Past simple, past continuous and past perfect
When you read a story or text, the different past tenses tell you what happened
when. You need to use the correct tenses when you write your own stories.
Look at these sentences: underline the verbs and match each
sentence (1-3) with one of the rules (A-C) below.
1 I went into the flat. A We use the past simple for one
2 The man always left a key B When one action interrupts
under the mat because once another action, we use the
he had lost his key. past continuous for the longer
3 I was watching the news when C If it is unclear which of two
a man walked in. actions happened first, we use
the past perfect for the earlier
Now look at these two sentences and underline the correct
phrase to complete the rules (D-E) below
• While I was waiting for my uncle to come
home, I watched TV.
• I was watching the news when a man
D We use while + past continuous / when +
past simple for an action which happened
over a period of time.
E We use while + past continuous / when +
past simple for a short action .
Match the two halves of these sentences
0 When the phone rang, A my bus went past and I
1 While I was waiting in the missed it.
queue, B when you interrupted me.
2 I fell asleep C while I was reading in bed.
3 When I woke up, D the person behind me started
4 I got very dirty talking to me.
5 While I was talking to my E the sun was shining through
friend, the window.
6 I was looking for my watch F I was practising my guitar.
7 I was writing an email G when I found this photo of my
H while I was playing football.
Read Sentences 1-8 and find examples of verbs to
match the descriptions in the box (A, B, C and D)
1 At six o'clock in the morning, the • A past simple for a completed
telephone rang. I ran down the action in the past.
2 While I was running down the
stairs, I fell over the cat.
3 When I reached the bottom of the • B past continuous for a
stairs, the phone had stopped continuous action in the past.
4 But the noise had woken my baby
brother, and he was crying.
5 I was talking to him when the • C past continuous for an
phone started ringing again! interrupted action in the past.
6 I walked down the stairs carefully.
7 When I answered the phone, it was
my friend Tom.
• D past perfect for an action
8 I had completely forgotten that we completed before another action
had agreed to go fishing. in the past.
In each sentence, decide which verb should be in the past
perfect and correct it.
Teresa couldn't remember the boy's name but she was sure she saw
him somewhere before. had seen
Jennie wanted to watch the news but, when she switched on the TV,
she realised she missed it. had missed
The train already left when we arrived at the station. had already left
The teacher gave Maria some extra work because she missed three
classes the week before. had missed
Nikos didn't have enough to buy a new pair of jeans because he
already spent all his money. had already spent
Paul didn't play in front of such a big crowd before and he was very
nervous at the start of the match. hadn’t played
Sean phoned the theatre to book some tickets for the concert but they
sold them all. had sold
Linda never rode a horse before but her friend finally persuaded her to
try. had never ridden
Complete this story. Put the verbs in brackets into the
correct form of the past simple, the past continuous or the past
One day last year, my father ________________ (drive) my brother
and me to an amusement park. We _____________ (not be) there
before. We ____________ (spend) all day going on different rides. We
______________ (keep) the best ride till the end of the day. Next to the
ride there _____________ (be) a sign which ________________ (say)
'Empty your pockets'. My father ____________ (not take) any notice of
it. While we ____________ (ride) up and down, everything, including
his wallet and his car keys ________________ (fall) out of my father's
pockets. We _____________ (look) for the car keys when some friends
came hadn’t found
of ours _______________ (come) along. We ____________ (not find)
the keys so our friends ____________ (give) us a lift home and then
they took my father back to the amusement park with the spare keys.
Put the verbs in brackets in the correct forms: PAST SIMPLE, PAST
CONTINUOUS or PAST PERFECT, simple or continuous
While I _____________________ (walk) to the city centre,
I ___________ (see) an advertisement for a concert on
Saturday. A lot of other people ____________________
HAD ALREADY SEEN
(already/see) the advertisement before me. They
__________________ (stand) outside the theatre when I
_____________ (arrive) there. We ______________ (wait) for
a long time. At last a man ____________________ (come)
out of the theatre and ______________ (put) up a notice.
They ________________ (sell) all the tickets for Saturday!
We _______________________ (wait) so long that we
HAD BEEN WAITING
___________ (feel) angry. Why _______________________
FELT HADN’T THEY TOLD
(they/not/tell) us earlier?