How to use the Past – Part I

This week my teacher gave me a mission. I have to present all the forms of the past for my classmates.

Many students don’t know how to use the past. There are many forms of the past: past simple, past continuous, past perfect…

The best way to learn how to use the past is doing exercises with many forms of the past in similar sentences. We need to compare the sentences and understand when the actions happened in the past. We need to understand all the context.

I know it’s not easy but you need to feel the language. Ha! I’ve not felt the language yet but I’m trying this. See some examples below:

  1. When I arrived at home, my mother was going to have dinner.
  2. When I arrived at home, my mother was having dinner.
  3. When I arrived at home, my mother had dinner.
  4. When I arrived at home, my mother had had dinner.

“When I arrived at home” is exactly the same in the beginning of the each sentence. The action happened in the past simple.

I say that there are two sentences in one sentence. I divide the sentence in two sentences but I try to understand all the context.

In the first example: When I arrived at home, my mother was going to have dinner.

  • First sentence: When I arrived at home = past simple;
  • Second sentence: my mother was going to have dinner = past + going to

The first sentence happened first that the second one.

In the second example: When I arrived at home, my mother was having dinner.

  • First sentence: When I arrived at home = past simple;
  • Second sentence: my mother was having dinner = past continuous.

The second sentence began before and continued when the first one happened.

In the third example: When I arrived at home, my mother had dinner.

  • First sentence: When I arrived at home = past simple;
  • Second sentence: my mother had dinner = past simple.

The actions in the past happened and finished in the same time.

In the forth example: When I arrived at home, my mother had had dinner.

  • First sentence: When I arrived at home = past simple;
  • Second sentence: my mother had had dinner = past perfect.

Past perfect is past of the past. It means that the second sentence happened before the first one.

Will you be able to use all these forms of the past correctly with my explanation? Tell me what you think about this.

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