English Corner – Past Progressive Tense

Now that we have covered both the Simple Past Tense and the Present Progressive tense in the past few months, we will be able to move forward with our summary and analysis of this month’s ‘English Corner’ focusing on the underrated yet important ‘Past Progressive Tense.’ If you want to express your sentiments or observations in English regarding something that was happening in the past as a continuous action or movement with no clear end date, you’re going to want to utilize the past progressive tense in order to make the grammar of your sentence work properly.

While not as popular as the simple past tense, it’s an important concept to grasp in order to fully understand the past tense as a whole. Both the simple and progressive forms of the past tense tend to overlap quite a bit, sometimes in the same sentence or paragraph, making it necessary to know when and where to use both or either grammar tense to talk about actions and happenings in the past. Compared to most grammar tenses that you will learn in the course of your English studies, the past progressive tense tends to be one of the simplest and easiest to grasp.

To form the ‘past progressive’ tense is quite simple and is very similar to the present progressive tense in how the structure works. In order to make this grammar tense function, you need to put the ‘to be’ verb in the past tense. There are two different ways for accomplishing this method. If it is a singular action that was occurring, you’re going to use the word ‘was’ before the main verb if you’re referring to one person or thing. However, if it is a plural action being described, you’re going to use the word ‘were’ before the main verb if you’re referring to more than one person or thing.

The actual main verb is going to be in its’ present progressive form with –ing being added to the end of each verb after ‘was’ or ‘were’ that will make it a past progressive tense sentence. It is very important that you follow this structure, otherwise, your sentence won’t make much grammatical sense and you’ll need to re-order the structure in order for your sentence to be understood by the reader. Don’t stress about it if you don’t get the concept at first.

Here are some examples with the basic form of the past progressive tense using ‘was’ or ‘were’:

  • I was riding on the train when lightning struck the tracks nearby.
  • We were going to go to the movies on Saturday night but you canceled on me.
  • They were talking about us at the lunch table today as we walked by.
  • He was not doing the job like his boss wanted him to do it.

If you are thinking of making the past progressive tense negative, all you need to do is to put the word ‘not’ between the ‘to be’ verb in the past form and the actual action that was taking place at the time. If you’re struggling with forming a sentence by using the past progressive tense, you should look to these examples in order to help you in the future as an English student.

When it comes to the past progressive tense, you are often describing an action or an occurrence that is happening within a limited time frame while something else in the past was going on at the same time. When you write a sentence in the past progressive tense, you should be aware that most sentences with this grammar tense would be describing two actions in the past and not just one action. Here are some examples of past progressive sentences where two actions are being described simultaneously:

1) John lost his wallet while he was dancing salsa at the club.

2) Jane found her keys while she was watching her favorite television show.

3) We ate a lot of tapas dishes while the bands were playing Spanish music at the restaurant.

As you can see, it is quite easy to form the past progressive tense in a sentence if you are able to describe two actions occurring within the same timeframe. The major difference between the simple past tense and the past progressive tense that any student of English grammar should be aware is the fact that the simple past tense describes a completed action from the past while the past progressive tense describes an incomplete action from the past that is still playing out. If you’re still confused, here are some examples that highlight the difference between the simple past tense and the past progressive tense:

  • I slept throughout the night while the rain was coming down heavily. (Simple past tense and Past progressive tense)
  • I drank too much juice yesterday, which made me sick. (Simple past tense)
  • He was dancing all night long to the wonderful music of Michael Jackson. (Past progressive tense)

As highlighted in the examples above, the simple past tense and the past progressive tenses can be used together in the same sentence without any problems. However, it is possible to use them in separate sentences as well, which will make the sentence a lot simple to create. Be aware that the word ‘while’ is a way to connect a sentence together that uses the two forms of the past tense together in a seamless manner.

Lastly, it’s important to note that the subjects ‘I, He, She, It’ should be used with the singular word ‘was’, which is the past form of ‘to be’ before describing the past action that was happening. For the subjects of the past progressive tense which are ‘You, We, They’ should be used in conjunction with the plural word ‘were’, which is the past form of ‘to be’ before describing the past actions that were happening. Here are a few examples to clarify the difference between ‘was’ and ‘were’ in the past progressive tense:

Singular: I was playing, He was playing, She was playing, It was playing.

