In English, there are tenses to talk about the present, the past and the future. It can be tricky to know which tense you should use in a particular situation. On this page, you have a detailed, but clear overview of the past tenses in English.
When one refers to the past tenses, he or she is talking about one of the following:
Past tenses overview
On the overview above, you see a visual representation of the differences between the past tenses. The past simple is mainly used for short, simple actions and habits in the past. The past continuous is used for longer actions in the past and the past perfect for actions that happened before another action in the past. You can also use the past perfect continuous in these kinds of situations, but only when the focus is on the duration.
You have another overview below where you can compare the different past tenses.
|Past simple||Past continuous||Past perfect||Past perfect continuous|
|Use||Short actions, hobbies and habits in the past||Actions that were going on or when the focus is on the duration in the past||An action that happened before another action in the past||An action that happened before another action in the past when the focus is on the duration|
Infinitive + ed / list
|was/were + -ing form||had + past participle||had + been + -ing form|
|I was walking|
He was walking
|I had walked|
He had walked
|I had been walking|
He had been walking