Past Perfect Progressive Tense

When to use Past Perfect Progressive

  • Ongoing/unfinished things at a certain point in time in the past
    I’d been dating this girl from school when I met Lisa.
    My brother had been reading comics for a long time when he decided to draw his own story.
  • Actions that just finished before another event in the past
    The kids had been making a mess, so I had to clean up.
    It had been raining, so I had to take the car.
  • Cause and effect
    I had to retake the exam because I hadn’t been studying for the first one.
    The boy had to apologize to the neighbor because he had been playing the violin loudly.

Structure of Past Perfect Progressive Tense

Subject + had + been + Progressive Participle of Main Verb + Object

Past Perfect Progressive combines the perfect and the progressive aspect in past tense. To express the perfect aspect, we need the auxiliary verb ‘to have’ and to express progression, we need the auxiliary verb ‘to be’. The auxiliary verb ‘to have’ must be in simple past form given the past tense. ‘To have’ is always followed by the past participle of the verb. Therefore, we need to use the past participle of ‘to be’ which is ‘been’. ‘Been’ is followed by the progressive participle (-ing form) of the actual action verb as in case of all progressive tenses.

Some examples for the structure:
My dog had been acting weird for days before it got sick.
The patient had been feeling very sick when the doctor visited him.
My mom had been working very hard when she was promoted.

Take a look at the following table to review how Present Perfect Progressive is formed:

Do you remember that some verbs cannot be used in progressive tenses? To review them, click here.

Making the Past Perfect Progressive Tense negative

To create the negative form of a Past Perfect Progressive verb, you need to combine ‘not’ and the auxiliary verb ‘had’. The short form is ‘hadn’t. Remember to use the short forms in informal conversations and the long forms in a written, formal context.

Subject + had + not + been + Progressive Participle of Main Verb

Examples:
He hadn’t been working on his research paper.
I hadn’t been staying up late so mom woke me up.
They hadn’t been talking for a long time when they finally made up.

Yes/No questions in Past Perfect Progressive

Questions in Past Perfect Progressive are formed by switching the auxiliary verb ‘had’ and the subject. The word order of the rest of the sentence remains unchanged. For example:

Had you been doing a presentation when she called you?
Had you been skiing when you broke your leg?

Open-ended questions in Past Perfect Progressive Tense

In case of open-ended questions, always start with the questions word. After the questions word, follow the usual word order for questions: auxiliary verb – subject – main verb – object -etc. The auxiliary verb in Past Perfect Progressive is ‘had’ which is followed by the subject.

How long had you been living in Germany before you moved here?
Who had you been living in Vienna with when you got that job offer?
Where had you been training before the new stadium was built?

Typical adverbs of Past Perfect Progressive Tense

The typical adverbs of the Present Perfect Progressive Tense are mostly the same with the typical adverbs of the Present Perfect Tense. However, the focus is always on the continuity of the action at a given moment. These adverbs are:

when, after, before, by the time, since, for

Some examples:
She’d been working to the same company for years before she got fired.
I was feeling so much better after I had been resting for a couple of days.
It had been raining since I woke up.
Before I went to bed, I had been watching Game of Thrones.

 

Past Progressive Tense

When to use Past Progressive

Past Progressive describes past actions that were happening at a given time. It can also refer to a longer action in the past that was interrupted by another event. This interruption can be real or just an interruption in time. Use Past Progressive when focus is on the continuity of the action in the past, not the regularity or the result.

  • Past actions in progress at a given point in time
    I was watching TV last night.
    At 2 am, I was still watching this new TV show.
  • Interruption in time or real interruption
    Note that the interrupting event is always in Simple Past.
    Mom was still working as a teacher when I was
    They were training for the race when the accident happened.
  • Parallel actions in time
    I was having a great time while we were playing card games.
    What were you doing while you were standing in line?
    The kids were sitting on the bus and singing songs.
  • Annoyance of repeated actions
    She was always biting her nails while we were talking.
    Why were you always arriving late to class?
    Our neighbor was always complaining about her allergy during spring time.

Structure of Past Progressive

Subject + was / were + Progressive Participle of Main Verb + Object

The Past Progressive Tense puts the progressive aspect in the past. The auxiliary verb expressing progression ‘to be’ needs to be in simple past form agreeing with the subject: ‘was’ or ‘were’. The action verb follows the auxiliary verb in progressive participle as in all progressive tenses.

Some examples:
I was studying when I heard the noise.
Who was driving the car?
They were hiking the same trail as we were.

Do you remember the spelling rules of -ing forms? You can review them here.