Plural: You were playing, They were playing, We were playing.

Overall, the past progressive tense is a lot simpler and straightforward when compared to other grammar tenses such as the simple past tense. As long as you remember the rules, study the examples, and practice writing sentences using this verb form on your own, you should be just fine. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment for me and I would be happy to answer them for you. Good luck and look out for next month’s English corner!

 

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English Corner – Simple Past Tense

For this edition of ‘English Corner’, we’re going into the past to figure out and understand the ‘Simple Past Tense.’ In order to successfully master the English language, you need to be able to use the simple past tense correctly. Whether it’s talking about what you did yesterday or last week or even five years ago, the structure and formation of the simple past tense should not be overlooked. As we discussed previously with the simple present tense and the present progressive tense, having a good grasp of these basic grammar forms will help you to get better in English really quickly.

In this blog post, I’ll go over when and how we should use the simple past tense and you will be able to see a few examples of how to put this grammar tense into action. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them for me below the article, as I am happy to help anyone out who needs additional assistance with the simple past tense. After going through this grammar tense for this post, be on the lookout for the next edition of ‘English Corner’ when we go over the past progressive tense.

If you have heard about the ‘preterite tense’ but don’t know about the ‘simple past tense’, then you can be at ease knowing that they are one in the same. While there are different forms of the past tense, the ‘simple past tense’ has become the most commonly used form and is quite easy to master if you are able to understand and apply the structures and the different ways you can use the grammar tense in a sentence.

When it comes to creating the simple past tense, the structure is quite simple. There are three types of sentences that you can form with the simple past tense: positive, negative, and questions. For positive sentences, you’ll put the ‘subject’ first and then add the ‘main verb’, which will be in the simple past tense. For negative sentences, you put the subject first and then an auxiliary verb with the verb ‘to do’, put into the past tense, which becomes ‘did’ followed by the word ‘not’ afterwards to indicate the negation in the sentence. The last part of the ‘negative’ sentence with simple past is the ‘main verb’ so the structure should be ‘subject’ + ‘auxiliary verb and ‘not’ + ‘main verb’ to complete the sentence fully. The question form of the ‘simple past tense’ is very similar to the negative form but there’s one exception that makes them different from each other.

The ‘auxiliary verb’ comes first before the ‘subject’ and then after the subject comes the ‘main verb’ and the ‘object’, which completes the sentence’s overall purpose. Positive sentences for the simple past tense do not have any auxiliary verbs as the negative and question sentences do reply upon. The verb ‘to do’ is the most important one when it comes to forming the simple past sentence regardless if its’ a positive, negative, or question form of the grammar tense. Lastly, the negative sentences you create must have the ‘not’ word after the auxiliary verb and before the main verb in order for it to make grammatical sense.

Examples

Positive Sentences:

I did go to the mall last weekend. (to go)

         I did play with my friends at the park yesterday. (to play)

Negative Sentences:

I did not think you were polite at the lecture on Monday. (to think)

I did not believe you when you said the stock market crashed. (to believe)

Question Sentences:

Did you do your homework last night? (to do)

Did you tell her you were late for class? (to tell)

When it comes to the verb ‘to be’, there is a different structure for the simple past tense that the average ESL student should be made aware of. In order to put ‘to be’ in the past tense form, it’s either going to become ‘was’ or ‘were’ depending upon what subject is being used at the beginning of the sentence. For the positive form of the was/were usage of ‘to be’ in the past tense, you start with I/He/She/It (subjects) and then the verb, which in this case for singular subjects would be was, followed by the object of the sentence.

For sentences with subject plurals like We/They/You, you are going to change ‘to be’ from was to were to reflect the change followed by the action / object again. For the negative form, you’re just going to add ‘not’ between the main verb and the object at the end of the sentence. ‘Was or were’ are going to be placed at the beginning of a question sentence followed by the subject and the actions that are involved in the sentence.

