Past Tense

We know about the three types of tenses that are used in English Grammar namely Past Tense, Present Tense and Future Tense. Each of these tenses is actually verbs (regular verbs and irregular verbs) that are used to indicate the occurrence of an event or action at a particular time. Today, let us learn and understand more about the Past Tense and its different types.

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Past Tense

As we can understand from the name, past tense verbs are used to indicate an action, event or condition that has happened in the past. Each tense has four aspects that talks about the completion of the event or action and based on that, we have four types of past tense verbs:

  • Simple Past Tense
  • Past Continuous Tense
  • Past Perfect Tense
  • Past Perfect Continuous Tense.

past tense

(Source: pinterst)

Simple Past Tense

The simple past tense is used to indicate or describe something that happened or existed in the past. The situations or conditions to use a simple past tense is to:

  • describe an action, event or condition that occurred in the past or at a specified time
  • refer or describe an action that has been completed and there is no time mentioned.
  • describe an action or occurrence of an event that is done repeatedly and regularly.
  • describe a state of mind in the past or a feeling that was felt in the past.
  • refer to someone who has died
  • describe events that have occurred in quick succession in the past.

Browse more Topics under Tenses

Formulating the Simple Past Tense Verb

To formulate the simple past tense verb, we add ‘- ed’. For verbs ending in ‘e’, we add ‘-d’ and. However, there are some simple past tense verbs such as cut, put, set etc which remain the same in the present and past tense. Examples are,

  • He worked at the Cheesecake Factory.
  •  I often brought my lunch to school.

Learn about Simple Present Tense and Simple Future Tense

Past Continuous Tense

Past continuous tense is used to indicate an ongoing event in the past. Other conditions where past continuous tense is used are:

  • To show that someone is in the middle of an action. Example: I was calling him when he came home.
  • Is used to describe an action taking place when another occurred. Example: While they were painting the door, I was painting the windows.
  • For an action that was taking place in the past when an interrupted action happened.  Example: While he was working on his laptop, he fell asleep.

Formulating the Past Continuous Tense

The past continuous tense is formed using the past tense of the verb to be(was/were) and the present participle verbs ending in -‘ing’.  These two tenses can be used together to indicate that an action happened while another was in progress.

Learn more about Present Continous Tense and Future Continous Tense

Past Perfect Tense

The past perfect tense in a sentence or conversation describes an event that happened in the past before another event in the simple past tense was completed in the past. The situations where a Past Perfect Tense is used are to:

  • indicate an event that has occurred and been completed in the past. Example: Meenu had borrowed money from the bank to buy her new car.
  • describe an event or action which happened before a definite time in the past. Example: We had cleaned up the terrace before the watchman arrived.
  • describe an action that happened in the past before another action took place. Example: We had reached their house after the dinner was over.

Past Perfect Tense is also used to describe a state. Example: Their wives had become good friends at the wedding. A very important use of the Past Perfect Tense is that it is used to clarify which event happened earlier when two actions were completed in the past. Example: I had read those books that you bought for me.

Formulating the Past Perfect Tense

The past perfect tense is formed with the past tense of the auxiliary verb have i.e which is had and the past participle of the main verb.

Learn more about Present Perfect Tense and Future Perfect Tense

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

This tense is used to describe actions that were going on in the past up until another action in the past happened. They are often used in the following situations:

  • For an action that has occurred over a period of time having begun in the past.
  • To describe an action which started and finished in the past before another past action.
  • It is also regularly used in the reported speech where the present perfect continuous tense becomes past perfect continuous tense.

Unlike the past continuous and past perfect tenses, past perfect continuous tense is not used to indicate state, state of mind or feelings. Examples:

  • I had been studying.
  • It had been raining hard for several hours and the streets got flooded.
  • If it had not been raining, we would have gone to the park.

Learn more about Present Perfect Continous Tense and Future Perfect Continous Tense

Formulating the Past Perfect Continuous Tense

This tense is formed with the past perfect tense of the verb ‘to be’, which is ‘had been’ and the present participle of the verb i.e ‘-ing’.

Solved Example for You

Q: I __________ for hours so I was really glad when the bus finally arrived.

(a)   Had been waiting   (b) Waiting

(c)     Was waiting        (d) waited

Sol. (a) Had been waiting. The sentence mentions that the bus ‘arrived’ and the verb in the first part of the sentence which is ‘wait’. This indicates that there are two events that occurred and one happened before the other and continued until the second event occurred.

Therefore, it is a past perfect continuous tense and therefore the correct option is (a). had been waiting. The completed sentence is: I had been waiting for hours so I was really glad when the bus finally arrived.

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2 responses to “Uses of Tenses”

  1. Edwin says:

    What is the present perfect form of “He does not smoke”?
    What is the difference between “He does not have to smoke” and “He has not smoked”?

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