Some verbs cannot be used in progressive tenses. Go back to the list for a quick revision.

Take a look at where Simple Past is in the Verb Tenses Table:

Making the Past Progressive Tense negative

To form negative sentences in Past Progressive Tense, simply add ‘not’ to the auxiliary verb ‘was / or were’. The short forms of negative are ‘wasn’t / weren’t’. The action verb in progressive participle stays unchanged. The negative of Past Progressive is formed as follows:

S + wasn’t / weren’t + Ving + O

Remember to use the short version in everyday language and the long version in a formal, written context.

Examples:
I wasn’t hanging out with them last night.
She wasn’t sleeping at 2 am.
The employees weren’t doing a good job.

Yes/no questions in Past Progressive

To form questions, switch the auxiliary verb ‘was/were’ with the subject. For example:

Were you hanging out with them last night?
Was she sleeping at 2 am?
Were the employees doing a good job?

Open-ended questions in Past Progressive

To form open-ended questions, simply put the question word to the beginning of the sentence. The word order folowing the question word remains tha same as in case of yes/no questions. For example:

Where were you going last night?
Who were they talking to on the phone?
What was I thinking?!

Signaling words of Past Progressive

The time of interrupting event or action can be expressed by both an adverb or a clause. The most commonly used clauses are ‘when’ and ‘while’ that express continuity the following way:

They were chatting on Skype when her computer shot down.

While she was taking the kids to the playground, I was getting a haircut.

Common adverbs of Simple Past can also be used with Past Progressive:

Yesterday, last night / week / year, at (2) o’clock, at (5) pm, for … hours, for a long time

For example:
I was writing my thesis for ages.
She was laying on the couch all afternoon.
Were you joining them at the club last night?

 

Simple Past Tense

When to use Simple Past

Simple Past is used for finished actions in the past. The focus is on the action itself, not on its present consequences. Simple Past is often used to describe a series of events or to tell stories. For example, when describing what you did during a day in the past.

  • For habits or repeated, regular events
    The bus came at 7 am every morning.
    Sometimes I went to the park during lunch break.
    They often trained together before races.
  • Past event that happened at a given point in time
    I went to bed at 12 pm last night.
    She was born in 2000.
    What time did your flight leave on Wednesday?
  • Past event with an indefinite point in time
    She was my best friend.
    I bought this watch a long time ago.
    I bumped into my high school sweetheart the other day.

Structure of Simple Past Tense

Subject + Simple Past form of the verb + Object
She                          studied                  medicine.

The Simple Past Tense has the simplest past structures. In an affirmative sentence, there is no auxiliary verb. The action verb needs to be used in past participle. The past participle of the verb is created the following way:

Regular verbs

To create the past tense form of regular verbs, simply add -ed to the end of the verb.
want → wanted → I wanted to help you.
shift → shifted → The real power shifted to the advisor.
cook → cooked → Mom cooked a delicious meal.
wait → waited → Cinderella waited for a long time for his prince.
play → played → My best friend played tennis in high school.
bake → baked → I baked a chocolate cake last weekend.
add → added → The teacher added some extra slides to the presentation.
stay → stayed → My roommate stayed up late last night.
jump → jumped → The nighbour’s goats jumped over the fence.
look → looked → You looked wonderful in that dress.
enjoy → enjoyed → They enjoyed a night out together.
push → pushed → Tom pushed the wrong button.
walk → walked → Grandpa always walked around in the garden.

Spelling changes

However, there are some exceptions in spelling regular verbs ending in -ed. The spelling rules follow the same logic as the spelling of the progressive participle.

  1. Verbs ending in -e only get a -d.
    live → lived
    vote → voted
    love → loved
    create → created
  2. Double the final letter if the verb ends in consonant + vowel + consonant.
    stop → stopped
    plan → planned
    drop → dropped
    fit → fitted
  3. Don’t double the last consonant if the stress is on the first syllable even though the verb ends in consonant + vowel + consonant.
    happen → happened
    offer → offered
    enter → entered
  4. Don’t double the last consonant if the verb ends in -w, -x, -y or when the last syllable is not stressed.
    follow → followed
    enjoy → enjoyed
    fix → fixed

Some examples:
We happened to be there at the same time.
My dad fixed my bike yesterday.
Liam dropped out of school a long time ago.
I never finished high school.

Irregular verbs

There are many common words that have irregular second and third forms that don’t end in -ed. For example,

go → went → gone
do → did → done
make → made → made
get → got → got

You can find an extensive list of the most frequently used irregular verbs here. The sooner you start learning them, the sooner you’ll finish!

