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The Simple Past Tense

Statements


Form. subject + Second form of the verb.
Examples:

  • She broke my pen.
  • They worked on a big farm.
  • I saw her in the market yesterday.

Negative Sentences

Form. Subject + did not + first form of the verb.
Examples:

  • She did not finish her work.
  • You did not help me.

Interrogative Sentences


Form. Did. + Subject + First form of the verb +……………………….?

  • Did you buy this book yesterday?
  • Where did they stop on the way?

Adverbs. Words indicating past time such as ‘yesterday’ ‘ago’, ‘last‘ etc.
Important Note. Use First Form of the Verb after did

The Use of the Simple Past Tense


(i) To express an action completed in the Past with reference to the time of speaking; as,

  • I met a one-eyed sailor yesterday.
  • We visited Shimla last year.

(ii) To express a habitual or regular action in the Past; as,

  • When he was young, he always got up at 5 a.m.
  • She visited the temple every evening to offer prayer.

(iii) To express an event which occurred at a particular point in the past; as,

  • Edison invented the gramophone.
  • A truck hit a car and killed its driver.

(iv) To express an action which occupied a period of time in the Past, but has ended now; as,

  • He worked for eight hours (= is not working now).
  • I stayed at Manali with my uncle for ten days (= not staying now)

(v) To express an action going on at the time stated or during the occurrence of another longer action; as,

  • While Rima sang, Tina danced.
  • Rohit read the magazine as he took tea.
  • She was watching the television when I went to her house.

The Past Continuous Tense

Statements


Form. Subject + was/were + Present Participle (V1 + ing).
Examples:

  • I was writing letters all night.
  • The baby was weeping in the room.
  • The children were playing in the ground.

Note. Use ‘was’ with singular subjects. [I, he, she, it and singular Nouns]. Use ‘were’ with plural subjects [We, you, they and Plural Nouns]

Negative Sentences


Form. Subject + was not I were not + Present Participle + ……………………………..
Examples:

  • She was not singing a song then.
  • They were not making a noise at that time.

Interrogative Sentences


Form. Was/Were + Subject + Present Participle + ……………………………  ?
Examples:

  • Was she combing her hair?
  • Were they waiting for the train?
  • Were you watching television ?

The Use of the Past Continuous Tense


(i) To describe an action that was in progress at a point of time in the Past or over a period of time in the Past; as—

  • She was having her breakfast at 8 a.m. yesterday.
  • At seven o’clock this morning, Mukul was doing his homework.
  • The boys were flying kites.
  • The girls were swimming in the lake.
  • What were you doing in the morning yesterday?

(ii) To describe an action that was in progress when another action took place; as—

  • I was taking bath when the postman knocked at the door.
  • She was sleeping when the phone rang.

(c) To describe two actions going on at the same time in the past; as—

  • When Rome was burning, Nero was playing on the fiddle.
  • Father was reading newspaper, while mother was peeling vegetables.

(d) To show gradual development of a happening; as—

  • It was getting colder.
  • The child was growing like a mimosa plant.

(e)  To express disapproval/irritation at a frequently repeated past action; as—

  • The servant was continually asking for hike in salary.
  • She was always quarrelling with her husband.
  • Those students were constantly asking foolish questions.
    [The adverbs ‘always’, ‘constantly’, ‘continually’ indicate the frequent repetition of action]

The Past Perfect Tense

Statements


Form. Subject + had + Past Participle (V3 or Third form of the Verb).
Examples:

  • I had finished my work before sunset.
  • They had reached here when you arrived.

Negative Sentences


Form. Subject + had not + Third form of the verb
Examples:

  • They had not solved the sums by then.
  • He had not left the office when I reached there.

Interrogative Sentences


Form. Had + Subject + Third form of the verb + ……………………..   ?
Examples:

  • Had you ever been to Kashmir before?
  • Had she not made coffee before the guests arrived?

The Use of the Past Perfect Tense


(i) To express an action completed in the past with the words already, before, never, ever, still, etc.’, as—

  • I had never visited Cochin before.
  • The guests had already left.

(ii) To describe an action which was completed before another action took place in the past; as—

  • The patient had died before the doctor arrived.
  • We went to school after the rain had stopped.
  • They had cleaned the rooms when the guests dropped in.

Note. The longer/completed action is reported in the Past Perfect Tense while the shorter action which took place later is reported in Simple Past Tense.

(iii) To express an unfulfilled wish/hope/intention etc. (with the verbs hope, wish, want, intend etc).

  • She had wished to become a doctor.
  • I had hoped to win the first prize.
  • He had intended to buy this hotel.

(iv) To express an unfulfilled condition in the past; as—

  • If she had worked hard, she would have passed.
  • If we had hired a taxi, we would have caught the train.
  • If you had asked me, I would have helped you.

The Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Statements


Form. Subject + had been + Present Participle (V1 + ing)
Examples:

  • She had been living in Chandigarh before she moved to Delhi.
  • Kapil had been playing cricket since childhood.

Negative Sentences
Form. Subject + had not been + Present Participle (V1+ ing) ……..
Examples:

  • She had not been trying to get a job.
  • It had not been raining heavily for a week.

Interrogative Sentences


Form. Had + Subject + been + Present Participle (V1 + ing)… ?
Examples:

  • Had she been waiting for us since 2.00 p.m.?
  • Had he been suffering from fever since Monday?

The Use of the Past Perfect Continuous Tense


To describe an action which continued in the past for a given period of time; as—

  • We had been reading for two hours when you came.
  • The gardener had been watering the plants since morning.

Points To Remember

(i) Use Simple Present (First Form of the Verb) for

  • habitual or oft-repeated actions.
  • universal truths or natural states.
  • permanent states.
  • future planned action.

(ii) Use Present Continuous (is/am/are + V1 + ing ) for

  • an action in progress at the present time.
  • temporary state
  • definite arrangements for future
  • speaker’s disapproval of an oft-repeated action.

(iii) Use Present Perfect (has/have + V3) for

  • an action just completed
  • an action/experience of past having bearing on present.
  • a past action, the time of which is not given.
  • a past action, which is still in progress.

(iv) Use Simple Past (Second Form of the Verb) for

  • past habits/routines.
  • a series of past actions.
  • action occurring in the past, the time of which is given.
  • the action has ended and has no connection with the present.

(v) Use Past Continuous (was / were + V1 + ing) for

  • an action in progress in the past.
  • two actions in progress simultaneously.
  • an action in progress when another takes place.

(vi) Use Past Perfect (had + V3) for

  • an action completed in the past before another past action.
  • an unfulfilled condition/wish/hope or intention.

Students often feel puzzled when a sentence conveys two actions. The following tips will be useful for them:
(i) Two past actions occur at the same time. Use Simple Past for both e.g.

  • When the police fired, the mob dispersed.

(ii) An action in progress in the past when another action took place.

  • Use Past Continuous for the action in progress in the past.
  • Use Simple Past for action taking place in between; as—
  • I was taking my breakfast, when the door bell rang.

(iii) Two past actions in progress simultaneously: Use Past Continuous for both the actions; as—

  • The players were playing while the spectators were watching them.

(iv) An action completed in past before another action occurred.

  • Use Past Perfect for the completed action and Simple Past for the action that took place afterwards; as—
  • The students went home after they had finished their work.
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