Three Past Tenses

You will study Three Past Tenses.


Three Past Tenses

Albert Einstein

Imagen: Albert Einstein playing the violin. Public Domain.

Instructions: Read the text about a Albert Einstein. Look at the underlined words that express different ways of the past tense.

Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany in 1879. He had a passion for inquiry that eventually led him to develop the special and general theories of relativity. In 1921, he won the Nobel Prize for physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. He immigrated to the U.S. in the following decade while he was being targeted by the Nazis. Einstein has been generally considered the most influential physicist of the 20th century, with his work also having a major impact on the develpment of atomic energy. With a focus on unified field theory during his later years, Einstein died on April 19, 1955, in Princeton, New Jersey.

Albert Einstein. Retrieved and adapted November, 2016 from


Getting started: An eccentric man

Instructions: Read the story to do the activity suggested.

Albert Einstein was an eccentric man. In his first year at university, on Christmas Eve, some children were singing carols outside his house. Afterwards, they knocked on his door and explained that they were collecting money to buy Christmas presents. Einstein listened, then said, “Wait a moment”. He put on his scarf and overcoat, and took his violin from its case. Then he joined the children as they went from door to door, and accompanied their singing of ‘Silent night’ on his violin.

On his violin

Instructions: Write Simple Past or Past Continuous for the following statements in past tense.

  1. Albert Einstein was an eccentric man.
  2. Some children were singing carols outside his house.
  3. They knocked on his door.
  4. They were collecting money to buy Christmas presents.
  5. He joined the children with his violin.
  6. doneCheck


Let’s review the differences between three past tenses.

Instructions: Read about three past tenses.

A) Simple Past

We use the Simple Past tense to talk about actions, events, or habits that were completed at a definite moment in the past.

It is often used with time expressions like yesterday, two days/week/months/years ago, last week/month/year, never, always, usually, when.

Examples: Marcus worked in the factory for years.
Yesterday, I went to the movies.
I finished my work, walked to the beach and found a nice place to swim.

B) Present Perfect

We use the Present Perfect when an action or an event that started in the past is related to the present, because:

a) It hasn’t finished yet.

b) It happened only recently.

c) It has an influence on the present.

It is also used to indicate that an action has taken place one, never, or several times before the moment of speaking.

It is often used with expressions like: since, for, never, not yet, already, once, twice, many times, up to now, so far.

Examples: Marcus has worked in the factory for years.

Have you ever heard about Sir Winston Churchill?

You have learned three past tenses so far.

C) Past Continuous

We use the Past Continuous with long actions in the past.

When this long actions are interrupted by a shorter action in the past, we use the time connector when + a verb in the simple past.

When several long actions take place simultaneously, we often use the connector while.

Examples: I was studying while my husband was fixing dinner.

He was playing the violin when someone knocked on the door.

People were shouting, babies were crying, kids were running around…


Finished or going on?

Instructions: Drag the sentences to the corresponding box, depending on whether the actions are finished or still going on.

I was sending an email when she entered the room.
He waited for a few minutes, then he entered the house.
I have waited for five hours!
I have only just sent the letter.
I watched the movie, went home and had something to eat.
When I was fifteen, I studied French.
I have seen that movie more than three times already!
I have studied French since I finished highschool.


The anecdote about tarantula

Instructions: Choose the correct tenses to complete the anecdote.

I have told / told / was telling this story many times and people have always had / always had / were always having different reactions.

One day, Richard has got / got / was getting ready for work when he has heard / heard / was hearing his wife screaming. He didn’t know what to think, so he ran to the bathroom to see what has happened / happened / was happening. When he has entered / entered / was entering the bathroom, his wife Ellen has pointed / pointed / was pointing to the floor, to the space behind the toilet. She told Richard that she had seen something black and that it has moved / moved / was moving.

Richard tried to calm her down and told her not to worry. He got down on his knees and started looking for a spider or some other type of insect. Ellen has stood / stood / was standing right behind him when he suddenly has jumped / jumped / was jumping back and has pushed / pushed / was pushing her away. Sure enough, there was a spider, only it wasn’t a little one: it was a tarantula and it has hidden / hid / was hiding between the toilet and the wall. He decided the best thing was to get professional help and went back into the room. He has called / called / was calling the exterminators when his wife has told / told / was telling him that it won’t be necessary anymore. Apparently, the tarantula quietly got out the window and was now in the garden.


Evaluation: Churchill and his dog Rufus

Instructions: Choose the correct tenses.

Have / Did / Were you ever heard / has / hearing a story that moved you to tears? Maybe here is one…

Churchill has / had / was having a poodle named Rufus. Rufus was so loved that he ate / has eaten / was eating in the dining room with the rest of the family. They always put / has put / were putting a cloth for him on the carpet next to the table, and the dog ate / has eaten / was eaten the same food as everybody else in the family.

One evening Churchill watched / has watched / was watching the film ‘Oliver Twist’ while Rufus rested / has rested / was resting on his lap. At the point in the movie when Bill Sikes plans to drawn his dog to distract the police, Churchill covered / has covered / was covering Rufus’ eyes with his hand and said / has said / was saying: “Don’t look now, dear. I’ll tell you about it afterwards.”