The Verb “to be” in Questions in the Past Simple

What’s new everyone?

The verb “to be” is the most important verb in English. Today we are going to look at its use in questions in the past simple and how we respond to them using short answers.

How do we create questions in the past simple with “to be”?

This may sound difficult but in reality the structure of the interrogative form in the past simple with “to be” is easy. All we have to do is invert the subject and the verb (like in the present simple) and voilà, we have the question structure.


  • He was tall = Was he tall?
  • They were very hungry = Were they very hungry?
  • You were in France last week = Were you in France last week?

As we can see from the above examples, creating the interrogative structure with “to be” is not challenging at all. Now we know what these questions are, let’s have a think about how we would respond to them.


  • Yes, he was tall / No, he wasn’t tall
  • Yes, they were very hungry / No, they weren’t very hungry
  • Yes, I was in France last week / No, I wasn’t in France last week

Is there a shorter way to answer past simple questions?

In these types of question, using the long answer to respond can often seem very repetitive as we have to repeat the information mentioned in the question. It is therefore very common to use a shorter answer.

The short answer is made up of the initial affirmation or negation followed by the the subject and verb in its corresponding form.

Affirmative short answer examples:

  • Yes, he was tall = Yes, he was
  • Yes they were very hungry = Yes, they were
  • Yes, I was in France last week = Yes, I was

Negative short answer examples:

  • No, he wasn’t tall = No, he wasn’t
  • No, they weren’t very hungry = No they weren’t
  • No, I wasn’t in France last week = No, I wasn’t

What’s the best way to answer?

Both ways of answering these kinds of questions in the past simple are correct and you can use the long answer if it makes you feel more comfortable. Just remember that for native speakers, the short answer is the most natural response and something to work towards.

For more help and handy hints like these you can sign up for free and check out unit 63 of the course.


  1. Were you the champions last competition? I have not all conjugate I was , you were she he was , we were, you were, they were? I’m not sure…

    • George Talbot

      Well done! To create the interrogative all you have to do is invert the verb and the subject. Good job Iwona!

  2. Yes, it is very impotant, Your are very lucking. Good that WAW. thanks. have nice afternoon. Bye,bye….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *