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Grammar rules about the use of the different pasts

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Grammar rules about the use of the different pasts

Post Number:#1 by Angie Bookworm
» 17 Mar 2017, 14:50

English is not my first languages so, when I write, I have some troubles about which past is the better one. Especially when I have to write a complex period. Can you give me some tips?
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Re: Grammar rules about the use of the different pasts

Post Number:#2 by K-McD
» 20 Mar 2017, 12:38

The four past tenses are simple past, past perfect (had), past progressive (was -ing), and past perfect progressive (had been).

Simple past means that something happened in the past at some point.
"She called me."

Past perfect means that something happened before something else in the past.
"She had called me before the tornado appeared."

Past progressive means that the activity was ongoing or happened repeatedly in the past.
"She was always calling me when we were in high school."

Past perfect progressive means it was ongoing before something else in the past.
"She had been calling me before her phone exploded."
It can also mean an interrupted action in the past, but that will have a slightly different construction: "She had been calling me when her phone exploded."

If you're writing the entire piece in past tense, then it's mostly the same. Simple past is what's currently happening in the story, past perfect is something that happened before that point in the narrative, past progressive is something that's currently ongoing, and past perfect progressive is something that was ongoing before that point in the narrative (or was interrupted).

One tip for figuring out which one to use: think about whether the action could be described as "always" or "repeatedly", or if it happened before something else. If it is repeated or continual, then it's a progressive tense. If it happened before something else, then it's a perfect. If both, or the action was interrupted, then it's a perfect progressive. If neither, it's a simple past.
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