The Past Tense

Here’s the second part of our English Grammar Tense Cheat Sheets. Make sure you bookmark this page.

Scroll to the bottom for questions to practise.

Here we go.


past simple

When do we use it?

  • completed actions
    Last Thursday I had a beer with Maggie.
  • past habits.
    When I was a child, I played the piano.

past continuous

When do we use it?

  • past activities of duration or repetition where completion is unclear/unknown
    They weren’t listening to the teacher.
  • past actions in progress before the main event.
    They were having dinner when Jake turned up.

past perfect simple

When do we use it?

  • completed actions that happened before another past event.
    The film had started by the time I arrived at the cinema.

past perfect continuous

When do we use it?

  • activities of duration or repetition that were in progress before the main event and continued after.
    I hadn’t been listening to the teacher, so didn’t know the answer.

Past Tenses Cheat Sheet

Intrepid English Study Tip:

We all know reviewing new vocabulary helps commit it to our long term memory. Next time you are studying a list of words, why not try this. 

Spend 15-20 minutes after dinner studying the new words. In the morning when you wake up write down as many as you can remember before checking it against your list.

Practise Questions

  1. What did you do for your last birthday? (past simple)
  2. What did you want to be when you grew up? (past simple)
  3. What were you doing this time last week? (past continuous)
  4. What were you doing at midnight on 31 December 1999? (past continuous)
  5. Think about the last time you were angry, what had you or someone else done before that? (past perfect simple)
  6. When was the last time you got a compliment, what had you done to receive it? (past perfect simple)
  7. Think about the last time you felt really relaxed, what had you been doing before you felt relaxed? (past perfect continuous)
  8. What had you been doing just before the last time it started raining? (past perfect continuous)

Please leave your answers in the comments below.

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