Know Your Past Tenses!

Are you using your past tenses appropriately? Are you still applying the past simple because you are afraid of making mistakes when writing? Perhaps you recently learned the past perfect continuous but are still unsure why or when to use it.

It’s perfectly normal to be intimidated by so many forms of grammar which refer to an action or behavior in the past. Below is a brief summary of all past tenses. Included in this posting are some example sentences, each provided with a context describing when each tense should be used. Have a look and leave your tense anxieties well and truly… in the past.

Past Simple
– After the baseball game, we went to a restaurant, ate a feast and celebrated our incredible victory.
When should I use it?
For a series of separate past events.

Present Perfect Simple
– I have recently been to Malta and am still rather tanned.
When should I use it?
For events in the recent past that are not completed or connect to the present.

Present Perfect Continuous
– I have been teaching English for many years.
When should I use it?
To show something started in the past and has continued up until now.

Past Continuous
– The sun was shining and the weather was beautiful.
When should I use it?
For an interrupted past or background event.

Past Perfect Simple
– The train had left before we arrived at the station.
When should I use it?
For an event that finished before another past event.

Past Perfect Continuous
– By the time my sister showed up, we had been waiting at the bus stop for nearly an hour.
When should I use it?
For a continuous action that finished before another past event.

The best way to practice your past tenses is to choose two new forms to revise. Once you have gained practice and experience using say, past continuous and past perfect, choose another two tenses you would like to strengthen. Learning English takes time. Luckily for us, when it comes to grammar, there is always a rule. Start practicing your past tenses through speaking and writing today!