Past Tenses


The Past Simple Tense

 The Past Tense is used for actions or events which happened at a definite point of time or place in the past (whether mentioned or not). The focus is on the factual aspect of the action or event.

        Ex:     When / Where did you buy this car?

                 I bought it last week / in Paris.

                 She sold her flat / yesterday / last week / on Monday / a month ago / in July / in 2001.


The Past Continuous Tense

        emphasizes the duration of a past action

               Ex:     I was learning English all afternoon yesterday.

        is used for an action/event which is still in progress when it is interrupted by another,

       punctual action/event

               Ex:     I was (still) having breakfast when he rang me up.

                        It was (still) raining when the dam broke.

        for actions which are in progress simultaneously (introduced with ‘while’, ‘as’)

               Ex:     While I was getting the drinks ready, my wife was welcoming the guests.


The Past Simple versus the Past Continuous

        Simple: He looked away when I talked to him, (> my talking made him look away)

       Continuous: He was looking away when I talked to him. (> an action interrupted by



        Simple: I got up, dressed and had breakfast. (> one person performing three successive


       Continuous:       While I was watching TV, mother was cooking and my sister was laying the

       table. (>three persons acting simultaneously)



The Past Perfect


 The Past Perfect Simple

        The Past Perfect is used for an action/event which was already completed when another began.

        Ex:   He had already left when I arrived.

              He had been dead for hours before they found him.


The Past Perfect Continuous

        The Past Perfect Continuous is used to stress duration.

        Ex:   The baby had been crying for hours before it was heard by a neighbour.