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Use these flashcards to practice the verb tenses: present simple, present continuous, present perfect, present perfect continuous, past simple, past continuous, future simple, and future continuous. (N) means negative. (Q) means question.
The past perfect is a verb tense that is learned by students at an advanced level. It is used for an action that happened before another action in the simple past. Look at these two examples:
When I got home, my roommate went to bed.
(My roommate went to bed after I got home.)
When I got home, my roommate hadgone to bed.
(My roommate went to bed before I got home.)
The past perfect is most often used in a sentence with a verb in the simple past or a time in the past. The word already is often used to emphasize that the action in the past perfect tense occurred before the action in the simple past tense.
The movie had already started by the time we arrived.
She hadn’t made up her mind until late last night. Had you read the book before you saw the movie?
Sometimes the past perfect can be the only verb in a sentence, but it refers to an action that is already stated.
“Why was Johnny sad? Did you punish him for something?”
“Yes, he had drawn pictures all over the wall in the living room.”
(Drawing pictures was before being punished.)
“Why didn’t your son run in the race?”
“He had broken a toe the day before.”
(Breaking a toe was before not running in the race.)
Generally speaking, the past perfect is used less and less in today’s English, especially when it’s already clear which action happened before the other. This is especially true with the words: before, after and until. With these 3 words and sometimes with the word when, it’s clear which action happened first. Therefore, it’s not necessary to use the past perfect, and most English speakers use the simple past.
He had finished all his homework before he went to bed.
He finished all his homework before he went to bed. (also correct)
(It’s clear that finishing his homework is before going to bed.)
After he had fallen asleep on the sofa, his wife turned off the light. After he fell asleep on the sofa, his wife turned off the light. (also correct)
(It’s clear that his falling asleep is before his wife’s getting into bed.)
She didn’t go to bed until she had done all her chores.
She didn’t go to bed until she did all her chores. (also correct)
(It’s clear that doing all her chores is before going to bed.)
He started practicing his guitar as soon as he had gotten home.
He started practicing his guitar as soon as he got home. (also correct)
(It’s clear that getting home is before practicing his guitar.)
When the children had finished their homework, they put their books away. When the children finished their homework, they put their books away.
(It’s clear that finishing their homework is before putting their books away.)
BUT when it is not clear which action happened first, you must use the past perfect for the first action.
When the movie finished, everyone had left the theatre. (Leaving the theatre was before the movie finished.) When the movie finished, everyone left the theatre. (Leaving the theatre was after the movie finished.)
(It’s not clear which action happened first, so thepast perfect is used in the first example.)
When two actions happen at the same time or almost the same time, use the simple past for both actions.
When I arrived at work, I turned on the lights. (Arriving at work and turning on the lights is at almost the same time.)
She screamed when she opened her present. (Screaming and opening her present are at the same time.)
In reported speech when you add the words showing that a speaker said something, those words become the second action, and if the other action is in the simple past, it is changed to the past perfect because it happened before the person reported it.
He said, “I crashed the car into a tree.”
He said that he had crashed the car into a tree.
(Crashing the car is before saying it.)
She told him, “You left the milk out last night.”
She told him that he had left the milk out last night.
(Leaving the milk out is before telling him.)
We asked them, “Did you win the game?”
We asked them if they had won the game.
(Winning the game is before asking them.)
Also in reported speech, if the original verb in quoted speech is in the present perfect, it is changed to the past perfect.
He said, “My brother has been home all week with the flu.” (quoted speech)
He said that his brother had been home all week with the flu. (reported speech)
She told me, “I’ve seen that movie four times.” (quoted speech)
She told me that she had seen that movie four times. (reported speech)
We asked her, “Have you ever gone abroad?” (quoted speech)
We asked her if she had ever gone abroad. (reported speech)
This exercise tests the following verb tenses: simple present, simple past, past continuous, simple future, present perfect, present perfect continuous, future continuous, past perfect, past perfect continuous, future perfect, and future perfect continuous
The past continuous (or past progressive) is used for long actions that were already happening at a certain time or when another shorter action happened. The shorter action or time happens in the middle (or at the end) of the longer action. It is formed by using was or were and the present participle (-ing). The shorter-action verb is in the simple past.
