Past Tense

In today’s lesson we are going to look at the verb “to be” in the past and how it is used in questions and answers.
Nella lezione di oggi analizzeremo il verbo “to be” al passato e come usarlo nelle domande e nelle risposte.

Let’s look at a dialogue between a mum (M) and her son (S) about their days.
Diamo un’occhiata alla conversazione tra una madre (M) e suo figlio (S) sulla loro giornata.

M: How was your day at school?
Come è andata oggi a scuola?

S: Fine thanks, Mum. Was your day good?
Bene, grazie mamma. E la tua è stata una bella giornata?

M: Yes, it was. I went shopping and had a coffee with my friend Susan.
Sì. Sono andata a fare shopping e poi mi sono presa un caffè con la mia amica Susan.

S: Wasn’t she supposed to come round for dinner tonight?
Non doveva venire a cena stasera?

M: Yes, she was but she had to cancel because she is not feeling well. Were you busy at school today?
Sì, ma ha dovuto cancellare l’impegno perché non si sente molto bene. Hai avuto molto da fare oggi a scuola?

S: Yes, I was. We have a lot to do before the end of the year.
Sì. Abbiamo molte cose de fare entro la fine dell’anno.

M: Were all your friends there today too?
E c’erano tutti i tuoi amici oggi?

S: No, they weren’t because most of the class went on a science trip so just a few of us were at school.
No, perché la maggior parte della classe è andata a un’escursione di scienze per cui eravamo in pochi a scuola.

Here are some of the important rules to remember when using “was” or “were” in the past simple:
Ecco alcune delle regole più importanti quando si usa “was” o “where” al Past Simple:

• To form questions we change the position of “was” or “were” and the subject around, for example:
Per formulare le domande cambiamo la posizione di “was” o “were” e quella del soggetto, ad esempio:

Were you busy at school today?

• With questions containing the question words “which”, “when”, “where”, “why”, “how”, ecc, “was” or “were” just follow the question word. For example:
Nelle domande che includono i pronomi interrogativi “which”, “when”, “where”, “why”, “how”, et+cc., “was” o “were” si collocano subito dopo il pronome. Ad esempio:

How was your day at school?

• “Was” or “were” may be used in short answers.
For example, the possible short answers to the question “Were all your friends there today too?” are:

Nelle risposte brevi si possono usare “was” e “were”.
Ad esempio le possibili risposte brevi alla domanda “Were all your friends there today too?” sono:

– Yes, they were.
– No, they weren’t / No, they were not (per dare enfasi)

Below are some affirmative sentences containing “to be” in the past simple:

I was cold.
(Io) Avevo freddo.

You (singular) were hungry.
(Tu) Avevi fame.

He was tired.
(Lui) Era stanco.

She was happy.
(Lei) Era felice.

It was funny.
(Esso) Era divertente.

We were at home.
(Noi) Eravamo a casa.

You (plural) were at school.
(Voi) Eravate a scuola.

They were angry.
(Loro) Erano arrabbiati.

Remember that to form the negative, we just have to put “not” after “was” or “were”.

Remember that you can also use the contracted form of the verbs in the negative. You can see them in brackets.

– I was not (wasn’t) cold.

– You (singular) were not (weren’t) hungry.

– He was not (wasn’t) tired.

– She was not (wasn’t) happy.

– It was not (wasn’t) funny.

– We were not (weren’t) at home.

– You (plural) were not (weren’t) at school.

– They were not (weren’t) angry.

Finally, let’s look at some questions and short answers.

Remember that we put “was” or “were” at the beginning of questions followed by the subject of the sentence.
Ricorda che collochiamo “was” o “were” all’inizio della domanda, seguiti dal soggetto della frase.

Were you (to one person) tired yesterday?  Yes, I was / No, I wasn’t.
Ieri eri stanco? Sì, lo ero. / No, non lo ero.

Was he awake at five this morning?  Yes, he was / No, he wasn’t.
Era sveglio alle cinque del mattino? Sì, lo era / No, non lo era.

Was the film funny?  Yes, it was / No, it wasn’t.
Il film era divertente? Sì, lo era / No, non lo era.

Were you (to more than one person) at work when I phoned this morning?
Yes, we were / No, we weren’t.
Eravate al lavoro quando ho telefonato stamattina? Sì, c’eravamo / No, non c’eravamo.