Past Tense: Definition & Structure

Past tense describes an action that is finished and happened at some point and time in the past. It can be a long time before or some time that cannot be determined.

Types of Past Tense:

  • Past indefinite Tense.
  • Past Progressive or Past Continuous.
  • Past Perfect Tense.
  • Past Perfect Progressive Tense.


Past Indefinite Tense:

It is also known as the simple past tense.

Subject+ Verb/Verbs+ adverb/adverbs of time…



  • The company started working on this project last year.
  • I bought a new phone yesterday.
  • The game ended while ago.

Also, it can indicate something that used to happen in the past but no anymore.

They offered great discounts until last month, but now their sales have dropped.


Past Progressive (Continuous) Tense:

Indicates an action that was happening in the past for a certain period of time, this tense makes use of the present participle form of the verb that ends in –ing.

The structure for Past Progressive tense is:

Subject+ was/were+ verb ending in -ing + when/simple past tense


When+ subject+ simple past tense+ subject+ was/were +verb ending in -ing

While+ subject+ was/were+ verb ending in -ing + subject+ was/were+ verb ending in –ing


For Example:

  • It was snowing throughout December.
  • Anthony was studying for his exams so he couldn’t attend the party.
  • The friends were telling stories to each other as they sat by the fire all.
  • When the boss came to the office he was furious to see that nobody was working.


Past Perfect Tense:

A past perfect tense usually consists of two completed actions, one completed before the other.


Subject+ had + past participle verb+ before+ subject+ simple past tense


For instance:

John had eaten his dinner before his family ate.

They had rented a room in a hotel before they moved to this apartment.

Before+ subject+ simple past tense+ subject+ had+ past participle verb


Before Alex went to work, he dropped his son to the school.

Before joining the office, he had completed his graduation.

Subject+ simple past tense+ after+ subject+ had + past participle

The security incharge would hand over the ID only after the verification is done.

The kid was promised a reward after he had completed his work.

After+ subject+ had+ past participle+ subject+ simple past tense

After work, the couple went out and had dinner.

Past Perfect Progressive Tense:
This describes an action that continued for a specific period of time but stopped before some other action started.

Subject + had + been + verb+ ing +  for/since + before + subject + past simple tense



The batsman was playing wonderfully before he got out.

He had been using this laptop for