Past Tense | Simple Past Tense – Formula and Charts

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The Past Tense 

Types of Past Tense

The Past Tense is of Four Types;-

  1. Past Indefinite tense
  2. Past continuous tense
  3. Past perfect tense
  4. And, past perfect continuous tense

Past Indefinite tense

Simple Past Tense

In the simple past tense, the action is simply mentioned and understood to have taken place in the past. The action started and ended sometime in the past but the time may or may not be mentioned.

The Simple Past Tense and its Uses

Construction: simple past form
Passive: was/were + past participle

You use the simple past tense to talk about the things that happened in the past, whether a long time ago, or very recently.
For example:

  1. Thousands of years ago, mammoths lived on the Earth.
  2. Mr. John’s famous book was published in 1755
  3. I bought a new car last week.
  4.  The plane from London landed a few minutes ago.

* A time expression referring to the past, such as yesterday, last week, or two years ago, is accompanied by the simple past tense. By contrast, the present perfect is used where there is no time expression.
For example: I‘ve told you about it already. I told you last week.
* The simple past implies that a situation has changed, while the present perfect implies that it is ongoing up to the present moment.
For example:

  1. Helen attended this school for six years. (She no longer attends it]
  2. Helen has attended this school for six years. (She still attends it)

The simple past is the normal tense for the narrative in stories.
For example:
1. The Lilliputians fastened Gulliver to the ground with ropes.
2. Harry Potter ran and ran but stayed on the same spot.

Past Continuous Tense

Past Continuous Tense

In the past continuous tense, the action was ongoing until a certain time in the past. This tense is used to talk about action at a particular time in the past.

The Past Continuous Tense and its Uses

Construction: was/were + present participle
Passive: was/were+being+ past participle

The past continuous is typically used for an activity that was ongoing at a certain point in the past.
For example:

  1.  What were you doing when your father shouted at you?
  2. This time last week I was basking in the sun on the beach.

An activity that was interrupted by a certain happening in the simple past is in the past continuous.
For example:

  1. I was doing my rehearsal when a power cut disturbed my concentration.
  2. We were approaching the summit when there was a flash of lightning.

The past continuous is used to indicate the situation that was ongoing when a certain
single action took place.
For example:

  1.  The bell rang just as the meal was being served.
  2.  I realized he was lying.
  3.  I turned back, but Pawan was already disappearing around the corner.

In some cases, such as descriptive passages in stories, only the ongoing situation is mentioned.
For example:

  1. You weren’t listening, were you?
  2. A dog was barking somewhere along the street.

Verbs that represent a gradual change in a past context are often in the past continuous.
For example:

  1. The children were growing fast.
  2. The seed was growing slowly.

Repeated activity in the past can be expressed using forever or always with the past continuous; this is often an expression of frustration.
For example:

I was forever lending him money-which I never got back.

People often use the past continuous instead of the simple past to avoid sounding direct and definite.
For example:

  1. Nitin and I were talking (rather than talked) about you yesterday.
  2. I was discussing (rather than discussed) this very problem earlier with dad.

People often make tentative offers or requests.
For example: I was wondering if you were free to have dinner with me this evening?

You can use the past continuous for future activity in a past context.
For example:

  1. I was catching a plane to China the next morning, so I left early.
  2. He said he couldn’t meet us-he was taking Garima for a dinner.

The past continuous of go + to-infinitive can be used for activities that were intended but didn’t happen, or haven’t yet happened (and may not happen).
For example:

I was going to consult a doctor about the fever, but I got better, so I didn’t.


Past Perfect Tense

Past Perfect Tense

The past perfect tense is used to express something that happened before another action in the past.

The Past Perfect Tense and its Uses

Construction: had + past participle
Passive: had + been + past participle

When you are using the simple past tense to tell a story or to recount an experience of your own, you use the past perfect to mention something that happened before then, which affects or explains the facts you are relating.
For example:

  1. Kareem rushed to the bus stop, but the bus had already left.
  2. We collected money for the people who had lost their parents in the disaster.

The past perfect is in some cases interchangeable with the simple past after the time conjunctions when, after, before, as soon as, and until.
For example:

  1. Mother started clearing the table before I had finished eating.
  2. We saw nothing of the hills until the mist had cleared.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

The past perfect continuous tense is used to express something that started in the past and continued until another time in the past.

The Past Perfect Continuous Tense and its Uses

Construction: had +been + present participle
Passive: had + been+being+ past participle

When you are unfolding something or telling a story in the simple past, you use the past perfect continuous tense to talk about events or activities that were ongoing before then.
For example:

  1. Simran had been working at the bank for three years when the trouble began.
  2. Uncle died on Monday – he had been getting gradually weaker.

In some cases, the past perfect continuous is simply an informal, less forceful sounding alternative to the past perfect.
For example; – Mom said she had been speaking to the principal about progress.

Also Read-

Tense Chart in English – Tense Types, Definition, Rules

Present Tense | Simple Present Tense – Formula and Charts

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