxen' is the plural form of 'ox' so it refers to 'they'. You should use 'were'.

10. the bookworms were here X
The bookworms were here.
- Please use a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence.
- Please use a full stop at the end of the sentence.

I hope this helps!

Thanh Tung said...

1. The mice were very lazy.
2. The horse was in behind her.
3. The ladies were very cute and lovely.
4. Avatar was a movie.
5. My friends were the friendliest people.
6. Where was my mother born?
7. People were the bravest.
8. Children were the most hard-working people.
9. The oxen were very strong.
10 The bookworms were deeply read in literature.

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Thanks for doing the exercise, Thanh.

Here are some suggestions:

1) Correct!
2) The horse was in behind her. X
The horse was behind her.
- Who does the 'her' refer to?
3) Good!
4) Great!
5) Good!
6) You should make affirmative sentences.
7) Good!
8) Great!
9) Excellent!
10) The bookworms were deeply read in literature. X
- I'm sorry. I don't understand what you are trying to say here.

skoon said...

The mice were very fast.
The horse was the beautiful one.
The ladies were talking together.
Avatar was a film i did not see it yet.
My friends were the happiest people to my heart.
My mother was in the house.
Those people were angry people.
The children were in the kitchen playing with the cat.
Oxen were a bad animals.
The bookworms were old.

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Welcome to my blog, skoon! Thank you for doing the exercise. Please feel free to read the other lessons and do the exercises.

Here are some suggestions:

1) Correct!
2) The horse was the beautiful one. X
I am not sure what exactly you want to say but here are a couple of sentences:
The horse was beautiful.
It was a beautiful horse.
3) Great!
4) Avatar was a film i did not see it yet. X
Avatar is a film which I haven't see yet.
- 'Avatar is a film' - You should use the present simple tense for this clause because it is a permanent fact (i.e. Avatar is and always will be a film)
- 'I haven't seen yet.' - You should use the present perfect simple tense here because it talks about something that you have not yet done in your life, but you are still able to do in the future.
- You can join these 2 clauses with the relative clause marker (which).
5)My friends were the happiest people to my heart. X
I am not sure what you want to say here. Here are some suggestions:
My friends were the happiest people.
My friends were dear to me.
6) Good!
7) Those people were angry people. X
Those people were angry.
- You do not need to repeat 'people'.
8) Great!
9) Oxen were a bad animals. X
Oxen were bad animals.
- The word 'animals' is a plural countable noun. We do not use indefinite articles(a/an) before plural countable noun).
10) Good!

Mohammed Ahmed said...

1- The mice were very clever.
2- The house was so fast.
3- The ladies were firstly.
4- Avatar was very nice.
5- My friends were help me.
6- My mother was love my sister more than me.
7- People were live in the village more than the town.
8- Children were funny.
9- The oxen were very dangerous.
10- The bookworms were read more book useful.

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Thank you for doing the exercise, Mohammed!

Here are my suggestions:

1) Good!
2) The house was so fast. X
- The house cannot be 'fast' because it cannot move. Look at these examples:
The car was so fast.
The plane was fast.
3) I'm not sure I know what you mean with this sentence. Do you want to say 'The ladies were important.'?
4) Good!
5) - 7) These sentences are incorrect. I suggest you look at the section on common mistakes in the lesson above. Here is an example:
My friends were help me. X
My friends were helping me. (past continuous tense)
My friends helped me. (past simple tense)
8) Children were funny. X
The children were funny.
- You are talking about specific children so you should use the definite article(the).
9) Good!
10) This sentence is incorrect. I suggest you look at the section on common mistakes in the lesson above.

Mohammed Ahmed said...

I am so sorry i think horse not house

I mean The ladies first .
( ladies and gentle man )

Francois Oosthuizen said...

Hehe. I see. :-)

It is better to say 'The ladies came first.'

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