Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Past Tense

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Simple Past Tense

I Sang

How do we make the Simple Past Tense?

To make the simple past tense, we use:
  • past form only
    or
  • auxiliary did + base form
Here you can see examples of the past form and base form for irregular verbs and regular verbs:
V1
base
V2
past
V3
past participle
regular verbwork
explode
like
worked
exploded
liked
worked
exploded
liked
The past form for all regular verbs ends in -ed.
irregular verbgo
see
sing
went
saw
sang
gone
seen
sung
The past form for irregular verbs is variable. You need to learn it by heart.
You do not need the past participle form to make the simple past tense. It is shown here for completeness only.
The structure for positive sentences in the simple past tense is:
subject+main verb
past
The structure for negative sentences in the simple past tense is:
subject+auxiliary verb+not+main verb
didbase
The structure for question sentences in the simple past tense is:
auxiliary verb+subject+main verb
didbase
The auxiliary verb did is not conjugated. It is the same for all persons (I did, you did, he did etc). And the base form and past form do not change. Look at these examples with the main verbs go andwork:
subjectauxiliary verbmain verb
+Iwentto school.
Youworkedvery hard.
-Shedidnotgowith me.
Wedidnotworkyesterday.
?Didyougoto London?
Didtheyworkat home?
Exception! The verb to be is different. We conjugate the verb to be (I was, you were, he/she/it was, we were, they were); and we do not use an auxiliary for negative and question sentences. To make a question, we exchange the subject and verb. Look at these examples:
subjectmain verb
+I, he/she/itwashere.
You, we, theywerein London.
-I, he/she/itwasnotthere.
You, we, theywerenothappy.
?WasI, he/she/itright?
Wereyou, we, theylate?

How do we use the Simple Past Tense?

We use the simple past tense to talk about an action or a situation - an event - in the past. The event can be short or long.
Here are some short events with the simple past tense:
The car exploded at 9.30am yesterday.
She went to the door.
We did not hear the telephone.
Did you see that car?
pastpresentfuture

The action is in the past.
Here are some long events with the simple past tense:
I lived in Bangkok for 10 years.
The Jurassic period lasted about 62 million years.
We did not sing at the concert.
Did you watch TV last night?
pastpresentfuture

The action is in the past.
Notice that it does not matter how long ago the event is: it can be a few minutes or seconds in the past, or millions of years in the past. Also it does not matter how long the event is. It can be a few milliseconds (car explosion) or millions of years (Jurassic period). We use the simple past tense when:
  • the event is in the past
  • the event is completely finished
  • we say (or understand) the time and/or place of the event

Past Continuous Tense

I Was Singing

The structure of the past continuous tense is:How do we make the Past Continuous Tense?

subject+auxiliary verb BE+main verb
conjugated in simple past tensepresent participle
was
were
base + ing
For negative sentences in the past continuous tense, we insert not between the auxiliary verb and main verb. For question sentences, we exchange the subject and auxiliary verb. Look at these example sentences with the past continuous tense:
subjectauxiliary verbmain verb
+IwaswatchingTV.
+Youwereworkinghard.
-He, she, itwasnothelpingMary.
-Wewerenotjoking.
?Wereyoubeingsilly?
?Weretheyplayingfootball?

How do we use the Past Continuous Tense?

The past continuous tense expresses action at a particular moment in the past. The action started before that moment but has not finished at that moment. For example, yesterday I watched a film on TV. The film started at 7pm and finished at 9pm.
At 8pm yesterday, I was watching TV.
pastpresentfuture

8pm
At 8pm, I was in the middle of watching TV.
When we use the past continuous tense, our listener usually knows or understands what time we are talking about. Look at these examples:
  • was working at 10pm last night.
  • They were not playing football at 9am this morning.
  • What were you doing at 10pm last night?
  • What were you doing when he arrived?
  • She was cooking when I telephoned her.
  • We were having dinner when it started to rain.
  • Ram went home early because it was snowing.
We often use the past continuous tense to "set the scene" in stories. We use it to describe the background situation at the moment when the action begins. Often, the story starts with the past continuous tense and then moves into the simple past tense. Here is an example:
" James Bond was driving through town. It was raining. The wind was blowing hard. Nobody was walking in the streets. Suddenly, Bond saw the killer in a telephone box..."

Past Continuous Tense + Simple Past Tense

We often use the past continuous tense with the simple past tense. We use the past continuous tense to express a long action. And we use the simple past tense to express a short action that happens in the middle of the long action. We can join the two ideas with when or while.
In the following example, we have two actions:
  1. long action (watching TV), expressed with past continuous tense
  2. short action (telephoned), expressed with simple past tense
pastpresentfuture
Long action.
I was watching TV at 8pm.

