Monday, October 22, 2007

The Simple Past Tense and The Past Progressive (Continuous) Tense


FORM [ verb + ed ] or irregular verbs

  • I saw a movie yesterday.
  • She washed her car.
  • They sat at the beach all day.
The simple past is used to describe an action, an event, or condition that occurred in the past, sometime before the moment of speaking or writing.

Each of the highlighted verbs in the following sentences is in the simple past tense and each sentence describes an action taking place at some point in past.
  • A flea jumped from the dog to the cat.
  • Angelo gripped the hammer tightly and nailed the boards together.
  • The gem-stones sparkled in a velvet lined display case.
  • Artemisia Gentilsechi probably died in 1652.

[ was/were + present participle ]

  • I was watching TV when she called.
  • While we were having the picnic, it started to rain.
  • Apple was waiting for us when we got off the plane.
The past progressive tense is used to described actions ongoing in the past. These actions often take place within a specific time frame. While actions referred to in the present progressive have some connection to the present, actions referred in the past progressive have no immediate or obvious connection to the present. The on-going actions took place and were completed at some point well before the time of speaking or writing.

Each of the highlighted verbs in the following sentences is in the past progressive tense.
  • The cat was walking along the tree branch.
This sentence describes an action that took place over a period of continuous time in the past. The cat's actions have no immediate relationship to anything occurring now in the present.
  • Apple was telling a story about the exploits of a red cow when a tree branch broke the window.
Here the action "was telling" took place in the past and continued for some time in the past.
  • When the recess bell rang, Jesse was writing a long division problem on the blackboard.
This sentence describes actions ("ran" and "was writing") that took place sometime in the past, and emphasizes the continuing nature of one of the actions ("was writing").
  • The archivists were eagerly waiting for the delivery of the former prime minister's private papers.
Here the ongoing action of "waiting" occurred at some time unconnected to the present.
  • Between 1942 and 1944, the Frank and Van Damm families were hiding in a Amsterdam office building.
In this sentence, the action of hiding took place over an extended period of time and the continuing nature of the hiding is emphasized.



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