Past Simple: Grammar Practice for St Patrick’s Day

by Evanna March 16, 2016
Have fun learning English

This week the Central School blog will focus on the past simple tense. It will also give you a look into the life of Saint Patrick.

We have decided to write up some information on the past simple tense as this is one of the most basic tenses in English. However, even though many students who advance to study higher levels of English often continue to make basic grammatical mistakes. We hope that all students take something from this blog and learn a little about the Irish at the same time.

This blog will also go into the life of Saint Patrick and his relationship with Ireland. Saint Patrick is one of the most well-know saints in the Catholic Church. He is the patron saint of Ireland, Australia, Nigeria and Montserrat. But who is Saint Patrick? What exactly do we know about the man for whom Irish people dye their hair and Guinness green? Why do the Irish close their banks, schools and post offices to celebrate this man?

This week the Central School blog will let you in on everything you need to know about the past simple tense and the great St. Patrick. You will learn the story of St. Patrick and some of the changes St. Patrick’s Day has gone through over the years in Ireland. We hope that when you hit the streets on March 17th you will be armed with the facts (and green clothes, hair, makeup etc!).

When do we use the past simple tense?

We use the past simple tense to speak about:

finished actions in the past

Example: I studied in High school. I finished in 2005.

a sequence of events in the past

Example: Yesterday I went to the supermarket. Then I met a friend of mine for coffee. After that I went to the library. Next I travelled home by bus. In the end I cooked some dinner and watched a film on TV.

What is a verb?

Verbs are action words. We often use them to describe physical actions.


I worked in a supermarket last year

I ate my breakfast at 7am this morning

I went for a walk in the park last Saturday

I watched a good film on TV two weeks ago

Regular and Irregular Verbs

English verbs can be regular or irregular.

Regular verbs in the past simple end in -d or -ed

If a verb ends in the letter -e we simple add d to make the past simple.

In every other situation we ad -ed to the verb to make the past simple tense.


  • watch – watched
  • love – loved
  • play – played
  • hate – hated
  • wait – waited
  • argue – argued
  • cook-cooked
  • like – liked

Irregular verbs do not follow the same rules as regular verbs. We must learn these verbs if we want to use them.

Two very important irregular verbs in English that we must know are the verbs ‘be‘ and ‘do‘.

The past simple of the verb to be is:

I was | You were | he/she/it was | we/you/ they were

I wasn’t | You weren’t | He/she/it wasn’t | We/you/they weren’t

Was I? | Were you? | Was he/she/it? | Were we/you/they?

The past simple of the verb to do is:

I did | You did | he/she/it did | we/you/they did

I didn’t | You didn’t | He/she/it didn’t | We/you/they didn’t

Did I? | Did you? | Did he/she/it? | Did we/you/they?

In English, if we ask someone a question about the past using the past simple we either use the verb to be or the verb to do.

We ask a question with the verb be if we are using a noun or an adjective


  • Were you in school yesterday? (school is a noun)
  • Was he late last week? (late is an adjective)
  • Was your mother in Dublin? (mother is a noun)
  • Was the film exciting? (exciting is an adjective)
  • When were you sick? (sick is an adjective)
  • Why was he in the city centre? (the city centre is a noun)

We use the verb do if we are asking an action question/ a question with a verb.


  • Did you go to the park last Saturday?  (go is a verb)
  • Did you eat a big lunch?   (eat is a verb)
  • Did you see my new watch?   (see is a verb)
  • Did they like the English class?  (like is a verb)
  • Where did you study? (study is a verb)
  • What time did you go to bed last night? (go is a verb)
  • Saint Patrick

    Legend says that Saint Patrick grew up along the coast either in Scotland or Wales. When he was sixteen years old Vikings kidnapped him and he they took him as their slave. The Vikings took Saint Patrick to Ireland. They sold him to a farmer in Northern Ireland. Saint Patrick was kept as a slave for many years. During this time he worked as a shepherd. He looked after sheep and he protected them from wild dogs. He did this on the Slemish Mountains in County Antrim.

    Patrick worked as a shepherd for six years. When he was 22 years old he had a dream. He dreamt that if he went south to Dublin he would find a ship that would take him back to his home country. Patrick believed that God had spoken to him in his dream and he left the mountain and began to walk. He found the ship and this ship took him off the island of Ireland.

