February 21st, 2013 in English Grammar
Here is an overview of the past tenses in English. Although there are only four past tenses in English, we use at least six tenses to talk about the future. The two present tenses that are used to talk about past events are the present perfect and present perfect continuous.
Here is a quick overview
The simple past tense is used to talk about finished actions which occurred at a specific point of time in the past.
Form: Subject + past simple form of the verb
- His father died last year.
- I met him yesterday.
- John called in the morning.
Questions and negatives are made with did.
- John didn’t call in the morning.
- Did you see him yesterday?
Past continuous tense
The past continuous tense is used to talk about actions and situations that were in progress at a particular point of time in the past.
Form: Subject + was / were + -ing form of the verb
- She was cooking dinner at 7 pm.
- I was waiting for a bus at 8 am.
Questions are made by putting was or were before the subject.
- What was she doing at 7 pm yesterday evening?
- Was she washing her clothes? No, she was not washing her clothes. She was cooking dinner.
Past perfect tense
The past perfect tense is used to talk about the earlier of two past events.
Form: Subject + had + past participle form of the verb
- She had finished that report before her boss came.
- They had begun the conference before I arrived.
Past Perfect Continuous
The past perfect continuous tense is used to talk about an activity that started in the past and continued up to another point of time in the past. This tense is also used to say that something had been going on before something else happened.
Form: Subject + had been + -ing form of the verb
- They had been playing when it started raining.