Past Tense: Simple, Perfect & Continuous Structure, Rules & Examples

The Past Tense Structure, Uses, Examples

In this article we will learn about the Past Tense. Its structure, uses and examples. So, read till the end.

Let's begin with,

The Past Simple Tense

Applications of Past Simple Tense

The Past Tense is used to denote;

A. An action that took place in the past (complete action of the past).

For example; 

  1. My grandfather passed away ten years ago.
  2. God created the Universe.
  3. I got up early today.


1. While using past simple, we denote a finished/complete action of the past. It has got nothing to do with now.

2. While using the past simple, there is often a mention of the past viz; yesterday, last year, last month, 2012...

B. To denote historical facts, inventions, and discoveries. 

For example; 

  1. Thomas Alva Edison invented the electric bulb.
  2. Columbus discovered America. He did not discover India.

C. To denote a series of past events/actions; 

For example; 

  1. The man got down the bus, walked a few paces, looked here and there, did not talk to anybody, sat down in the middle of the road, and cried.


Past Simple Tense Structure

Rule 1: Use the "past" form of verb V2 & no auxiliary verb in +ve sentences.

Rule 2: Use auxiliary "did/didn't" + Present form of verb (V1) in -ve and ?ve sentences.

Examples of Past Simple Tense

  1. This morning, I got up at 4:00 AM. I did not have any breakfast and left for the Academy.
  2. I composed 500 pieces of music.
  3. How did you learn to drive?
  4. Today, it was very hot. I felt thirsty and therefore drank 3 glasses of water. However, I did not drink any milk.
  5. "What did you have in lunch today?"
  6. " I had some bread and an egg but I did not have any rice."

Past Continuous Structure, Uses, and Examples

Applications of Past Continuous Tense

The Past Continuous Tense is used to denote;

A. An action that was going on (happening) at a particular time in the past.

For example;

  1. I was walking towards my school when my friend phoned me.
  2. Rozy was making paper flowers when her mother entered the room.
  3. Yesterday, I saw my uncle at the chowk. But he did not see me. He was looking the other side.
  4. This time yesterday, I was traveling towards Kashmir.


We also use the past continuous together with the past simple to that an action happened while another action was going on.

For example;

  1. I cut my finger while I was chopping strawberry.
  2. I got myself wet while I was walking to school in rain.
  3. The teacher was delivering a lecture but one of the students interrupted him in the middle.


While using the past simple and the past continuous together, we use past continuous with the action that was already going on and past simple with the action that happened in the middle of the action. 

Structure of Past Continuous Tense:

Rule 1: Use the present participle (V4, form of verbs.

Rule 2: Use auxiliary "were/weren't " before all the subjects except First-person singular (I) and 3rd Person Singular (He/she/it)

Rule 3: Use auxiliary "was/wasn't'' before the verb with First-person singular and third-person singular.

For example:

  1. "What were you doing at 8:30 today?
  2. "I was preparing myself for school.''
  3. We saw an accident while we were going to picnic.
  4. The T.V was on but nobody was watching.

Past Perfect Structure, Uses, and Examples

Application of Past Perfect Tense: 

The past perfect tense is used to denote;

A. Thise actions which were completed before another actions took place.

Examples of Past Perfect Tense.

  1. There was not any apple in the box. The children had eaten them.
  2. The police arrested a boy. He had stolen somebody's bike.
  3. The airplane had left before we reached the airport.
  4. When the doctor arrived, the patient had lost consciousness. 

Note 1: 

The past perfect tense is not often used independently. It is very much used to compare two actions of the past. While using this tense we decide what happened first?

We use past perfect with the action that happened first & past simple with the action that happened later.

For Example;

Tom looked happy because he had passed the exam.

Note 2: 

We often use ''when, already, before, after" while using the past perfect tense.

B. We use the past perfect tense in the conditional clauses to denote something. That was possible in the past but now turned impossible.

For example:

  1. If John had taken the examination, he would have passed in distinction.
  2. If you had listened to your parent's advice, you would not have repented now.

The Past Perfect Structure:

Rule 1: Use the "Past participle (PV3) form of the verb.

Rule 2: Use auxiliary "had/hadn't" before the verb PV3.

The Past Perfect Tense Examples:

  1. We went to my cousin's house but she wasn't there. She had gone to a picnic.
  2. We went back to our hometown aftet many years. It wasn't the same as before. It had changed a lot.
  3. When I saw John the day before, he looked gloomy because somebody had stolen his laptop.

Past Perfect continuous Tense Structure, Uses, and Examples

Applications of Past Perfect Tense: 

The past perfect continuous tense is used to denote;

A. An action that had been going on over a period of time before another action took place in the past.

The Past Perfect Continuous Tense Examples:

  1. The teacher punished all the students present in the class. They had been making a lot of noise.
  2. When the two boys came in, their clothes were dirty and their hair was untidy. They had been fighting before.
  3. Atlast, my turn came. I had been wanting for my turn in the qeue for half an hour.
  4. My elder brother got his job last month. He had not been doing anything since his post graduation.

The past perfect continuous structure:

Rule 1: Use the present participle (PV4 form of verbs.

Rule 2: Use auxiliary "had (not) been'' beforethe verb (PV4) with all the subjects.

Recommended Reads.

The Present Indefinite Tense.

The Present Continuous, Perfect, Perfect Continuous Tense.

Articles Rules and examples in English Grammar

Thank You For Reading.

Written by: Yawar Gulzar Baba

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