    Patrick arrived home and was happy to be back once more with his friends and family. However, he remembered the dream that he had in Ireland that told him how he could escape. Because of this time in slavery in Ireland, Patrick had developed a strong religious belief. He began to dream that he should return to Ireland. He decided to go to France and become a priest.

    After he became a priest he returned to Ireland. At this time Ireland was a pagan country known as ‘Hibernia’ – this meant the land of winter. Patrick came back to Ireland and travelled around the country. He spoke to the people about religion.  He was successful and over the following years the Irish people adopted the Catholic religion.

    What is Saint Patrick’s Day?

    Saint Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate the arrival of Saint Patrick and Christianity in Ireland. It has been celebrated in Ireland since the ninth century. In 1903 Saint Patrick’s day officially became a public holiday in Ireland. The first Saint Patrick’s day parade was held in County Waterford in 1903. The first Saint Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin took place 1931.

    Saint Patrick’s Day has changed a lot over the years. It was originally celebrated as a religious festival. However, during the 1990s the Irish government began to promote Saint Patrick’s Day as a way to promote Irish culture around the world. The first Saint Patrick’s Day Festival was held in 1997. It was a three-day festival. By 2007 the festival had grown to a four-day festival. By 2009 it was a five-day festival.

    On Saint Patrick’s Day people celebrate Irish culture. There is a parade in each large city and town around Ireland. The largest parade is in Dublin. There are also events such as Ceilis (Irish dancing events), concerts and theatre.

    Due to the large numbers of people who emigrated from Ireland during the potato famine and in the years after, Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in cities around the world. The New York St Patrick’s Day parade has been held each year since 1762 and this attracts more than two million visitors each year. St Patricks Day parades have been held in Boston since 1901. Each year, the Chicago River in Chicago is dyed green to celebrate the day. Parades are also held in England, Canada, the West Indies and New Zealand.

    Grammar Practice

    1.Read the text about Saint Patrick.

    2.Find the past simple of the following verbs:

    Regular verbs:

    • Kidnap
    • Work
    • Look
    • Protect
    • Travel
    • Adopt
    • Arrive
    • Remember
    • Decide

    Irregular verbs

    • Grow up
    • Take
    • Be
    • Have
    • Dream
    • Go
    • Come back
    • Leave
    • Begin
    • Find
    • Speak
    • Tell
    • Take place

    Answer the following questions using the past simple tense:

    • Where did Saint Patrick grow up?
    • Who kidnapped Saint Patrick when he was sixteen years old?
    • What did Saint Patrick protect on the mountains?
    • What did Saint Patrick dream when he was a slave?
    • How did Saint Patrick return to his home country after six years?
    • Why did Saint Patrick go to France?
    • What was Ireland called?
    • What did Saint Patrick speak to the Irish people about?
    • When was the first Saint Patrick ’s Day parade held in Ireland?
    • When did the Irish government begin to promote Saint Patrick ’s Day around the world?

    Phrasal Verbs

    Come back: Return

    Example: John has gone to France. He is coming back to Ireland next week

    Focus on: Concentrate on

    Example: Mary needed to study for her exam last night but she couldn’t focus on her books. She was too tired

    Look into: investigate

    Example: I was fascinated by Greek history so I borrowed some books from the library so I could look into this time in history

    Go into: to discuss/examine/describe something in a careful way

    Example: When John had a car accident the police asked him to go into every detail of what happened on the road that morning


    Take place: to happen

    Example: The accident took place on O Connell Street last night. Nobody was injured in the crash.

    Hit the streets: Go out socially

    Example: We hit the streets at around 8pm and didn’t get home until sunrise. I am exhausted today!!

    Complete the following sentences to practice the phrasal verbs and idioms from the blog.

    1. I really enjoyed the documentary on TV last night. It was about life in Ireland in the last century. It _______________the lives of ordinary people at that time.
    2. I don’t really understand the present perfect and past simple tenses. Could we take some time in class today to _______________these tenses?
    3. I am _________________at around 7am. I need to be at the airport by 9am.
    4. You are one week too late for the party. It __________________last Saturday! It’s a pity you missed it.
    5. I am going on holidays for two weeks in April. I am leaving on the 7th of April and I am ________________on the 21st.

    Thank you for reading our post. You’ll find more English grammar tips elsewhere on our site and if you’d like information on our English courses in Dublin, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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