Examples

Positive Sentences:

He was here yesterday evening at the dinner table. (to be)

         You were in Istanbul last weekend for a friend’s birthday. (to be)

Negative Sentences:

I was not at the park last night because I had work to do. (to be)

They were not at the party because they were not invited. (to be)

Question Sentences:

Was she nice to her date last Thursday night? (to be)

Were you happy with how you did on the Spanish exam? (to be)

Compared to the verb ‘to do’ in the simple past tense, ‘to be’ has no auxiliary verbs at all even for the question and negative forms of the verb tense. However, it is the same in that ‘not’ always comes after the main verb for a negative sentence. The subject also becomes the past tense form of the verb ‘to be’ while the main verb moves to the middle of the sentence and is actually the subject words such as he / she / they, etc.

If you simply would like to use the past simple tense with most of the verbs you’ll be using in your sentences, you will add the letter ‘d’ or ‘-ed’ to the end of the verb in order for it to make sense grammatically. There are a couple of examples we should take a look at it when it comes to forming the simple past tense of the verb with ‘d’ or ‘ed.’

Examples

  1. After school, he walked home in the rain.
  2. He danced really well with his date at the senior prom.
  3. She planned to go to Europe this summer but she couldn’t save up enough money.
  4. Because his mother was sick, he baked a chocolate cake.
  5. We went to the movies after we ate at a Mexican restaurant.

It’s important to note that there may be some irregular verbs that are formed differently when it comes to the simple past tense. For example, ‘go’ in the simple present tense will become ‘went’ when it comes to being grammatically correct in the simple past tense. Another verb like ‘eat’ will become ‘ate’ and ‘drink’ will also change slightly to become ‘drank.’ While most of the verbs only need a ‘d’ or an ‘ed’ to be properly simple past, there are a few irregular verbs that should be memorized for the fact that they are exceptions to the rule when it comes to going from present to past in terms of how the word is written and pronounced.

Now that we know how to use the structure of the simple past tense, you’ll also want to be aware of what kinds of uses do we have for this particular grammar tense. The main purpose of the simple past tense is to talk about the past meaning that we want to shed light about a thing, an action, or a situation that happened in the past. These events can be as recent in the past as in they happened last night or they can be events that occurred long ago such as discussing a sports championship that happened over a decade ago.

Examples

  1. I played my violin last night for my parents and brother. (short time ago)
  2. I had a great time living in Istanbul, Turkey back in 2015. (long time ago)

When we use the simple past tense, you cannot refer to events or actions that are happening currently in the present or are slated to happen anytime in the future. The simple past tense only focuses on those events and actions that were completed sometime in the past. It simply doesn’t matter if the event was finished ten years ago or ten seconds ago. The fact is that it’s still in the past and the sentence structure should reflect the grammatical tense that fits the place and time.

Lastly, it should be noted that the books you’ve read or the movies you seen who occur in the past are mainly going to use the simple past tense. The present perfect and simple present tense may be used in stories or movies as well but you’re going to want to pay attention and listen to the sentences with the simple past tense because they are going to be the most common.

If you want to practice your simple past tense after reading this article, I recommend listening to songs, reading books, watching movies that take place in the past. Besides speaking or writing about the past, participating in the active listening and / or reading about events or moments in the past will help to take your English language skills to the next level. I hope you enjoyed this ‘English Corner’ post and please leave a comment if you have any questions, queries, or comments.

English Corner – Present Progressive Tense

present_progressive_tense
“If you’re not sure where the Present Progressive Tense fits into the timeline, I have a useful chart for you to study.”

As a student of the English language, once you’re able to understand and use the ‘Simple Present Tense’ with proficiency and are ready to move on to the next grammar step, it would be wise to start learning about the ‘Present Progressive Tense.’ This particular grammar tense can help you to describe a number of different topics and can be used in a variety of ways. By studying the examples listed in this blog post and knowing when to apply the present progressive tense, you’ll be able to advance and get better in your study of English grammar rules.

The ‘Present Tense’ is divided into two kinds: the ‘Simple’ present tense and the ‘Continuous’ or ‘Progressive’ present tense. In order to fully understand the present tense grammar form, it’s important to understand both the ‘simple’ and ‘progressive’ aspects to this concept. Please follow along and read through this blog post if you’re a student of English grammar and want to better understand the ‘Present Progressive Tense.’ We will start by looking at a couple of examples regarding how this grammar tense is supposed to be structured. I would recommend that you copy these particular examples so you have some idea on how to use the present progressive tense in a sentence.

Examples

  1. I am going to the store today.
  2. We are planning on coming to your wedding tonight.
  3. What are you doing for dinner later this evening?

