Describing events in the past :
The past simple is used to describe finished actions and events in the past.
Susan went into the station and bought a ticket
The past continuous is used to describe actions in progress in the past.It gives information about the background situation.
There were a lot of people waiting in the station, some were sleeping on the benches, and others were walking up and down.
-Past before past
The past perfect simple is had+past participle (gone/seen/finished,etc)
The past perfect is used to make it clear that one past event happens before another past event . We use the past perfect for the earlier event.
By the time the train arrived , Susan had managed to push her way to the front of the crowd
It is not always necessary to use the past perfect if a time expression makes the order of events clear.
Before the train arrived, Susan managed to push her way to the front of the crowd
-Past continuous used with past simple
We often use the past continuous first to set the scene, and then the past simple for the separate , complete actions that happen
Susan was looking for Graham , so she didn’t sit down .Instead, she tried calling him on her mobile phone
We often contrast an action in progress with a sudden event wich interrupts it.
While Susan was trying to get ontothe platform, a man grabbed her handbag
Past Perfect continuous (I had been doing)
Had been-ing is the pat perfect continuous:
When the boys came into the house , their clothes were dirty, their hair was untidy and one of them had a black eye. They’d been fighting
I was very tired when I arrived home. I’d been working hard all day
You can say that something had been happening for a period of time before something else.
Our game of tennis was interrupted. We’d been playing for about half an hour when it started rain very heavily
Ken gave up smoking two years ago. He’d been smoking for 30 years
Had been-ing (past perfect continuous) is the pat of have been-ing(present perfect continuous)
Present Perfect continuous:
I hope the bus comes soon. I ‘ve been waiting for 20 minutes (before now)
Past Perfect continuous:
At last bus came. I’d been waiting for 20 mintues (before the bus came)
Compare had been doing and was doing (past continuous)
It wasn’t raining when we went out . The sun was shining . But it had been raining , so the ground was wet
Ann was sitting in an armchair watching television. She was tired because she’d been working very hard
Some verbs (for example, known and want) are not normally used in the continuous
We were good friends. We had known each other for years(not had been knowing)
Participle clauses are introduced by the time expressions before, after and while.They have the same subject as the following clause.
After struggling with him , Susan pulled the bag from his hands
HABITS IN THE PAST
The past simple is used for regular actions or habitual behaviour in the past , often with a frequency adverb.
I hardly ever went away on holiday when I was young
Is used to refer to past habits and situations wich no longer occur or exist now . A time expression is not necessary.
Something used to happen =something happen regulary in the past but no longer happen
I used to get up at six , but now I get up at eight
We used to have a cat, but he died last year
I always used to walk to work until I bought a car
With negatives and questions used to becomes use to
I didn’t use to like beer
I didn’t use to like cheese.
Where did you use to live?
When we use used to we suggest that the action is no longer true and so make a strong contrast with the present.
*Use to cannot express present habitual behaviour:
I usually (not use to) play tennis twice a week
This building is now a furniture shop , It used to be a cinema
I ‘ve started drinking coffee recently . I never used to like it before
Jane used to have very long hair when she was a child
Don’t confuse I used to do and I am used to doing. The structures and meanings are different.
I used to live alone (=I lived alone in the past but I no longer live alone)
I am used to lived alone (=I live alone and I don’t find it strange or new because I’ve been living alone for some time)
Is used to refer to past habits, but not past situations.It can only be used to describe repeated actions, not states .It is mainly used in writting , and in personal reminiscences.
My dad would often read to me when I was a young boy
Every evening was the same .Jack wouldn’t turn on the radio
I used to (not would) have a bicycle
Stative verbs such as have (possession), be, live, like, believe,think (=have an opinion) , understand and know are not used with would to refer to the past.
The past continuous can be used to describe a repeated action in the past often an annoying habit . A frequency adverb is necesary.
When Peter was younger, he was always getting into trouble
-Politeness and uncertainty
We can use the past continuous with think , hope and wonder to give a polite or uncertain meaning.
I was thinking of having a party next week
I was hoping you would join at the café tonight
I was wondering if you could help me