The Past

There are four different main past tenses in English (the past simple, the past continuous, the present perfect and the past perfect that you may find at the following link), however, both the present and the past perfect tenses each have a simple one and a continuous one. Let’s see how they are formed and how they are used.


The past simple of regular verbs is formed by simply adding the -ed ending to the base form of the verb, so for instance we will have: I walk → I walked. On the contrary, in case of an irregular verb one must know the paradigm, so for example we will have: I am/she is→ I/she was, you/we/they are →you/we/they were. Or, another example: I/you/we/they buy →bought,he/she/it buys→bought. It all depends on how the verb changes in the irregular form.

Finished Actions in the Past

  • We spent a month in Australia last year
  • They didn’t go to college when they lived abroad, only when they went back to their homeland
  • When did you finish your homework?

Story Telling

  • Once upon a time there was a young girl who lived in a beautiful city…


The past continuous is formed with the past simple of the verb “To be” + the -ing ending (or Gerund) on the main verb. As for instance: I was walking.

Unforseen Sudden Actions Happening while another in is in progress

  • While I was walking along the river, I saw four beautiful white swans

Actions in Progress in the Past, even contemporary

  • I was lying in the sun this time last week

Repeated Actions in the Past

  • He was always talking on his mobile when we were in the restaurant
  • While Bea was ironing her husband was doing the washing up

To Sum up


© L. R. Capuana

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