Note that there is no conjugation in 3rd person singular in past tense except for the verb ‘to be’:
I was                                                                                                                                                           You were
He / she / it was
We were
You were
They were

Take a look at where Simple Past is in the Verb Tenses Table:

simple past

Simple Past Negative

In the English language, negative forms of verbs are usually formed by an auxiliary verb and ‘not’. For example: She may not go out tonight. In the Simple Past Tense, the verb ‘do’ serves as an auxiliary verb to help the formation of negative and questions. The auxiliary verb, however, needs to be in second form, so the correct forms will be ‘did’ and ‘didn’t’. ‘Did’ here has no special meaning, it serves only grammatical purposes. The action verb follows the auxiliary verb which can stay in first form because the auxiliary verb already expresses the past tense. The negative of Simple Past is formed as follows:

S + did + not + bare infinitive + O

Remember to use the short version in everyday language by combing ‘did’ and ‘not’ to ‘didn’t’ and the long version ‘did not’ in a formal written context.

Examples:

I didn’t want to hang out with them last night.
She didn’t finish her paper until the deadline.
We didn’t go to the beach yesterday.

Yes/No questions in Simple Past

In the English language, questions are usually formed by switching the (first) auxiliary verb and the subject. To form questions the auxiliary verb ‘to do’ in past tense ‘did’ is used. Similarly to Simple Past Negative, the action verb stays in first form. For example:

I really liked the supper last night. → Did you like the supper last night?

They went to the nearest coffee shop. → Did they go to the nearest coffee shop?

My friend didn’t come with me to the handball game. → Did your friend come with you to the handball game?

Open-ended questions in Simple Past

To form open-ended questions, simply put the question word to the beginning of the sentence. The word order folowing the question word remains tha same as in case of yes/no questions. For example:

What did you have for supper last night?

Where did they go?

Why didn’t you friend come with you?

Typical adverbs of Simple Past

Yesterday, last night / week / year, at (2) o’clock, at (5) pm, once / twice…, … days / hours / weeks / years ago, for … hours, for a long time, a long time ago, ages ago

For example:
Yesterday I woke up at 7 am. I got out of bed and made myself a cup of coffee. I took a shower before starting to work. I worked for 3 hours and then met my friend for coffee at 11 o’clock. I invited her to come to my dinner party when she told me she didn’t have any plans for the evening. We had a great time last night.

Expressing habits in the past with ‘used to’ and ‘would’

There are two expressions used for expressing repeated actions in the past that are not tenses. In some special cases, these expressions describe the intention of the speaker more clearly than any of the past tenses. These expressions are ‘used to’ and ‘would’.

Let’s take a look at ‘used to’ first:

‘Used to’ expressed a repeated event, a habit or a state of something in the past. It describes an event or state that happened in the past but have already finished. It is frequently used for describing general past states, not specific events. Whereas Past Simple refers to a specific event with a given point in time, ‘used to’ refers to actions that regularly happened in the past.

The structure of the expression follows the same logic as the structure of Simple Past. In an affirmative sentence, ‘used to’ is followed by the bare infinitive of the action verb. In negative sentences and questions, the auxiliary verb ‘did’ helps to form the structure. As ‘did’ already expresses past tense, the -d at the end of ‘used to’ must be dropped.

Affirmative structure of ‘used to’: S + ‘used to’ + bare infinitive

Negative structure of ‘used to’: S + ‘didn’t use to’ + bare infinitive

Making questions with ‘used to’: Did + S + ‘use to’ + bare infinitive ?

For example:

I used to smoke, but I quit last week.
She used to be my best friend, but she got mad at me when I forgot about her birthday.
There used to be a lot more parks in this city.
Did you use to listen to this band in your teens?
I didn’t use to go on field trips with the class.

Expressing regular event and action in the past using ‘would’

‘Would’ is used for expressing regular actions in the past or typical event for a time period in the past. The main difference between ‘would’ and ‘used to’ is that you cannot use ‘would’ for describing states. Use ‘would’ for talking about actions and things that people can do.  For example,

My grandma would be a teacher when he was younger.
My grandma used to be a teacher when he was younger.

She would complain about the kids all the time.
She used to complain about the kids all the time.

The structure of expressing regular past events with ‘would’ is the same as if you were using ‘would’ as a modal verb:

Affirmative: S + ‘would’ + bare infinitive

Negative: S + ‘wouldn’t / would not’ + bare infinitive

Questions: Would + S + bare infinitive ?