Past Tense and Its Types

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Past Tense

The past tense describes an event or happening that has occurred. These events have a starting and ending point. Imagine an event that has occurred in the past and try describing it. You will use the past tense in the verb form.

Past tense expresses anything which has already happened.


Simple Past 

Form - regular verbs 

  • Positive statement: I ate, He ate

  • Negative statement: I did not run (I didn't run), He did not run (He didn't run) 

  • Question: Did you run? 

  • Neg. question: Did you not run? (Didn't you run?)

  • It is formed by adding -ed in the end of the verb. It is identical for all persons, singular and plural. 


Spelling 

  • We add -d (noted) to the verbs that end with -e: like - spiked

  • If the verb ends with a consonant and -y, we change -y into -i: marry - married, cry - cried. 

  • But: stay - stayed, because this verb ends with a vowel and -y.

  •  If the verb consists of only one syllable and ends with a vowel followed by a consonant, we add one more consonant to keep the same pronunciation but now it has changed in the past tense: stop - stopped. 

  • The almost identical rule applies to the verbs that end with - l: marvel - marvelled. 


Form- Irregular Verbs

All the irregular verbs have different forms like: 

go - went, bend - bent, beat - beat etc. 


The question and negative are made in the same way: 

I went - Did you go? No, I did not go.


Notes

  • We can not use the auxiliary verb did with the verb to be and modal verbs. 

Were you a teacher? Was he in India? I was not at school. He was not jovial. Could you dance? Could he sing? I could not sing. He could not sing. 

  • The auxiliary verb did is not used in the interrogative sentence beginning with wh- pronouns (who, which) provided that the subject of the sentence is a pronoun.

Who met you? (who is the subject) Which plane arrived on time? (which plane is the subject) But: Who did you meet? Which train did you miss? (who and which train are the objects) 

  • The negative question normally shows a surprise. Didn't you know it?


Use

1. We use the Simple Past tense for events, activities or situations that were completed at the definite time in the past.


a)  When the time can be provided in the sentence: 

  • I came home at 8 o'clock. 

  • When he was a child, he didn't play outside.. 


b) When the time is asked about: 

  • When did they get to India? 


c) When the time is not provided in the sentence, but it is pretty clear from a context that the action or event finished in the past. 

  •   He is 24 years old. 

  •   He was playing in the park. 

  •   I've been to Tokyo. (present perfect) - Did you enjoy it? (past simple) 


2. When we use it for repeated actions in the past. 

  • We walked to the park every day. - And did you ever go by bicycle? 


3. When It is used in stories to describe events that follow each other. 

  • Charles entered the room and looked around. He took off his bag back and put it on a chair. He was at home. 


Past Continuous Tense

I was dancing.

  • We use this Tense to describe an ongoing activity in the past. 


Form-

Subject  +

Auxiliary Verb BE     +

Main Verb


Conjugated in  simple past tense 


Was 

were

Present participle


Base + ing


  • For negative sentences, we put not in between the auxiliary verb and the main verb.

  • For interrogative sentences, we exchange the subject with an auxiliary verb.


Examples

  1. I was playing football.

  2. You were playing football.

  3. He was not climbing the mountain.

  4. We were not joking.

  5. Were you being stupid?

  6. Were they eating the ramen?


Use

1. When the actions or situations in the past that were incomplete-

  • I was cleaning the house between 4 pm to 6 pm. I was in the garage.

  • The Sun was rising between the mountains.

   

2. When the activity was continuous and uninterrupted. If the activity was interrupted we must use Simple past.

  • Yash was watching TV on Monday.

  • Yesterday I was working in the Kitchen.

     

3. Past continuous, when combined with Simple past, can be used to describe the action in the past continuous started before the action in the Simple Past and continued after it.

  • When she saw me I was looking at the scenery.

(These two actions happened at the same time and I was looking at the scenery continuously where she saw me in the middle of it.)


Past Perfect Tense

This tense talks about events which happened before in the past. It is used when the action got completed in the past.


Form

Subject  +

Auxiliary Verb HAVE   +

Main Verb


Conjugated in the simple past tense


had

Past participle


V3


  • For negative sentences in the past perfect tense, we put not in between the auxiliary verb and the main verb.

  • For Interrogative sentences, we exchange the subject and auxiliary verb. 


Examples

  1. I had completed my homework.

  2. You had stopped before the signal.

  3. She had not been to the cinema.

  4. We had not left.

  5. Had you eaten lunch?

*When speaking with the past perfect tense, we generally shorten the subject and auxiliary verb.

I had - I’d

You had- you’d 


Use

1. When you have to express the action in the past before another action in the past.  Basically the past in the past.

  • The flight took off at 9 am. We arrived at 9:20 am. When we arrived the flight had left. 

Both events happened in the past.


2. When you can sometimes think the past perfect tense just like the Present perfect tense, but the time is passed instead of being now.  

Imagine the Air hostess tells when you arrive late-   

  • You are too late. The flight has left.                  

Later you tell your friends  -      

  • We were too late. The flight had left.


Past Perfect Continuous


Form

Subject +

Auxiliary Verb HAVE +

Auxiliary Verb BE +

Main Verb


Conjugated in the simple past tense


Had

Past participle 


been

Present participle


Base+ ing


  • For negative sentences, we put not after the first auxiliary verb(be).

  • For interrogative sentences, we exchange the subject and first auxiliary verb as per the rules.

         

Examples

  • I had been cooking.

  • You had been cooking.

  • It had not been working. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is the Difference Between Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous Tense?

Ans: Past perfect tense is used to express the event which got completed in the past while we were talking about it. Past Perfect continuous is about the event which happened in the past and continued till another time in the past.

2. Which Form of the Verb Do We Use in Past Continuous Tense?

Ans: The past continuous tense is formed by combining the past tense of to be (i.e., was/were) with the verb's present participle (-ing word). There are many situations in which this verb tense might be used in a sentence. For example, it is often used to describe conditions that existed in the past.