For the actual structure of the Present Progressive tense, it’s a little bit different when compared to the Simple Present tense. It’s necessary to begin the sentence with the ‘subject’ word whether it is “I, You, We, They, He / She, etc.” and you can also use the question form as well with “What, When, Where, Why, etc.” at the beginning of a sentence. The auxiliary verb, which is supposed to be conjugated in the Simple Present tense would come next and is modified depending upon which ‘subject’ word is used at the beginning of the sentence.

The auxiliary verb “to be” is the most popular form when it comes to the present tense so it is meant to be used often when it comes to creating the sentence. When you conjugate “to be” in the simple present form, you’ll end up with “is, are, am, etc.” depending upon the subject word. The auxiliary verb is always followed by the main verb, which is supposed to be displayed in present participle form. When we mention the present participle form, it basically involves the verb such as “do” and adding an “ing” to the end of the verb.

For negative sentences, the form of the present progressive sentence is a little bit different compared to regular sentences. It’s necessary to put the word ‘not’ in between the auxiliary verb and the main verb in order for the sentence to make grammatical sense.

Examples

  1. I am not dancing at the ball tonight.
  2. You are not playing basketball tomorrow.

If you’re thinking about making a question sentence with the present progressive tense, there’s a clear step that you need to take in order to make it work. The ‘subject’ at the beginning of the sentence must be exchanged for the ‘auxiliary verb’ due to a necessary change in the structure of the sentence in order to make the question work.

Examples

  1. Am I doing the right thing?
  2. Are you playing the piano for the recital?

As you can see, the ‘am’ which is the auxiliary verb comes at the beginning of the sentence this time and the ‘I’ word comes after and becomes secondary in terms of its’ placement. The positive and negative forms of the present progressive tense are quite similar to each other with the only difference being that the ‘not’ is added into the structure of the sentence in order to create that difference but the actual structure of the present progressive tense does not change at all. When it comes to the question form however, there is a change in the actual structure of the present progressive tense with the fact that the ‘subject’ and the ‘auxiliary verb’ essentially change places in order to form the actual question.

Now that we know the structure of the present progressive tense in its’ main forms of usage, how do we know when to put this grammatical tense into action? Well, it’s quite simple actually. There are some fundamental principles that guide the use of the present progressive tense in formal sentences. The present progressive tense can describe actions that are happening in real time and are continuing into the near future.

These could be actions or occurrences that are happening right now and have not been finished yet. These are actions that are in progress and have not reached the completion stage yet. This is why we add the –ing to our verbs to indicate that the action is ongoing and hasn’t reached an end yet.

Examples

  1. The wheels are spinning.
  2. The tables are turning.
  3. The guns are firing.

In addition to those actions that are occurring right now, there are also actions that have no set time frame or completion date yet but are ongoing and will require some time to finish. This is the most popular use for the –ing form and there are a lot of examples that can be construed from it.

Examples

  1. John is taking Salsa lessons.
  2. Martha is learning how to cook.
  3. Bob is starting a new job.

Despite being known as the ‘present progressive’ tense, this grammatical tense can also be used to describe actions or habits that will be occurring in the near future. In order to make this work though, you must add a word to indicate that something will happen in the future. Some examples of these words include ‘tonight, tomorrow, next week, this weekend, two days from now, etc. Usually, you are describing something that has been planned out to occur in the future with a specific date or timeframe in mind. People are long-term planners and thus, we are able to talk about actions that we will take in the future having made the plans ahead of time.

Examples

  1. I am going to attend university next August.
  2. I am planning to go to Mexico this winter.
  3. We are thinking about having our honeymoon in Hawaii next month.

The plan has already been set in motion and that’s why you’re discussing what you’re going to be doing but at a future time and place. It’s vital to remember that the present progressive tense does not exist without adding -ing to any verb regardless of which verb it is. The present progressive tense may not be the most popular grammatical tense but it is extremely important to practice, create examples, and master it both in its’ written form and its’ spoken form. Before you can go on to the ‘past’ and ‘future’ grammatical tenses, I believe that it’s necessary to have a good handle on the present progressive tense first before moving on to something else. Keep my explanations and examples in mind and look out for another ‘English Corner’ coming to you all soon.