Past Tenses

Past Tenses

In this part we have gathered some short but easy and complete articles about Past Tenses in English.

Simple Past tense

The simple Past tense expresses the events or actions happened at one particular time in the past. It began and ended in the past.


It rained heavily yesterday.
I watched a great movie on TV last night.

The Simple Past tense:

The Form:

Subject + VERB-ED / past form of irregular verb


Keth looked for this pen this morning.( look + ED —> past form : looked)
And now she found it under her desk.( find (irregular verb) —> past form : found)

The Usage

1. The simple past tense indicates that an activity or situation began and ended at a particular time in the past.


I walked to school yesterday.
Tim lived in London for ten years, and now he lives in Paris.
Mr Lu bought a new car 2 weeks ago.

2. If a sentence contains when and has the simple past tense in both clauses, the action in the when clause happens first.

Past Continuous tense

Look at the example situation below:

Tom was sleeping when I arrived.

Tom went to sleep at 10.00 last night. I arrived at 11.00. He was still asleep. His sleep began before and was in progress at a particular time in the past. It continued after I arrived.

The Past Continuous tense:

The Form:

was / were + VERB-ING


Kate was writing an email to a customer When I arrived.
I was living in Kuala Lumpur this time last year.

The Usage

The past continuous tense expresses both activities that happened at the same time, one action began earlier and was in progress and other happened .


Kate was sleeping when the phone rang.
When I was walking down the street, it began to rain.


Sometimes the past continuous tense is used in both parts of a sentence when two actions are in progress simultaneously.


While I was studying in one room of our apartment, my roommate was having a party in the other room.

Past Perfect tense

Look at the following example:

Tom had already eaten when his friend arrived.

First Tom finished eating something before now. Later his friend arrived. Tom’s eating was completely finished before another time in the past.

The Past Perfect Tense

The Form:

Subject + HAD + Past participle verb

The Use:

The Past Perfect tense expresses an activity that was completed before another activity or time in the past.


They had already left by the time John got there.
The theft simply walked in. Someone had forgotten to lock the door.


If either before or after is used in the sentence, the past perfect tense is often not necessary because the time relationship is already clear. The Simple past tense may be used.

Look at the examples below:

Sam had already left before Ann got there.
Sam left before Ann got there.
After the guests had left, I went to bed.
After the guests left, I went to bed.

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