Past Tense – English Grammar Rules with Examples
A tense expressing an action that has happened or a state that previously existed is called past tense. There are 4 form of past tense. These are simple past, past perfect, past continuous/progressive and past perfect continuous/progressive tense.
English Grammar rules of Past Tense with example
The past simple tense is an action that began and ended at one particular time in the past.
Examples of past simple tense:
The pack of dogs ran through the woods.
Angus fell on the slippery ice.
Angus and Ritu embraced at the airport.
The mountain lion attacked the herd of cattle during the night.
Angus ate all his dinner.
Past Continuous (Progressive) Tense
The past continuous tense normally links an action in the past with another past action. The first past action continues through the second past action. The past continuous uses present conjugated forms of the auxiliary verb to be with the “ing”, form of the action verb.
There are different sentence structure formulas depending on variations in past continuous use. Read the following examples:
The following formula is used when an action was taking place in the past and was interrupted by another action.
Angus was painting a picture when we arrived at his house.
When we arrived at his house, Angus was painting a picture.
Angus, Heto and I were playing cards when the lights went out.
When the lights went out, Angus, Heto and I were playing cards.
The following formula is used when two actions occur at the same time in the past
My father was gardening while my brother was mowing the lawn.
While my brother was mowing the lawn, my father was gardening.
The children were crying while the clowns were performing.
While the clowns were performing, the children were crying.
NOTE: The following sentence structure is also possible, but is not commonly used.
subject + simple past + while + subject + past continuous. . .
Example: I fed our cat while my brother was taking a nap.
Past continuous can also be used by itself to indicate that something was occurring at a specific time in the past.
subject + was / were + verb + ing . . .
The moon was shining brightly last night.
The girls were laughing at his joke yesterday in class.
Past Perfect Tense
The past perfect tense links an action which was started and finished before another past action occurred. Read the following formula and timeline for past perfect:
subject + had + verb in past participle. . .
The past perfect tense uses the past conjugated form of the auxiliary verb to have with the past participle form of the action verb.
The past perfect tense is normally used with words such as before, when, after, since, by the time, etc. Study the following formulas for past perfect used with these words. As in the first example, sentences for these formulas can begin with the second clause. Just remember to add a comma between the clauses when doing so.
subject + past perfect + before/when/after/since/by the time + subject + simple past
before/when/after/since/by the time + subject + past simple + subject + past perfect
Examples of Past Perfect Tense
The students had studied before they took the test.
Before they took the test, the students had studied.
He had finished mowing when the storm came.
When the storm came, He had finished mowing.
Angus left school after he had taken his exams.
After he had taken his exams, Angus left school.
Six years had passed since I last saw him.
Since I last saw him, six years had passed.
Anhus had already performed by the time her parents arrived.
By the time her parents arrived, Anhus had already performed.
Present Perfect Continuous (Progressive) Tense
The present perfect continuous tense is an event in progress, which started in the past and continues to the present. It will probably continue into the future. Read the following formula and timeline for present perfect continuous (progressive):
NOTE: The past perfect continuous tense is normally used with words such as before, when, after, since, by the time, etc.
Examples of past perfect continuous tense:
I had been drinking when the accident occurred.
Anhgus had been exercising before the surgery.
The horses had been ridden many times before the ranch was sold.