English Course


We use differente past tenses to describe moments and periods of time in the past.

Look at the diagram. Read the sentences.

When Andrea arrived at work at 9:00…

                     8:30                         9:00                    9:30                        10:00

...her secretary hard opened the mail

                          ... her secretary was opening the mail.

                                                                 ... her secretary opened the mail.

Past Simple


The form of the Past Simple is the same for all persons.

He left at three o`clock.

They arrived three weeks ago.

She didn`t finish on time yesterday.

When did he finish the report?

What time did his train leave?

Short answer

Did you enjoy the meal?                  Yes, We did./No, We didn`t.


The Past Simple is used to express:

- a finish action in the past

We met in 2000.

I Went to Boston last week.

John left two minutes ago.

- action that follow each other in a story

Mary walked into the room and stoped. She listened carefully. She heard a noise coming fron behing the curtain. She threw the curtain open, and then she saw ...

- a past situation or habit

When I was a child, we lived in a small house by the sea. Every day I walked for miles on the beach with my dog.

This use is often expressed with used to.

We used to live in a small house... I used to walk for miles...

Spelling of verb + -ed

- Most regular verbs added –ed to the vase form of the verb.

worked    wanted    helped    washed

- Whem the verb ends in –e, add –d.

liked       used       hated      cared

- If the verb has only one syllable, with one vowel + on consonant, double the consonant before adding –ed.

Stopped  planned   robbed

- The consonant is not doubled if it is –y or –w

played     showed

- In most two-syllable verbs, the end consonant is doubled if the stress is on the second syllable.

Pre`ferred           ad`mitted

But we write ` entered and visited because the stress in on the first syllable.

- Verbs that end in a consonant + -y change the –y to –ied.

carried    Hurried   buried

But we write enjoyed, because it ends in a vowel + -y.

There are many common irregular verbs.

Past Simple and time expressions

Look at time expressions that are common with the Past Simple.







Past Continuous


was/were + verb + -ing

I was learning Japanese.

They were driving to Tokio.

We weren`t wainting for a long time.

What were they doing?

Where was he studing?

Short answer

Were you looking for me?        Yes, I was./No, I Was`nt.

Were they waiting outside?     Yes, they were./No, they                                              weren`t.


The Past Continuous is used:

- to express activities in progress before, and probably after, a particular time in the past.

At seven o`clock this morning I was having my breakfast.

You made a lot of noise last night. What were you doing?

- for descriptions.

Jan looked beautiful. She was wearing a green cotton dress. Her eyes were shining in the light of the candles that were burning nearby.

- to express an interrupted past activity.

When the phone rang, I was taking a shower.

While we were playing tennis, it started to rain.

- to express an incomplete activity.

I was reading a book during the flight (I didn’ t finish it)

I watched a movie during the flight. (the whole movie)

Past Simple or Past Continuous

Sometimes both tenses are possible. The Past Simple focuses on past actions as complete facts. The Past Continuous focuses on the duration of past activities. Compare:

A I didn`t see you at the party last night.

B No. I stayed at home and watched the game.

A I didn`t see you at the party last night.

B No, I was watching the game at home.

Questions in the Past Simple and Past Continuous refer to different time periods. The Past Continuous asks about activities before; the Past Simple asks about what happened after.

A What were you doing when the accident happened?

B I was shopping.

A What did you do when you saw the accident?

B I called the police.

Used to

Used to expresses a habit or stqate in the past that is now fineshed.

I used to read comics when I was a kid. (but I don’t now)

My dad and I used to play basketball together. (but we don’t now)

Did you used to read comics when you were a child?

This town didn`t use to be a nice place to live, but then it changed.

Past Perfect

Perfect means “completed before.” The Past Perfect refers to an action in the past that was completed before another action in the past.


The form of the Past Perfect is the same for all persons.

Positive and negative








Short answer

Had he alread left?            Yes, he had./No, he hadn`t.



- The past Perfect is used to make clear that one action in the past happened before another action in the past.

When I got home, I found that someone had broken into my apartment and had stolen my DVD player.

I didn`t go to the movie theater because I`d seen the movie before.

- The Past Simple tells a story in chronological order.

Sue and Pete got marred last month. They`d met in colleg and had dated for six years.


Notice the difference between these sentences.

When I got to the party, Peter went home.

(= First I arrived, then Peter left.)

When I got to the party, Peter had gone home.

(= First Peter left, then I arrived)

- The Past Perfect Continuous refers to longer actions or repeated activities.

We were exhausted because we`d been driving all day




`d (had)


seem him before

Finished work at six o`clock


Where had





been before?

Past tenses in the passive


Past Simple Passive: was/were + past participle

The museum was robbed last night.

Past Continuous Passive: was/were being + past participle

The vase was being restored.

Past Perfect Passive: had been + past participle

The house had been redecorated.


The use are the same in the passive as in the active.

The bridge was built in 1876. (finished action in the past)

The bomb was being defused when it exploded. (interrupted past activity)

The letter didn`t arrive because it had been sent to my address.

(one action before another action in the past)