Past Tense Definition Structure Types Uses and Examples

Explore our comprehensive guide regarding past tense definition structure types uses and examples that will provide you grow confidence while writing and speaking in English.

Past Tense describes an action in the Past time. For Example,

  • The police ran after the thief.
  • He visited the Taj Mahal.

In this sentence the action words are ‘ran’ and ‘visited’, those words describe actions in the past, those sentences are in the Past Tense.

Structure of Past Tense

The simple formula or structure of the Past tense is as follows.

Subject+Verb (Past Form) +Object.

SubjectVerb (past form)Object/remaining part
Heworkedvery hard.
Johnacceptedher proposal.


We use the past form of the verbs in the following situations –

  • to indicate a single act in the past,
  • habitual action in the past
  • an action that was going on in the past
  • to express an action complete before another past action,

Explore the following Examples for the use of past tense:

  • We ate rice.
  • They were working hard.
  • He used to bathe in the Ganga.
  • You had been writing a letter for half an hour.
  • The patient had died before the doctor came.

Types of Past Tense

Past Tense can be categorized into four types as we performed actions in the past time.

Simple Past Tense/Past Indefinite Tense

We use Past Indefinite Tense or Simple Past Tense to denote an action completed in the past or a past habit. For example,

  • The fisherman caught fish.
  • The driver did not drive the car.
  • Did you want this book?
  • Did she not attend the meeting?


Subject + Verb( Past Form) + Object.

SubjectVerb (past form)Object.
Riyadrovethe car.
My fathergaveme chocolate.


  •  to denote an action completed in the past 
  • a past habit

Past continuous tense

The past continuous tense is used to describe an action that went on for a certain duration at a particular time in the past.

  • I was watching the television.
  • They were playing football.
  • Ravi was driving the car.
  • Was she doing the homework?





an action happening at a particular in the past: She was playing chess.

Past perfect tense

Past perfect tense refers to an action that has already been completed in the past.

  • When we had finished our dinner, we went for walk.
  • Rohit had lived in Delhi before he settled down in Mumbai.
  • He had not used email before, so she helped him.


Subject+had+verb(Past-participle form)+object.

Subjecthadverb(Past-participle form)object.
The fishermenhadcaughtfish.
Shehaddonethe work.


to talk about an action that happened before another action in the past: Anu had gone out when we arrived in the office.

an action that had already happened before a certain time in the past: She had had her breakfast at 8 o’clock.

Past perfect continuous tense

Past continuous tense is used to indicate an action that happened before a certain point of time in the past and continued while speaking.

  • He had been studying when I returned home.
  • The hermit had been working before the king arrived.



Ihadbeendoingthe work.


an action continuing before some time in the past: He had been swimming for two hours.


(a) They worked hard
(b) They did not play football.
(c) Did he play football?
(d) Were we not honest?

(a) The fisherman was catching fish.
(b) The driver was not driving the car.
(c) Were you telling lie?
(d) Was she not singing today?

(a) He had played football.
(b) Students had made noise before the teacher came.
(c) John had done the work before he fell asleep.
(d) We had gone to school.

(a) He had been playing football for two hours.
(b) Students had been making noises.
(c) John had been doing the work for four hours.
(d) We had been chanting the mantras for half an hour.

(a) I ate rice.
(b) The earth got its first rainfall.
(c) We came back from school at 4 PM yesterday.
(d) I was going to market.
(e) I was happy to see it.
(f) I had done my duty.
(g) He had been suffering from a fever for seven days.