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Regular Past simple forms end in ed in the positive form. But many verbs have an
irregular past form.
Positive form
I/ you/he/she/it/we/they

Negative form
I/ you he/she/it/we/they
didnt start.
I/ you/he/she/it/we/they
didnt win

Question form
Did I/you/he/she/it/we/they
Did I/you/he/she/it/we/they

Did you play tennis last week?

4. action in the past taking place once, never or several times

o He visited his parents every weekend.
5. actions in the past taking place one after the other
o He came in, took off his coat and sat down.
6. action in the past taking place in the middle of another action
o When I was having breakfast, the phone suddenly rang.
7. if sentences type II (If I talked, )
o If I had a lot of money, I would share it with you.

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.

was at work yesterday.

We were not late (for the train).
Were you angry?

8. The action can be short or long, single or repeated.

o I dropped the glass and it broke on the floor.
o He took the train to work every day.
9. We also use it to talk about states in the past.
o When I was young, I loved playing with my toys.
10. Note that when we tell a story, we usually use the simple past tense. We may
use the past continuous tense to "set the scene", but we almost always use
the simple past tense for the action. Look at this example of the beginning of
a story:

We use the Past simple to talk about a finished action or state in the past. It can be
something that happened once or many times. We often say when it happened.It is
at a specific time.

He died in 1980 (= once)

My father always took me to school when I was young (= many times)
We lived in a very small huse in those in those days (= state)

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

o I lived in that house when I was young.
o He didn't like the movie.
o What did you eat for dinner?
o John drove to London on Monday.
o Mary did not go to work yesterday.

"The wind was howling around the hotel and the rain was pouring down. It
was cold. The door opened and James Bond entered. He took off his coat,
which was very wet, and ordered a drink at the bar. He sat down in the
corner of the lounge and quietly drank his..."
Time phrases often used in the past: at, on, in, ago, the other day

at, on, in
We can use these time phrases in the present and future.
at + time/two/ three days at 12.15
at eight oclock
at Easter at Christmas
on + day/date
on Monday on July 2nd
in + month/season/year
in winter
in spring
in 1988
in the 1990s
in the twenty first century

We do not use a preposition with last and yesterday

We went there last year / yesterday

ago = before now

We use it to show how far in the past something happened.
o I first met Jackie two years ago
We do not use ago after specific time periods with the
o I met him in the summer ago.

I/he/she/it was
you/we/they were

Negative form
I/ he/she wasnt
You/we/they werent




b. When another (completed) action happened.

I was driving along when I saw a friend of time.
Driving home

Positive form

Driving home

saw a friend

Question form
Was I/he/she/it travelling?
Were you/we/they

The past continuous tense is an important tense in English. We use it to say what
we were in the middle of doing at a particular moment in the past.
Past Continuous Timeline



2. We often use the P.C. to describe the background situation in a story.

For the main events, we use the Past Simple.
o The sun was shining and I was walking along the road.
Suddenly someone shouted to me
o " 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..."
3. Sometimes the other action in the Past simple interrupts the action in
the P.C.
o I was crossing the road when I slipped on some ice. (= I stopped
crossing the road)

4. When two actions happen one after the other, we use the P.S. for
both actions.
o When I heard the crash, I ran to the end of the street.

Exceptions in Spelling
Exceptions in spelling when adding ing
final e is dropped (but: ee is not changed)
after a short, stressed vowel, the final consonant is
l as final consonant after a vowel is doubled (in
British English)
final ie becomes y

come coming
(but: agree agr
sit sitting
travel travelling

5. We use the P.c. for actions we see as incomplete

o I read a book about Italy. (= I read it all)
o I was reading a book about Italy on the plane. (=I probably didnt
read it all)
6. We use When, while and as to join P.C. and P.S. parts of a sentence
o I saw Karl when/while/as I was waiting at the bus stop.

lie lying

1. We use the Past Continuous to talk about actions in progress:

a. At a certain time in the past.
I was driving home at 6.30 this evening.

