Past Tense

What Is the Past Tense? (with Examples)

The past tense describes a past event or a state of being. For example: The tense of a verb is determined by when the action took place. The three main tenses are:

Examples of the Types of Past Tenses

The past tense is categorized further depending on whether the action was in progress or has been completed. The four past tenses are:
The 4 Past Tenses Examples Uses
simple past tense
  • I went.
  • The Martians landed near the aqueduct.
The simple past tense is used to describe a completed activity that started in the past and ended in the past.
past progressive tense
  • I was going.
  • He was painting the door when a bird struck the window.
The past progressive tense is used to describe an on-going activity in the past. Often, it is used to set the scene for another action.
past perfect tense
  • I had gone.
  • Silverfinger had taken the pill before the team reached him.
The past perfect tense is used to emphasize that an action was completed before another took place.
past perfect progressive
  • I had been going.
  • She had been painting the door before the dog scratched it.
The past perfect progressive tense is used to show that an on-going action in the past has ended.

Diagrams for the Four Past Tenses

The infographics below show how each past tense is formed and a quick overview of how each one is used:

Simple Past Tense

For example:

Past Progressive Tense

For example:

Past Perfect Tense

For example:

Past Perfect Progressive Tense

For example:

A Quick Test

Help Us To Improve English Grammar Lessons
Please tell us using this form.

See Also

What are verbs? Past tense
Present tense Future tense Tenses Simple past tense Past progressive tense Past perfect tense Past perfect progressive tense Simple present tense Present progressive tense Present perfect tense Present perfect progressive tense Simple future tense Future progressive tense Future perfect tense Future perfect progressive tense Glossary of grammatical terms