Talking about past time
In English, we use six different tenses to talk about the past.
- The simple past (I worked.)
- The past continuous (I was working.)
- The present perfect (I have worked.)
- The present perfect continuous (I have been working.)
- The past perfect (I had worked.)
- The past perfect continuous (I had been working)
The differences between these structures are complicated and in some cases more than one structure is possible.
The simple past tense
|I washed the car.||Did I wash the car?||I did not wash the car.|
|She wrote a poem.||Did she write a poem?||She did not write a poem.|
|They accepted the invitation.||Did they accept the invitation?||They did not accept the invitation.|
Contracted negatives are: I didn’t work; she didn’t wait etc.
Negative questions are: Did I not come? Or Did she not reply?
Spelling of regular affirmative past tense forms
Most regular verbs form their past tense forms by adding –ed.
Work –> worked
Stop –> stopped
Start –> started
Rain –> rained
Show –> showed
Help –> helped
Verbs ending in –e, merely add –d
Hope –> hoped
Decide –> decided
Verbs ending in consonant + -y change y to i and add –ed
Cry –> cried
Study –> studied
The simple past tense is the most normal tense for talking about past events. It can be used to talk about quickly finished actions, longer situations or repeated events.
- I saw Karan yesterday.
- Did I see Karan yesterday?
- Yes, I saw Karan yesterday.
- No, I didn’t see Karan yesterday.
- Susmita went to the market to buy some articles.
- Did Susmita go to the market?
- No, Susmita did not go to the market.
- I visited my brother last week.
- Did I visit my brother last week?
- Yes, I visited my brother last week.
- No, I didn’t visit my brother last week.