Past Tense

Past Tense

Past Tense refers any action from the last second backward to infinity. Past tense is subdivided into four:

  • Simple Past tense
  • Past Continuous tense
  • Past Perfect tense
  • Past Perfect Continuous tense

Use of Simple Past Tense:

  • This is used to talk about an action that took place sometime in the past either once, again and again; or an action that was true for some time.

Examples:

Positive

Negative

Interrogative

I saw the rock last year.

I didn’t see the rock last year.

Did you see the rock?

The secretary just typed that now.

The secretary didn’t just type that now.

Did the secretary just type that now?

I fought while I was in high school.

I never fought while I was in high school.

Did I ever fight while I was in high school?

Those small hamlets were united many years ago.

Those small hamlets were not united many years ago.

Were those small hamlets united many years ago?

  • Simple Past tense is also used in reported speech to achieve sequence of tense:

Direct Speech

Reported/Indirect Speech

Baku inquired, ‘who is this?’

Baku inquired who this was.

‘I am the general manager’, the man affirmed.

The man affirmed that he was the general manager.

Chinedu said, ‘I want to go home’.

Chinedu said that he wanted to go home.

‘Can I stay here?’ I asked.

I asked if I could stay there.

  • The simple past tense is also used with ‘it’s time’, ‘it’s about time’ and ‘it’s high time’:
    • It’s time we discovered the truth.
    • It’s high time the children went to bed.
    • It’s about time I started avoiding alcohol.
    • Isn’t it time the boys left for the show?

Use of Past Continuous Tense:

The past continuous tense is formed by using the past tense of be (was and were) and verb+ing.

  • This is used mainly to refer to an action that was interrupted by another action. That is an action that continued before and after another action.

Examples:

I saw the bucket when he was searching for it.

‘Saw’ is the action that interrupted the past continuous tense ‘was searching’.

Positive

Negative

Interrogative

The children were eating before their father came in.

The children were not eating before their father came in.

Were the children eating when their father came in?

The principal was waiting angrily when the truant strolled in

The principal wasn’t waiting when the truant strolled in.

Was the principal waiting when the truant strolled in?

As we were coming, he took to his heels

As we weren’t coming again, he stayed.

Did he run as we were coming?

The inspectors were checking the teachers work, while we stayed and watched

The inspectors weren’t checking the teachers work when we stayed and watched

Were the inspectors checking the teachers work when we stayed and watched?

  • It is also used for an action that was continuing in the past even when the interrupting action is not expressed.

Examples:

The students were beginning to drive their tutor crazy with their noise.

By that time, they were sweating profusely.

Use of Past Perfect Tense:

The past perfect tense is formed by using had and the past participle of the main verb.

  • This is used to refer to an action that started in the past and continued up to a given time in the past.

Dagir had lived in Kastina for six years before he became a politician.

When I met my wife, she had stayed with her uncle all her life.

Use of Past Perfect Continuous Tense:

The past perfect tense is formed by using had been and verb+ing form.

This has a similar function with past perfect. It is used distinctly for an action carried out several times up to a point in the past and continued to do after that point.

When I met my wife, he had been staying with her uncle all her life.

Dagir had been living in Kastina for six years before he became a politician.

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