Similarities with other continuous forms

1. Continuous forms describe activities in progress.
o Hes reading the newspaper (=he`s in the middle of it)
o He was reading the newspaper (=he was in the middle of it)
2. We use continuous forms to emphasise that situations are temporary

o Shes staying with us at the moment (temporary in the past)

o I was sleeping on a friends sofa (=temporary in the past)
3. We do not use continuous forms with state verbs.
o I hated vegetables when I was young.
o I was hating vegetables when I was being young
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

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

the car exploded
The car exploded
I was walking past the


it exploded.


I was walking past it.

I was walking past it.
it exploded.

She was cooking when I telephoned her.

We were having dinner when it started to rain.
Ram went home early because it was snowing.
For example:
Q) "What were they doing yesterday?" A) "They were working all day."
It can be used to describe what someone was doing at a particular point in
For example:
Q) "What were you doing at 7.30 last night?" A) "I was watching television."
The past continuous can also be used to show that an activity frequently took
place over a period of time.
Q) "What did you do on holiday?" A) "I went skiing a lot."
Often the past continuous is mixed with the past simple to show what was
happening when something happened. The past continuous refers to the
longer event and the simple past to the event that interrupted it.
For example:
"I was driving to work when I crashed my car."
As I was driving to work, I crashed my car."

Positive form

Negative form

Question form

I/ he/she it/we/they
hadnt finished.

Had I/he/she/it/we/they

Past Perfect Simple Timeline

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
I 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?

1. We use the Past perfect to show that one action happened before another in
the past, and that the first action finished before the second action started.
o He had been to the bank and he was on his way home.
Had been to the bank

on his way home



Look at some more examples:

o I wasn't hungry. I had just eaten.
o They were hungry. They had not eaten for five hours.
o I didn't know who he was. I had never seen him before.
o "Mary wasn't at home when I arrived."
"Really? Where had she gone?"
2. We often use the Past perfect with because to explain a past situation.
o Patrick felt ill because hed eaten so much
3. To show that two actions happened at the same time, we use the Past simple
o He woke up when the telephone rang.

If we want to say that it was the first time something happened or someone did
something, we can use the Past perfect with never before
o It was a very interesting meal. I had never eaten Mexican food before.
"I had already done the shopping by the time she came home."
"I was late for work; by the time I arrived the client had already left."
The past perfect simple can be used to show how often something happened in the
I'd visited the city many times before.
It can also be used to express unfulfilled wishes or dreams. Sometimes called the
Third Conditional.

4. If the sequence of actions is clear from the context, it is not necessary to use "If I had won the lottery I would have bought a new car." Note: If I had done
something I would have done something else.
the Past perfect.
o A robber appeared and pointed a gun at him.
5. We often use the past perfect tense in reported speech after verbs like said, I had been singing
told, asked, thought, wondered:
The past perfect continuous tense is like the past perfect tense, but it expresses
longer actions in the past before another action in the past.
Look at these examples:
o He told us that the train had left.
o I thought I had met her before, but I was wrong.
o He explained that he had closed the window because of the rain.
o I wondered if I had been there before.
o I asked them why they had not finished.
Signal Words
already, just, never, not yet, once, until that day (with reference to the past,
not the present)
If-Satz Typ III (If I had talked, )
Past time words: already, just, and never ..Before
Already and just
1. If we want to emphasise that something happened before a particular time, we
use already.
o When we got, the film had already started.
2. If we want to emphasise that something happened only a short time before, we
use just.
o Unfortunately, the train had just left when we got to the station.
3. Notice the position of already and just : between the auxiliary verb had and the
past participle
Never before

For example:
Ram started waiting at 9am. I arrived at 11am. When I arrived, Ram had been
waiting for two hours.
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?
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."
"By the time I left England we had been living in Bristol for five years."
"Her back was sore because she had been sitting at the computer all day."
It is also used to say how long something went on for, up to a time in the past.
We apologized(excusas) because we had kept them waiting for 3 hours.
We apologised because we had kept them waiting since lunchtime.

! Note it is always for a length of time and since a point in time.

Signal words
for, since, the whole day, all day