8pm

You telephoned at 8pm.
Short action.
We can join these two actions with when:
  • I was watching TV when you telephoned.
(Notice that "when you telephoned" is also a way of defining the time [8pm].)
We use:
  • when + short action (simple past tense)
  • while + long action (past continuous tense)
There are four basic combinations:
I was walking past the carwhenit exploded.
Whenthe car explodedI was walking past it.
The car explodedwhileI was walking past it.
WhileI was walking past the carit exploded.
Notice that the long action and short action are relative.
  • "Watching TV" took a few hours. "Telephoned" took a few seconds.
  • "Walking past the car" took a few seconds. "Exploded" took a few milliseconds.

Past Perfect Tense

I Had Sung


The structure of the past perfect tense is:
How do we make the Past Perfect Tense?

subject+auxiliary verb HAVE+main verb
conjugated in simple past tensepast participle
hadV3
For negative sentences in the past perfect tense, we insert not between the auxiliary verb and main verb. For question sentences, we exchange the subject and auxiliary verb. Look at these example sentences with the past perfect tense:
subjectauxiliary verbmain verb
+Ihadfinishedmy work.
+Youhadstoppedbefore me.
-Shehadnotgoneto school.
-Wehadnotleft.
?Hadyouarrived?
?Hadtheyeatendinner?
When speaking with the past perfect tense, we often contract the subject and auxiliary verb:
I hadI'd
you hadyou'd
he had
she had
it had
he'd
she'd
it'd
we hadwe'd
they hadthey'd

How do we use the Past Perfect Tense?

The past perfect tense expresses action in the past before another action in the past. This is thepast in the past. For example:
  • The train left at 9am. We arrived at 9.15am. When we arrived, the train had left.
The train had left when we arrived.
pastpresentfuture
Train leaves in past at 9am.
99.15


We arrive in past at 9.15am.
Look at some more examples:
  • I wasn't hungry. I had just eaten.
  • They were hungry. They had not eaten for five hours.
  • I didn't know who he was. I had never seen him before.
  • "Mary wasn't at home when I arrived."
    "Really? Where had she gone?"
You can sometimes think of the past perfect tense like the present perfect tense, but instead of the time being now the time is past.
past perfect tensepresent perfect tense
had |
done |
> |
have |
done |
> |


pastnowfuturepastnowfuture
For example, imagine that you arrive at the station at 9.15am. The stationmaster says to you:
  • "You are too late. The train has left."
Later, you tell your friends:
  • "We were too late. The train had left."
We often use the past perfect tense in reported speech after verbs like said, told, asked, thought, wondered:
Look at these examples:
  • He told us that the train had left.
  • I thought I had met her before, but I was wrong.
  • He explained that he had closed the window because of the rain.
  • I wondered if I had been there before.
  • I asked them why they had not finished.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

I had been singing


The structure of the past perfect continuous tense is:
How do we make the Past Perfect Continuous Tense?

subject+auxiliary verb HAVE+auxiliary verb BE+main verb
conjugated in simple past tensepast participlepresent participle
hadbeenbase + ing
For negative sentences in the past perfect continuous tense, we insert not after the first auxiliary verb. For question sentences, we exchange the subject and first auxiliary verb. Look at these example sentences with the past perfect continuous tense:
subjectauxiliary verbauxiliary verbmain verb
+Ihadbeenworking.
+Youhadbeenplayingtennis.
-Ithadnotbeenworkingwell.
-Wehadnotbeenexpectingher.
?Hadyoubeendrinking?
?Hadtheybeenwaitinglong?
When speaking with the past perfect continuous tense, we often contract the subject and first auxiliary verb:
I had beenI'd been
you had beenyou'd been
he had
she had been
it had been
he'd been
she'd been
it'd been
we had beenwe'd been
they had beenthey'd been

How do we use the Past Perfect Continuous Tense?

The past perfect continuous tense is like the past perfect tense, but it expresses longer actions in thepast before another action in the past. For example:
  • Ram started waiting at 9am. I arrived at 11am. When I arrived, Ram had been waiting for two hours.
Ram had been waiting for two hours when I arrived.
pastpresentfuture
Ram starts waiting in past at 9am.
911


I arrive in past at 11am.
Here are some more examples:
  • John was very tired. He had been running.
  • I could smell cigarettes. Somebody had been smoking.
  • Suddenly, my car broke down. I was not surprised. It had not been running well for a long time.
  • Had the pilot been drinking before the crash?
You can sometimes think of the past perfect continuous tense like the present perfect continuous tense, but instead of the time being now the time is past.
past perfect continuous tensepresent perfect continuous tense
had |
been |
doing |
>>>> |
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
have |
been |
doing |
>>>> |


pastnowfuturepastnowfuture
For example, imagine that you meet Ram at 11am. Ram says to you:
  • "I am angry. I have been waiting for two hours."
Later, you tell your friends:
  • "Ram was angry. He had been waiting for two hours."

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