4 Forms of Past Tenses to Use Correctly

20 October 2022 / Team Fun English Course

Do you find utilizing English past tenses difficult? Well, this particular tense can surely be quite tricky sometimes. However, if you have mastered the right fundamental, it will be easier to use. Therefore, here’s a further explanation on utilizing the 4 past tenses accurately. Check out our explanation! 

Past Tense 101: Definition & Examples

Each one of the past tenses in English possesses different usages. Here’s the full explanation.

  • Simple Past Tense

The first form of the past tense is Simple Past. The form of this tense is:

  • S + V + -ed (regular verbs)
  • S + V2 (irregular verbs)

It implies that you are talking about particular actions or moments in the past. The requirements are:

  • The actions or moments are finished.
  • There is a specific finished time signal.

Here are the simple past tense examples:

  • Alex rang your bell this evening.

It implies that Alex did her action at a specific finished time (last night). Other examples are:

  • Chyntia didn’t ring your bell this evening.
  • Did Phil ring our bell this evening?
  • Past Continuous Tense

The next common form of tense is past continuous. The formula is:

  • S + was/were + V + -ing

There are various situations to use this form.

Firstly, this tense is used when you’re referring to a longer action that was interrupted, normally by a shorter action in the past, for example:

  • Haley was riding a bicycle when she saw a big fat rat under that tree.

Secondly, this tense is used when two continuous actions were happening simultaneously in the past. For instance:

  • I was making a strawberry smoothie while Gloria was preparing for lunch.

Thirdly, it can also be used when a continuous action was happening at a specific time in the past. For example:

  • Last Monday Papa was planting flowers in our backyard.

Lastly, use this tense to describe some details in your story. For instance:

Today was a gloomy day. The sunray was hiding behind the heavy gray clouds. A tall, blonde girl was walking carefully in my front yard while trying not to slip.

  • Past Perfect Tense

The next one is past perfect. The form for this tense is:

  • S + had + past participle

You can use this tense when referring to an action that happened before the main action in the past. 

For instance:

  • The concert had started when they arrived.

It emphasizes that the concert started before they arrived.

Now, check out the difference with this one:

  • The concert started when they arrived.

The sentence above implies that they arrived at the same moment the concert started.

  • Past Perfect Continuous Tense

The last form of past tense is past perfect continuous. The form for this tense is:

  • S + had + been + V + -ing

Use this tense to refer to an action that started and continued up to another moment, both in the past time. For instance:

  • Cam had been traveling around Southeast Asia for five months when he found his soulmate.
  • Lily had been standing in the rain for twenty-six minutes before her father arrived.
  • By the time Manny stepped inside the house, Mom had been cooking for almost 3 hours.

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