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Past tense is a tense expressing an action that has happened or a state that previously existed. For example, ‘My grandfather was a student in the 1950s. He loved his years at university. He finished university and then he lived in London.’
To form ‘past tense’, we take the verb ‘be’ with ‘was’ and ‘were’. For instance, ‘I, he, she, it,’ we use ‘was’, for example, ‘He was studying in London for two years. She was travelling around Europe with her husband for two months.’ And for ‘who, you, they’, we will be using ‘were’. For example, ‘they were the winners of the last World Cup.’
To form past simple tense, we add -ed to most verbs. For instance, play – played, watch – watched, finish – finished, hope- hoped, work -worked, live- lived, stop – stopped, carry -carried, study -studied, travel – travelled, plan – planned and so-on. Most common verbs in English have an irregular simple past form and unfortunately, there are no rules to help students to know which are irregular or how they are formed. For example, ‘see – saw, have – had, make – made, find – found, eat – ate, put – put, sleep – slept, forget – forgot, think – thought, write – wrote and etc.’ When used in a sentence, ‘I met him yesterday, the game ended two minutes ago, six months ago my brother stopped smoking’. To teach this during class, the teacher can opt to teach the irregular verb forms using card games, the teacher may also narrate a story telling in conjunction with past continuous and past perfect, interview role-play, discussing past holidays/major events.
Past continuous, for example, ‘while I was having a bath, the phone rang’. Or sentences like, ‘the tides were rising, it was getting darker’. It can express and action, which began before that time and probably continued after it. We use the continuous tense in descriptions such as, ‘when I woke up, the sun was shining and the birds were singing’. Do note, the past continuous almost always requires some form of time reference.
The past perfect’s usage is equivalent of the present perfect, for instance when used in a sentence, ‘when I arrived, the concert had started’.
Past perfect continuous certainly isn’t the most frequent used tense in the English language but it does have one major use that is to talk about longer actions or situations in the past that had been going on continuously up to the past moment that we are thinking about.