TOEFL Worksheet: The Four Past Tenses and Their Nine UsesRead the explanation of the different present tenses and their uses below. Then do the activityon pages 4 and 5.Simple PastForm: Take the base verb and change the word form to the past tense form. Usuallythis means adding /ed/ to the end of the word. However, much like simple present tense, thereare a lot of irregular verbs with different past tense forms.Uses:Use 1: Actions completed in the past:EXAMPLES: The scientists conducted an experiment. They thought theexperiment would prove their theory.Past ContinuousForm: The past form of “to be” (was, were) verb ingUses:Use 1: Describing a past action that hasn’t been completed yetEXAMPLES: I was trying to fix the car this morning, but I’m not done withthe repairs yet. At 11pm, I was still working on my homework.Use 2:Describing a past action that was interrupted by another actionEXAMPLES: The radio station was broadcasting music when the music wasinterrupted by an important announcement. I was trying to sleep when I hearda knock at my door.Use 3: When describing two past events that took place at the same time, this tense isused to describe the longer of the two events. (You can use simple past for the shorterevent. You can also use past perfect for the shorter event; see Use 2 of past perfectlater in this explanation for an example.)EXAMPLES: Marco Polo contacted Chinese merchants and leaders while hewas travelling the world. She burned herself while she was cooking dinner.Use 4: Describing a past action that took place in a specific time period and mayhave continued afterwardEXAMPLES: The science team was conducting research as recently as lastmonth. Many students were feeling depressed in in February. (Note: Insentences like this, the use of past continuous implies that the activity may
have continued after the time period mentioned in the sentence. It also mayhave stopped. In other words, maybe the team of scientists in the first exampleare still doing research, or maybe they are not. And maybe the students keptfeeling depressed after February, or maybe they felt better by March.)Past PerfectForm: had past form of a verbUses:Use 1: When describing a series of actions, use past perfect to describe the action thathappened firstEXAMPLES: I had gone home; then I read a book and fell asleep. Thelawyers had slowly worked toward an agreement that was acceptable foreveryone; then they printed the agreement and gave it to their clients.Use 2: When you are describing two past actions that take place at the same time, youcan use past perfect tense to describe the shorter action. The longer action can bedescribed using simple past tense or past continuous tense. See Use 3 of pastcontinuous earlier in this explanation.EXAMPLES: Marco Polo had contacted Chinese merchants and leaderswhile he traveled the world. She had burned herself while she was cookingdinner. (While these two sentences use slightly different tenses than theexamples in Use 3 of past continuous, they have the exact same meaning asthe earlier past continuous examples.)Use 3: Describing a past action that was finished in a specific time period:EXAMPLES: The science team had conducted research as recently as lastmonth. Many students had felt depressed in in February. (Note that theseexample sentences are almost identical to the example sentences for Use 4 ofpast continuous earlier in this past tense tutorial. The only difference is thatthey use past perfect verb tense instead. But this small difference changes themeaning of the sentence. In the past continuous example, the scientists may ormay not have continued their research after last month, and the students mayor may not have kept feeling depressed after February. However, in these newsentences with past perfect verbs, the scientists definitely did not continuetheir research after last month, and the students definitely stopped beingdepressed after February.)Past Perfect ContinuousForm: had been verb ingUses:Use 1: Describing an action that began further in the past than other actions, but
overlaps with actions that began later.This use is a little complicated, so read my explanation carefully: Suppose you wantto describe a series of actions. Now suppose there’s one action that started before theother actions, but continued even after the next action began. For example, imagineyou began to eat dinner, and then while you were eating, you began to think aboutwhat you would do on the weekend. You would use the past perfect continuous todescribe the action that started earlier (eating dinner) but happened partly at thesame time as an action that started later (thinking about what you would do on theweekend). The action that started later would be described using simple past tense. Sothe sentence would look like this: I had been eating dinner when I thought aboutwhat I would do on the weekend.EXAMPLES: Chiang Kai Shek had been leading his political followers formany years when he and his followers fled from China to Taiwan. She said shehad been working in a hospital when World War II started, and she workedthere for many more years.
Activity:Read the cartoons below. Which underlined form of the past tense appears in each wordballoon, and why is that tense being used?(Answer key on the final page)1)2)3)
Answer Key:1) Simple past: action completed in the past2) Past perfect continuous: describing an action that began further in the past than otheractions, but overlaps with later actions3) Past perfect: describing an action that happened first in a series of actions4) Past perfect: describing a shorter action that takes place at the same time as a longer action5) Past perfect: describing a past action that was finished in a specific time period6) Past continuous: describing a longer action that takes place at the same time as a shorteraction7) Past continuous: describing a past action that took place in a specific time period and mayhave continued afterward8) Past continuous: describing a past action that was interrupted by another action9) Past continuous: describing a past action that hasn’t been completed yet
TOEFL Worksheet: The Four Past Tenses and Their Nine Uses Read the explanation of the different present tenses and their uses below. Then do the activity on pages 4 and 5. Simple Past Form: Take the base verb and change the word form to the past tense form. Usually this means adding /ed/ to the end of the word.