Contractions in the Past Tense

Past Tense - Lesson #14

A contraction is the short version of a written or spoken form of a word. Contractions are made by combining two separate words.

Contractions are used a lot in spoken English and when writing something informal like a message or email to a friend. However, you should not use contractions in formal writing like a school essay, a contract, or business report.

In this lesson, we will cover past tense contractions.

1. For "be verbs" in the past tense, we can only use contractions with negative sentences. This is very different from the present tense.

was not wasn'twere not weren't
  • I wasn't tired yesterday.
  • She wasn't angry with you.
  • They weren't pretty.
  • The dresses weren't cheap.
You can end a sentence with a negative contraction.

A) Were you sick yesterday?
B) No, I wasn't.

A) Were they nice?
B) No, they weren't.

2. We can also change "did not" to "didn't".
  • I didn't eat the cake.
  • She didn't come.
  • They didn't want to go with us.
3. There are many contractions in the present tense. But there are not many in the past tense. We do not use contractions with question words and be verbs in the past tense.

Notice that we only use contractions with negative sentences in the past tense.

Contractions are extremely important to know because every native English speaker uses them. You must be able to understand them.

Example Sentences
  • I wasn't prepared for the test.
  • You weren't energetic yesterday.
  • He wasn't interesting.
  • The movie wasn't exciting.
  • The road wasn't smooth.
  • The building wasn't tall.
  • The man wasn't big.
  • The women weren't talkative.
  • The jokes weren't funny.
  • The sunset was magnificent.

  • I didn't forget your birthday.
  • They didn't talk to each other for 5 years.
  • He didn't spend his money on useless things.
  • She didn't eat lunch with her coworkers yesterday.
  • My wife didn't speak to me for a week because she was angry with me.
  • My family didn't understand why I quit my job.
  • The medicine didn't work. I am still sick.
  • The music didn't sound good from those speakers.
  • Mark and Tom didn't take an English class together.
  • The teacher didn't teach us everything.
English Conversation 1

A) How was the movie?
B) It wasn't good. It was too long and boring.
A) I thought there were many famous actors in the movie.
B) There were, but they weren't very good.
A) That is surprising.
B) Their acting wasn't very convincing.

English Conversation 2

A) Did you have fun last weekend?
B) No. I didn't do anything. I just stayed home.
A) Why didn't you go out?
B) My daughter wasn't feeling well, so we stayed in.
A) That's too bad. Is she still sick?
B) No, she isn't. She feels better now.
A) That's good.

Learn to speak better English by simply doing this basic practice exercise. First, complete the sentences with your own answers, and then practice making your own sentences. Finally, try using this grammar in real life.

Tip: Say the sentences aloud. This will help you practice speaking English and improve your English fluency.

I wasn't _______________ yesterday.
You weren't _______________.
We weren't _______________.
He wasn't _______________ last week.
She wasn't _______________.
It wasn't _______________.
My coworkers weren't _______________.
They weren't _______________.
The weather wasn't _______________ last week.
The food wasn't _______________ at that restaurant.
The city wasn't _______________ when I visited.
The children weren't _______________ in the afternoon.