Past Tense - Short Answers

English Grammar Notes

As is the case with any verb tense in English, it is generally possible to give short answers to a question. This is certainly the case for questions in the past tense.

If the question commences with one of the traditional question words such as WHO, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, WHAT, WHICH or HOW, it requires a more detailed answer and it is not possible to give a short answer.

Examples of long answers

What did you do on the weekend?
- I went to a party with my friends.
(It is not possible to give a short answer to this question like 'Yes, I did').

Why did you call him?
- Because I needed to borrow his computer.

However, if the question is more direct, and commences with a verb or Did, then it is generally possible to give a short or a long answer to the question.

Examples

Was Chris at the party last night?
- Yes, he was. (short answer)
- Yes, Chris was at the party last night. (long answer)

Did you see Julie on the weekend?
- No, I didn't. (short answer)
- No, I didn't see Julie on the weekend. (long answer) 

Could they speak Japanese?
- Yes, they could. (short answer)
- Yes, they could speak Japanese. (long answer)

As you can see, long answers usually sound repetitive and are not commonly used.


Short Answers with DID

Remember that if the question starts with DID, you can give a short answer using DID. It is not necessary to use the main verb in the answer.

Examples

Did you sleep well last night?
Yes, I did / No, I didn't.

Did the airplane arrive on time?
Yes, it did / No, it didn't.

Did they remember your birthday?
Yes, they did / No, they did not.

Did your parents ring you last week?
Yes, they did / No, they didn't.

Did you lose your dog?
Yes, I did / No, I did not.


In questions that use DID it is possible to give short answers as follows:

Sample Questions Short Answer
(Affirmative)
Short Answer
(Negative)
Did I pass the test? Yes, you did. No, you didn't.
Did you need a dictionary? Yes, I did. No, I didn't.
Did you both like the movie? Yes, we did. No, we didn't.
Did they finish their homework? Yes, they did. No, they didn't.
Did he have a good time? Yes, he did. No, he didn't.
Did she want to leave early? Yes, she did. No, she didn't.
Did it have blue buttons? Yes, it did. No, it didn't.

Short Answers with Was / Were

In questions that use Was or Were it is possible to give short answers as follows:

Sample Questions Short Answer
(Affirmative)
Short Answer
(Negative)
Was I correct? Yes, you were. No, you weren't.
Were you busy yesterday? Yes, I was. No, I wasn't.
Were you both embarrassed? Yes, we were. No, we weren't.
Were they hungry? Yes, they were. No, they weren't.
Was he late again? Yes, he was. No, he wasn't.
Was she a good student? Yes, she was. No, she wasn't.
Was it ready? Yes, it was. No, it wasn't.



Next activity

Try our interactive game to practice Short Answers in the Past Tense

Read our grammar notes about To Be in the Past Tense


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Last Updated: 25 September 2014
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