Talking about the past in English
In English, six different tenses are used to talk about the past.
The simple past
I worked in the morning.
John broke another window yesterday.
The past continuous tense
I was working in the morning.
She was crying.
The present perfect tense
I have finished the work.
She has written a novel.
The present perfect continuous tense
I have been working since morning.
She has been knitting for two hours.
The past perfect tense
He had finished.
She had arrived.
The past perfect continuous tense
I had been working.
She had been teaching.
The differences between these tenses are quite complicated. The most important rules for progressive and perfect forms are given below.
Continuous verb forms are used especially when we describe a past event as going on or continuing at a particular time, or up to a particular time.
When you phoned, I was having a bath.
I was tired because I had been running for hours.
Perfect forms are used when we want to suggest a connection between a past event and the present, or between an earlier and a later past event.
After I had known him for a few weeks, I felt he was the right guy for me.
Perfect forms can also suggest completion.