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Grammatik auf Englisch - Mit der Vergangenheit abschließen

Schlagwörter: Grammatik auf Englisch, Englisch Grammatik, Englische Grammatik, Englisch Grammar, Gramatik auf Englisch, Englisch Gramatik, Englische Gramatik, Englisch Grammar, Zeiten Englisch, Vergangenheit Englisch

It’s been a while since we’ve reviewed the fine points of using the past, present and future tenses. This year, we’ll be taking you on a grand tour through the treetops of each tense every few months and reviewing the key rules for using each tense along the way. Our December issue will provide you with a summary and an extended exercise section that will allow you to give your tense-using skills a good workout.

Past tense forms

There are two forms of the past tense: simple and continuous. You’ve seen these before:

Simple: Jonathan Price claimed his team saved the day. (He started and completed the action in the past).

Continuous: Jonathan Price was always claiming his team saved the day. (He performed the action over a period of time or repeatedly in the past).

The key to deciding whether to use the continuous -ing form in any tense is to decide if your need is to describe an action that was ongoing or to make your sentence “simpler” by stating that the action simply started and completed.

Formation of the past tense

The past simple

The past simple tense is usually formed by adding -ed to the verb stem:

played – called – worked – started

If the word ends with a p or an n, you need to double it before adding -ed.

plan planned
stop stopped

If the word ends with a y you may need to change it to an i first:

try tried

But not all words work this way:

stay stayed

Some verbs throw all of these rules out the window. There are many irregular verbs (we’ll review them in the next issue). Here are a few:

wrote – met – flew – told – spoke – got – did – rang – caught – went

Negation of the past simple

Did is used in questions and in negative statements in the past simple tense:

I watched the game yesterday.

Didn’t you watch the game yesterday?

No, I didn’t watch the game yesterday.

They had a good time in India.

Didn’t they have a good time in India?

No, they didn’t have a good time in India.

Did and didn’t are used with the verb’s infinitive (which is sometimes left out):

Didn’t you fly to London yesterday?

Did you walk all the way from the airport?
Yes, I did walk the whole way. Yes, I did.

Did you enjoy the presentation?
No, I didn’t enjoy it at all. No, I didn’t.

The past continuous

The past continuous tense is formed by using was/were and adding -ing to the verb stem:

I/he/she/it was listening.

They/you/we were watching.

I was not trying. I wasn’t trying.

They were not giving a talk. They weren’t giving a talk.

Was she calling in sick regularly?

Were they trying to beat the competition?

Watch your spelling when adding -ing. If the verb ends with an e, drop it before adding -ing. If it ends with n, double it before adding -ing.

Note that the past simple is often used to express an interruption of a continuous action in the past:

While I was taking calls, Samantha laid an ominous looking pink slip on my desk and quickly left.

Formation of the past perfect tense

The past perfect simple

The past perfect simple tense is used to look back from a point in the past to an event that occurred even further in the past:

Martha was the only member of the team who thought that the entire matter had been decided.

action in the past
the entire matter had been decided:
action occurs before thought

The past perfect tense is formed in this way:

had been + past participle

They didn’t realise (action in the past with did) I had already finished the work for them until after lunch (completed action before the first action).

The past perfect continuous

Like the past continuous, the past perfect continuous is used to impart the feeling of an action in progress:

Our CEO had been considering the merger offer seriously (past ongoing action before another past action), but in the end decided (the past action) the risks were too high.

Martina said she had been trying to call me all day.


Identify the tense. Mark each sentence with ps (past simple), pc (past continuous), pps (past perfect simple), ppc (past perfect continuous)
s (something else). Careful, this is tricky.

  1. Our project manager hadn’t been aware of the situation before the customer called to complain.

  2. Barbara explained her reasons for the delay, but they were quite feeble.

  3. Manfred was constantly complaining about the lack of fresh air in the room.

  4. Have you been sleeping properly?

  5. It had been snowing for three days before we arrived.

  6. While I was making my presentation, a woman in the front row was constantly whispering to her neighbor.

  7. Have you ever been to Paris?

If you stumbled on 4 and 7, it’s because they are examples of using the present perfect simple and continuous tenses to look back to an action or ongoing action in the past that ends now. It is formed just like the past perfect, except the present form of have is used instead of the past form had.

Schlagwörter: Grammatik auf Englisch, Englisch Grammatik, Englische Grammatik, Englisch Grammar, Gramatik auf Englisch, Englisch Gramatik, Englische Gramatik, Englisch Grammar, Zeiten Englisch, Vergangenheit Englisch

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