At eight o’clock last night, she wasstudying in her bedroom.
(Studying is the long action;eight o’clock is a time in the middle of that action.)
They wereswimming in the lake when it started to rain.
(Swimming is the long action; started is the short action in the middle.)
We werehaving dinner when someone knocked on the door.
(Having dinner is the long action; knocked is the short action in the middle.)
Were you sleeping when the earthquake happened?
(Sleeping is the long action; happened is the short action in the middle.)
When the verb go is used in the past continuous, it means that the action was planned but never happened.
I wasgoing to wash the car this weekend, but I was too busy
It wasgoing to be a surprise birthday party, but she found outabout it.
We weregoing to invite you, but you got sick and had to stay home.
When used with always, the past continuous means that the person did the action again and again.
My mother wasalwaysreading a book.
The boys werealwaysleaving their dirty clothes on the floor.
Her sister wasalwaysborrowing her clothes.
My best friend wasalwaysdoing something crazy.
When making a request or an invitation with wondering, you can also use the past continuous.
We werewondering if you’d help us with our applications. (request)
I waswondering if you’d like to come to a party with me this Saturday night. (invitation)
A good way to understand the past continuous and how it is different from the simple pastis to look at one verb used in both tenses. Notice that when the verb is used in the simple past, there is only one action. The action can be long but nothing else happens in the middle or end of it
We ate dinner at six o’clock last night.
We wereeating dinner when the phone rang.
They lived in Abbottsford five years.
They wereliving in Abbottsford, when their car broke down.
I studied all night long.
I wasstudying when I fell asleep.
She had a big party at her parents’ house.
She washaving a big party at her parents’ house when someone started a fire.
The use of: when, while, and as.
Use while and as before the past continuous, not the simple past.
Examples: While his brother was trying to study, John started to play the piano. As we were getting ready to leave, the police arrived at the door.
Peter washed the car while his wife was making dinner.
I saw a beautiful rainbow as I was walking to work this morning.
Use when before the past continuous or the simple past.
Examples: When I saw the accident, I was walking home.
I saw the accident when I was walking home. When she entered the classroom, the teacher was already teaching.
She entered the classroom when the teacher was already teaching.
Sometimes 2 long actions can happen at the same time. When this happens, use the past continuous for both actions.
Her husband was polishing the car while she was doing the dishes. As his brother was driving the car, he was surfing the Internet on his laptop.
Notice in the above examples, there is a comma ( , ) after adverb clauses (starting with when, while, and as) if they are at the beginning of a sentence but no comma if they are at the end.
If actions are in sequence (1st action, then 2nd action, then 3rd action), then use the simple pastonly.
I got up, made myself some breakfast and sat outside to eat it.
She finished the dishes, watered the plants, and vacuumed the living room carpet.
Because there is usually something else that happens during a long action (the past continuous), verbs that are used this way have to be verbs that take time to happen. In other words, only long verbs can be used in the past continuous. Therefore, verbs like drop, stop, begin, start, finish, and end are usually not in the past continuous because they take no time. They are very fast and short.
She began to read the letter from her grandmother.
They dropped me off early at the airport.
We stopped to have coffee on our way home.
There are also some verbs that are not used in the past continuous tense (or any other continuous tense) because they are non-action verbs. In other words, because there’s no action, the following verbs cannot be used in the past continuous:
be believe belong exist forget hate
have* hear know like love need
own possess prefer remember see understand want
* when “have” means “possess,” not when “have” means “experience.”
My parents had three children, two boys and a girl. (possessed)
(We were having a wonderful time at the party.) (were experiencing)
I didn’t understand her strong accent. Do you believe he’ll graduate in three years?
He knows she is not coming over.