-1

I've heard that, simple past should be always associated with a past time expression (ex: yesterday, in 1958, etc...), in order to be considered as a complete sentence. Is that true ? Even though, a lot of native speakers uses the simple past without any time expression.

Examples:

I bought a car using only pennies.

I drove to New York and back for Star Wars!.

I played in the band and sang in the choir.

closed as off-topic by Drew, AmE speaker, Bread, Nigel J, J. Taylor May 14 '18 at 18:55

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    I'm interested to know where you heard or read this. It is simply not true that "the simple past should be always associated with a past time expression in order to be considered as a complete sentence.". (The issue of what constitutes a complete sentence is irrelevant to the grammatical use of a verb construction.) – Shoe May 12 '18 at 10:40
  • 1
    Ok, if I called you and said simply "I bought a car", then you might ask "When?" In such a context you may feel that my statement is incomplete. But in most conversations the starting context and the past time in which something occurred is implicit and clear or an exact past time reference is unimportant. For example, in a conversation about a trip to New York last week, you might say "I bought a new phone in Macy's." It's implicit that the buying happened last week, but the day and time are irrelevant. – Shoe May 12 '18 at 14:11
  • 1
    So, it is certainly not true that "an explicit past time expression is always needed when using the simple past". – Shoe May 12 '18 at 14:11
  • 1
    Please post the link to the youtube video where the host explained this "rule", and cite his or her words precisely. It's +1 from me if you do. – Mari-Lou A May 12 '18 at 15:46
  • 2
    Well ... that's probably what they meant to say or should have said. EDIT The statement, if reported faithfully, is of course false. – Mari-Lou A May 12 '18 at 16:14
1

Firstly, ignore the advice about complete sentences. The absence or presence of an adverbial such as a past time expression has no bearing at all on whether a sentence is considered syntactically complete.

There are occasions, however, when the listener might feel that a statement is incomplete in terms of the information it conveys. For example, if I call you and say: I had an accident, you would most probably want to know when (where, how, etc). Your statement may be contravening Grice's Maxim of Quantity, but certainly not flouting any rule of grammar.

Many statements about the past do not require an explicit past time reference - either because the time reference is clear and implicit or because an explicit time reference is unimportant.

For example, in a conversation about a trip to New York last week, you might say "I bought a new phone in Macy's." It's implicit that the buying happened last week, but the day and time are irrelevant.

So, in summary, it is not true that "a past time expression is always needed when using the simple past". And I suspect that a very large majority of sentences with a past simple form do not contain such an expression.

  • 1
    and answering a question that includes a time expression doesn't require one to repeat or say a variant time expression: Q: What did you do last week? A: I bought a new car. – AmE speaker May 12 '18 at 21:15

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.