I am looking / would like to learn basic difference or understanding when to use did and was/were in the past tense.

looking answer with example that will be greatly appreciated from the community.

Thanks in advanceWhen to use did or was/were

As you see example that did and was both are use in the past.

  • 2
    I'm not sure what you want to know here. What is confusing about these words. Did and was have very different meanings. Was and were are singular and plural, but this is very basic stuff: in the first year of an English course at school, and your English level is clearly much higher (you use expression like "can you" to form requests idiomatically, which is a higher level skill than "did/was".... So I'm confused. What is the problem that you have with these three words. Can you give an example of a sentence that you find confusing?
    – James K
    Aug 10 at 21:25
  • 1
    @James K, note revision history please. Aug 10 at 21:34
  • Noted. to other editors, it is conventional on this stackexchange not to correct grammar errors in questions. The way that a question is asked helps us to write answers at the right level for the question.
    – James K
    Aug 10 at 21:38
  • 2
    @JamesK I always correct grammar errors in square bracket in a comment. That helps the learner. If they then correct their mistake, I try to remember to remove my comment in brackets. [correction: blah blah blah]
    – Lambie
    Aug 10 at 22:32
  • 1
    Please don't include screenshots of block text in your question. Screenshots are frowned upon here for multiple reasons, not least because it is non-searchable and can be hard to view cross-platform.
    – Eddie Kal
    Aug 11 at 6:43

Generally speaking, one uses "did" in the past tense when one would use "do" or "does" in the corresponding present tense statement. One uses "was" in the past tense when one would use "is" or "are" in the corresponding present tense statement. This ignores the use of "did" as an auxiliary ("helping") verb.

Some Examples:

  • I did enjoy eating out before the pandemic. (past)
  • I do enjoy eating out. (present)
  • John was eating dinner when Jane knocked on his door. (past)
  • John is eating dinner right now. (present)
  • Martha was in the library last night. (past)
  • Martha is in the library. (present)
  • Sam did what he set out to do. (past)
  • Sam does what he is asked to do. (present)
  • Did Ann go to school yesterday? (past)
  • Does Ann go to school on time? (present)
  • Was Jody the winner of the game? (past)
  • is Jody winning the game?(present)

Often do/does/did are used to describe actions, while is/are/was are used to describe a status, but this is not always true, and idioms in particualr may not follow any obvious logic on what verb is used.

Note that a statement or clause of the form

{subject} did {verb}

using the bare infinitive of the verb, often has much the same meaning as

{subject} {verbed}

using the past tense of the verb. Sometimes there is a difference in meaning, and solemnization one form is much more common or natural than the other.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .