Use of Past Tense

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Learn to Speak English Fluently: Use of Past Tense

TLP Spoken English Course is designed to facilitate self-learning in an easy way. To know more read: How to Use the Course Content? In the previous unit you have learnt about the Use of Present Tense and in this unit you will learn about the ‘Use of Past Tense‘.

The four forms of the Past Tense are–Simple Past, Past Continuous, Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous.

Simple Past Tense

We use Simple Past Tense to talk about a past action. It is used to refer to an action, event, or a situation that took place in the past and is completed.

I ate an apple.   
He spoke to the manager.
They played a match.

Use of Simple Past Tense
  • To narrate an incident, tell a story and also for past habitual actions.

There was a robbery in our neighbourhood.
Once upon a time there was a king.
I got up at seven o’clock on Sunday.

  • To talk about an event, action or situation that may have happened in the recent past.

We went to the market last evening.
I got a mail yesterday.
Meena visited her friend last week.

  • To talk about an event, action or situation that may have happened in the distant past.

Akbar was a great king.
Gandhiji preached non-violence. 
The British ruled India for 200 years.

  • To refer to the time of the events.

He worked on this project last week.
We had our dinner at the Taj last night.
She went to the library last week.

Past Continuous Tense

We use Past Continuous Tense for an action or situation that was going on at some time in the past. It is formed with ‘was/were’ plus ‘base form of the verb’ plus ‘ing’.

was/were + Base form of the verb + ing

I was cooking food.
He was sleeping in the afternoon.
It was raining cats and dogs.

Use of Past Continuous Tense

It is used to talk about two actions which take place at one time in the past we use Simple Past with Past Continuous.

When I was studying the current went off.
I met with an accident while I was walking on the road.
As he was working on the Net, he came across some interesting information.

Past Perfect Tense

We use Past Perfect Tense for an action that was completed before another action was over in the past. It is also called Past in the Past. It is formed with ‘had’ plus ‘past participle’.

had + past participle form of the verb

I had paid my fee.                            
When I reached the station the train had already left.
When I entered into the class the teacher had already started the lesson.

Use of Past Perfect Tense

We use Past Perfect Tense to talk about length of time, we often use ‘for or since’ with Past Perfect. To refer to ‘period of time’ we use ‘for’ and to refer to point of time we use ‘since’.

I had taught for ten years.
I had known him since 2002.
He had played since morning.

we also use it to talk about two actions in the past we use Simple Past with Past Perfect with words like–after, when and as.

After I had purchased a new dress, I saw a better one.
When I had finished my homework, my friend came to my room.
As he had felt uneasy, he consulted the doctor.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

We use Past Perfect Continuous for an action that started in the past and its effect was felt to be continuous in the past. It is formed with:

Had + been + Base form of the verb + ing

I had been working all day.
She had been studying.
They had been playing the whole day.

Use of Past Perfect Continuous Tense

We use Past Perfect Continuous Tense to talk about length of time, we often use ‘for or since’ with Past Perfect Continuous. To refer to ‘period of time’ we use ‘for’ and to refer to ‘point of time‘ we use ‘since’.

I had been working on the computer for five hours.
I had been working on the computer since 2 o’clock.
She had been gardening for an hour.

Previous: Use of Present Tense

Next: Use of Future Tense

Check the meanings of the words in English Oxford Living Dictionaries