Past Tense and its Four Forms

The Past Tense is used to represent any action that took place in the past or a state of being which was in existence in the past.

Examples:           I went to the market .

                            I was elated to see you.

The four formsof Past Tense, categorized on the basis of whether the action was completed, in process or followed by another action are:

1. Past Indefinite / Past Simple

This is used to indicate an action which got completed or finished at a specified time period in the past.

· The action must have a definite starting and ending period both in the past.

· It is usually used with adverbs of time like ‘yesterday’, ‘last week’, ‘last year’.

Structure: Subject + V2 + …..+ adverb of past time+ …..


·         I went to Delhi last winter.

·         I ate an apple yesterday.

·         I used to run when I was much younger.

·         I did not go to school.( Negative )

·         Did you go to school?  (Interrogative)


2. Past Progressive / Past Continuous Tense

The Past Continuous Tense is used to denote an activity which continued for some time in the past in a particular context. 

· Thisis used to demonstrate an action that stretched in continuation for a considerable time period in the past.

· This is used to set the scene for introducing another action using words like ‘when’ / ‘while’

Structure:  Subject + was/were +V4 + ….. aspecified time.


§  I was watching a movie at that time.

§  I was attending classes yesterday afternoon.

§  The friends were playing when I arrived at the ground.

§  While the baby was sleeping, I was cleaning the house.

§  I was not going to school those days. (Negative)

§  Were you going to school those days?   (Interrogative)


3. Past Perfect tense

This is used to denote the first task in a series of two tasks, both of which got completed or got finished in the past.

· It indicates an action was completed before another took place in the past.

Structure:            Subject + had + V3.


·         I had already read the book.

·         The train had left the station before I arrived.

·         The doctor had left the hospital before I reached.

·         She had completed her work before she went home.

·         I bought the dress after she had left the shop.

·         I had not left home when she came in. (Negative)

·         Had you gone to the bazaar when she came in? (Interrogative)

Ø  ‘When’ can replace ‘before’ or ‘after’ in the above mentioned examples.


4. Past Perfect Continuous Tense

This is used to denote an action which continued forquite some time in the past but got completed before another action, also in the past.

Structure:            Subject + had + been +V4 + for / since ……

· It is usually used along with the words ‘for or ‘since to denote the passage of time.


·         I had beenliving in London for 10 years before I came back to India.

·         I had been working on another project before I developed this theory.

·         I had not been living there for a long time when I bumped into her. (Negative)

·         Had you been living in London for a long time when you write the novel? (Interrogative)

English Grammar and Composition

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