The past tense is a verb tense expressing action, activity, state or
being in the past of the current moment (in an absolute tense system),
or prior to some other event, whether that is past, present, or future
(in a relative tense system).
Preterite (or simple past) Present perfect (see perfect aspect) Each of
these may also be found in the progressive (continuous) aspect.
Simple past is formed for regular verbs by adding –ed to the root of a
word. Example: He walked to the store. A negation is produced by adding
did not and the verb in its infinitive form. Example: He did not walk to
the store. Question sentences are started with did as in Did he walk to
Simple past is used for describing acts that have already been concluded
and whose exact time of occurrence is known. Furthermore, simple past is
used for retelling successive events. That is why it is commonly used in
Past progressive is formed by using the adequate form of to be and the
verb’s present participle: He was going to church. By inserting not
before the main verb a negation is achieved. Example: He was not going
to church. A question is formed by prefixing the adequate form of to be
as in Was he going?.
Past progressive is used for describing events that were in the process
of occurring when a new event happened. The already occurring event is
presented in past progressive, the new one in simple past. Example: We
were sitting in the garden when the thunderstorm started. Use is similar
to other languages' imperfect tense.
Present perfect simple is formed by combining have/has with the main
verb’s past participle form: I have arrived. A negation is produced by
inserting not after have/has: I have not arrived. Questions in present
perfect are formulated by starting a sentence with have/has: Has she
Present perfect simple is used for describing a past action’s effect on
the present: He has arrived. Now he is here. This holds true for events
that have just been secluded as well as for events that have not yet
Present perfect progressive is formed by prefixing have/has before the
grammatical particle been and the verb’s present participle form: We
have been waiting. A negation is expressed by including not between
have/has and been: They have not been eating. As with present perfect
simple, for forming a question, have/has is put at the beginning of a
sentence: Have they been eating?
Present perfect progressive is used for describing an event that has
been going on until the present and may be continued in the future. It
also puts emphasis on how an event has occurred. Very often since and
for mark the use of present perfect progressive: I have been waiting for
five hours / I have been waiting since three o’clock.
Furthermore, there is another version of past tense possible: past
perfect, similar to other languages' pluperfect tense.
Past perfect simple is formed by combining the simple past form of to
have with the simple past form of the main verb: We had shouted. A
negation is achieved by including not after had: You had not spoken.
Questions in past perfect always start with had: Had he laughed?
Past perfect simple is used for describing secluded events that have
occurred before something else followed. The event that is closer to the
present is given in simple past tense: After we had visited our
relatives in New York, we flew back to Toronto.
Past perfect progressive is formed by had, the grammatical particle been
and the present participle of the main verb: You had been waiting. For
negation, not is included before been: I had not been waiting. A
question sentence is formed by starting with had: Had she been waiting?
If emphasis is put on the duration of a concluded action of the past,
since and for are signal words for past perfect progressive: We had been
waiting at the airport since the 9 P.M. flight. / They had been waiting
for three hours now.