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Past Tense in English Grammar

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Bygone!

The Past Tense is used – as you can probably guess – to talk about the past.

There are several different verb forms we can use to talk about the past. This article briefly explains them and links to fuller articles on each.

Past Simple

The Past Simple is used most often to tell a simple story or relate and incident. In regular verbs it’s made by adding –ed to the end of the based verb.

He walked to work yesterday. On the way he fell into a pond. His friend tried to help but he failed.

See the main article, Past Simple‏‎ in English Grammar.

Past Continuous

The Past Continuous is is used most commonly to “set the scene” in a story in the past when it is interrupted by the past simple. It’s also known as the Past Progressive.

I was walking to work when I fell over.

They were chatting away on their cell phones while the film was playing.

See the main article, Past Continuous‏‎ in English Grammar.

Past Perfect Simple

Like the past continuous, the Past Perfect Simple will set the scene alongside the past simple providing the main action:

We had found the treasure but our troubles were not over yet.

It’s often used as the background to another event.

After her friends had gone, she decided to rearrange all her furniture.

For more, see Past Perfect Simple‏‎ in English Grammar.

Past Perfect Continuous

The Past Perfect Continuous (or Past Perfect Progressive) is used to talk about a long term event in the past which is interrupted by another event, often using the past simple.

We had been walking for over an hour when it finally stopped raining.

She had been running hard which explained why she could barely speak when I found her.

For more, see Past Perfect Continuous‏‎ in English Grammar.

Useful Links

Grammar Foundation Course – for a thorough grounding in English Grammar

ICAL TEFL Grammar Guide – a invaluable resource on anything and everything to do with English grammar

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