What Are Past Tense Verbs

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past tense verbs

Verb tenses! There are three general categories: Past, Present, and Future. Verb tenses are used to indicate the occurrence of an activity or state of being at a particular time.

 To put it in simple terms, all verbs are made in reference to time.

I’m going to briefly describe the three basic tenses and all of their subcategories, but this post will, for the most part, focus on the past tense.

What are they? How do you formulate them?

I have packed answers to these questions and a lot more, just in this post.

Let’s get started!

What is a Past tense verb?

The past tense is a verb tense used to show a past activity or a past state of being. So, past tense verbs are used to show an action, process, event, or condition that has occurred in the past.

There are four types of past tense verbs and some people—especially those whose first language isn’t English— find it difficult dealing with the past tenses in English.

These four past tenses—Simple Past Tense, Past Continuous Tense, Past Perfect Tense, and Past Perfect Continuous Tense—are often confused when one can’t differentiate them.

Don’t worry though, I’ll explain all four and give you some examples. But before we get to that, let’s start by looking at all of the 12 types of verb tenses.

12 Types of Tenses

12 types of tenses

1. Simple Present   

The simple present is a verb tense that describes an action that is happening right now, or an action that happens regularly (or continuously, which is why it’s sometimes called present indefinite).

The simple present tense is conjugated depending on the person; that is, this verb tense is formed by using the root form or by adding ‘s’ or ‘es’.

I play football every Wednesday.

He loves his wife.

It feels awesome.

2. Present Perfect  

The present perfect tense has two uses: to describe an activity or state that either happened at an indefinite time in the past (yes, you read that right, past), or it refers to an activity or state that started in the past and has lived on to the present time.

The formation of this tense is straightforward, depending on the subject, this tense is formed by adding either ‘have’ or ‘has’ to a past participle.

He has eaten the food.

I have washed the plates.

3. Present Continuous     

The present continuous verb tense describes an action or condition that is happening now, frequently, and may keep on happening.

The Present Continuous verb tense is formed by adding [am, is, are] to a present participle.

The bus is coming.

We are playing beach soccer at our usual spot today.

4. Present Perfect Continuous (Present Perfect Progressive) 

The present perfect continuous tense—aka the present perfect progressive tense—is used to show that an action or event or “something” began in the past and is extended to the present time.

The present perfect continuous is formed by adding has/have been to a present participle (root + -ing).

They have been fighting since morning.

She has been reading that book for a week now.

what are the formulas for all present tenses

5. Simple Future

The simple future verb tense talks about actions or should I say things that haven’t happened yet.

The simple future verb tense is formed using this formula: will + [root form of verb].

I will go there tomorrow

She will tell you the story.

6. Future Perfect     

The future perfect tense refers to actions that will be completed before a particular point in the future.

This is how you form the future perfect tense: will have + [past participle].

I will have paid the bills by tomorrow.

The show will have ended by the time I get back.

7. Future Continuous Tense (Future Progressive)

The future continuous tense verb tense refers to something that will happen in the future and continue for an expected length of time.

The future continuous tense using the following formula: will + be + the present participle (the root verb + -ing).

I will be playing soccer on Thursday.

John will be competing against the best athletes at the Olympics.

8. Future Perfect Continuous Tense (Future Perfect Progressive)

The future perfect continuous verb tense describes actions that might have started in the past/present/future but will continue up until a point in the future.

To come up with the future perfect continuous, we use this formula: will + have + been + the verb’s present participle (verb root + -ing).

In May, I will have been working with the association for five years.

At eleven tomorrow, I will have been coaching the volleyball team for two years.

formulas for all present tenses

9, 10, 11, & 12. Past Tenses

I have dedicated the next two sections to the four past tenses. Read on!

Types and Examples of Past Verb Tenses

It feels like explaining the other verbs has taken up a bit more space than I intended, but that’s just me, I love explaining stuff.

1. Simple Past

The simple past is the verb tense you use when the things you’re talking about occurred or existed before the present time.

Simple is good for describing or inquiring about some simple stuff or that happened. You can use this tense to ask questions like did she go to Germany or Italy? Where did you get it from? Did the players agree with the coach’s instructions?

1. Mary finished early. 2. He cooked good food yesterday.

2. Past Perfect

Also called the pluperfect, the past perfect is a verb tense that describes an action(s) that was/were completed in the past.

The so-not secret recipe to forming the past perfect tense is had + [past participle].

1. We found out that she had left her place. 2. By the time she came back, she had used all her cash.

3. Past Continuous (Past Progressive) 

The past continuous tense talks about a continuing action or state of being that was happening at some point in the past.

The special formula for forming past continuous tense involves joining the past tense of to be (i.e., was/were) with the verb’s present participle (-ing word).

1. The team was traveling to New York that summer. 2. They were playing football the whole day.

4. Past Perfect Continuous (Past Perfect Progressive)

The past perfect continuous tense refers to an action that started in the past and continued up until a certain point in the past.

The difference between the past perfect continuous and the present perfect continuous is that the action referred to by using the present perfect continuous tense starts in the past and continues up to the present while the past perfect continuous refers to an action that that began in the past, continued in the past, and ended at a particular point in the past.

The past perfect continuous tense has a simple formula: you combine those that had been with the verb’s present participle (root + -ing).

1. I had been working for him when he got arrested. 2. We had been dating for 4 years when I finally popped the question.

formulas for all past tenses

Forms of Past Simple Verbs: Regular and Irregular

There are two forms of verbs: regular and irregular.

Regular Past Tense Verbs

Regular past simple verbs are verbs formed by adding either a ‘-d’ or ‘-ed’ to the present tense. These regular verbs are straightforward because they follow an easily discernible pattern.

Pick becomes picked, walk becomes walked, move becomes moved, watch becomes watched, and so forth.

Irregular Past Tense Verbs

Unlike regular verbs, these don’t follow a pattern—they simply change the spelling to indicate past tense instead of adding ‘-d’ or ‘-ed’ to the present tense.

Arise simply becomes arose, bend becomes bent, begin becomes began, bite becomes bit, and so forth and so on.

However, you may have noticed that some other verbs can be regular or irregular. For example, burn can become burned or burned, smell can become smelled or smelt, learn can become learned or learnt, et cetera.

64 Irregular Past Tense Verbs in English.

Final Words

Just a recap, past tense verbs refer to an activity/action or state of being in the past. They can be regular verbs (ending with ‘d’ or ‘ed’) or irregular (simply change their spelling to indicate the past tense).

We also have four types of Past verbs namely simple past, past perfect, past continuous, and past perfect continuous.

Verbs are all about action, you cannot have a story without them, and it’ll do you a lot of good if you learn all there is about them. 

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Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.