The English simple past tense is the most common way of expressing past time, such as for
- actions in the past that took place once, never or several times (habits in the past):
We visited her parents every weekend back then.
- actions that took place one after another:
They came in, looked around and then left.
- actions that interrupt other actions:
I was eating dinner when the phone rang.
Note the use of two different past tenses: the continuous, background action of eating (in the past progressive) and the one-time action - the phone ringing - interrupting it (in the simple past).
- conditions concerning hypothetical situations, in the if-clause of a conditional sentence:
If I talked too much, you would tell me to shut up.
Words and phrases like these typically signal the use of the simple past:
- 10 minutes ago
- in 2015
- last weekend, last year
- the other day
Here are some other very simple examples:
- Affirmative: I spoke ten minutes ago. He spoke last Saturday. They often visited in 2005.
- Negative: We didn't (did not) speak. She didn't (did not) speak either.
- Question: Did you speak the other day? Did she ever speak?