Grammar » B1+ Grammar lessons and exercises » Narrative tenses – all past tenses
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  • Narrative tenses – all past tenses

    Exercise 1

    Choose the correct narrative tenses to complete the sentences below.

    Page 1 of 2

    1 I told John not to drive, because he _____ all night.
    a.
    b.
    c.
    d.
    2 Why did you change the channel? I ______ that movie.
    a.
    b.
    c.
    d.
    3 When I _____ out of the shower the lights _____.
    a.
    b.
    c.
    d.
    4 When I saw Clara I realised that she ______ much in all those years.
    a.
    b.
    c.
    d.
    5 When he entered the room somebody _____ him in the head.
    a.
    b.
    c.
    d.

     

  • Narrative tenses – all past tenses

    Infographic explaining all narrative tenses in English grammar, including past simple, past continuous, past perfect simple, and past perfect continuous with examples and uses, such as completed actions, habits, durations, and events in chronological order.

    Download full-size image from Pinterest

    Past simple

    We use the past simple to talk about past events in chronological order, i.e. for a story’s main events.

    • When she opened the door, she pretended we weren’t there and went to her room. 
    • He called me and told me to go, but he wasn’t there when I arrived

    We also use the past simple to talk about past habits or past states.

    • We often went to the bar for a drink before dinner.
    • He really liked sport and was very fit.

    Past continuous

    We use the past continuous to set the scene in a story.

    • Last night, I was walking home listening to my iPod when…
    • The sun was shining, and lots of tourists were lying on the beach. Suddenly…

    We use the past continuous for actions in progress in the past or longer actions interrupted by shorter actions in the past simple.

    • After dinner, I went into the living room and saw that she was crying
    • When she opened the door, we were talking about her. 

    Past perfect simple

    We use the past perfect simple to talk about an earlier past: events which happened before the main event.

    Earlier single events

    We use the past perfect simple to talk about earlier events and experiences or single actions completed earlier in the past.

    • When she opened the door, he had already left.  
    • I realised that I had been there before. 
    • When I met her, I had never been in a serious relationship. 
    • He noticed I had cleaned the car. It was smooth and shiny. 

    We use the past perfect simple (and not continuous) to say how much or how many we had done of something earlier in the past.

    • We had driven 500 miles, and we needed some rest. 
    • How many hours had he slept when you woke him up?

    Duration from earlier in the past (stative verbs)

    We use the past perfect simple with stative verbs to talk about states or situations that had started earlier in the past. We often use how long, for or since, always, etc.

    • The day Anne died, they had been married for 48 years. 
    • The day I left, I had been in England for exactly four years. 
    • She told me she had always hated her sister. 

    Past perfect continuous

    Duration from earlier in the past (dynamic verbs)

    We use the past perfect continuous with dynamic verbs to talk about longer continuous actions that started earlier in the past than the main events of the story.

    • I was furious. I had been waiting for him in the cold, and he didn’t call to say he’d be late. 
    • We had been driving for less than an hour when the car broke down. 

    Repeated actions from earlier in the past (dynamic verbs)

    We use the past perfect continuous with dynamic verbs to talk about repeated actions from earlier in the past.

    • I couldn’t believe it. She had been writing a letter every day for over a year. 
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