Simple States or Passive Voice?

simple passive verb formsI recently had a question through this website but the return email didn’t work, so I’ve posted my answer in the hope that the reader sees it! It relates to spotting the difference between the past simple and the passive voice – specifically, how we can use different verb forms to follow the verb to be. Here we go: Continue reading

When can we use the past simple for timeless rules?

past simple timeless rules

When we write a rule in a past tense narrative, should it still be in the present simple tense? This was an excellent question raised by a reader, from a fairly unexpected source – this Christmas reading exercise. It contains the phrase “everyone knew how magical Santa was”. The issue is that saying “was” in the past tense suggests Santa is either no longer magical (or perhaps has died?!). So, how can past simple still be correct here? Like much in English, it depends on our context. Continue reading

Forming Negative Simple Tenses – Exercises

negative simple tenses exercisesNegative simple tenses are formed using either do, does, did, will or the verb to be and not, followed by the bare infinitive. Below is a group of exercises to test this understanding – using the information provides, form complete negative simple sentences. The answers are given at the bottom. Continue reading

Ongoing time and the past simple – when a past action is really complete

ongoing time past simpleI was recently contacted with a question about my Mixed Tenses Exercise, which demonstrates that different tenses can fit into the same sentence structure. The question came from the past simple use in the first example, I played tennis every Tuesday this month. In a sentence with an ongoing time, such as this month, it may seem strange to refer to complete action with the past simple. This is a prime example of a situation where the present perfect is appropriate – to show a complete action that has the ability to influence the ongoing time period. So why is the past simple also appropriate? Continue reading

Past simple negatives and affirmatives exercise

past simple negative affirmativeAffirmative and negative statements in the different tenses have quite distinct forms, with the negatives using the auxiliary verb did. To test understanding and demonstrate the difference, this exercise scrambles sentences that you can practice putting into negative affirmative past simple forms. Complete the following sentences in the correct past simple affirmative or negative forms, using the information provided. Continue reading

Comparing the past simple and present perfect

past simple present perfectThe past simple and the present perfect can both be used to show actions or events that were completed in the past. In many cases, they can demonstrate the same event – so how do we choose which tense to use? This article explains, very briefly, the fundamental differences between the two, with a look at the two tenses side-by-side (as shown in The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide). Continue reading

Creating past event sequences with the past perfect

past perfect sequencesTo give a little structure to the different examples of past tenses uses I’ve highlighted in some of my narrative articles, here’s a quick explanation of how the past perfect can be used to create past event sequences (adapted from The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide). Continue reading

Choosing between the past simple and continuous for states

simple continuous statesFollowing from my tips for my article explaining that the past simple is used for state verbs, here’s a brief comparison to show how the past simple and past continuous can be compared for states. With verbs showing conditions, possession, emotion and senses, this is an important area to study to avoid mistakes. Continue reading

Simple Tenses and States – The Past Simple

states and past simpleStates, which may be used as a general description for different states of mind, senses conditions and possession, usually use simple tenses instead of continuous tenses, even when the action or event is temporary or is interrupted. This creates a trick area of English grammar, in the past, present and future, as you may be tempted to use continuous tenses for these verbs. The following article explains how states work in the past tense.

Continue reading

Past tenses exercise: choose from past simple and perfect tenses

mixed past tenses exercise

Complete the following sentences choosing between the past simple and past perfect tenses, using the verb that is given. Explained in my previous article, you should use past simple for an action or event that was complete before another event in the past, and past perfect for an action or event that happened before another event, or to show that an action was actively done.
Continue reading