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Intermediate English Grammar Step by Step

 

     UNIT 6
     THE SIMPLE PAST and THE PAST CONTINUOUS1

 

   Write the verbs in brackets in the correct form.

 

1. There are regular and irregular verbs in the simple past in the affirmative. The irregular ones need to be learnt by heart: sing (infinitive)→sang (simple past). You will find a list of irregular verbs in unit 9.

   As for the regular ones, we add -ed to the infinitive: work (infinitive)→worked (simple past). However, please bear the following in mind:
   live→lived (The verb ends in -e.)
   rob→robbed ("Rob" is a monosyllabic verb2 with the following structure: "consonant + only one vowel + only one consonant".)
   marry→married (-y is preceded by a consonant: yedied.)
   enjoy→enjoyed (-y is preceded by a vowel.)

   Let us see an example now:
   work (regular verb)
   I worked
   you worked
   he worked
   she worked
   it worked
   we worked
   you worked
   they worked

   sing (irregular verb)
   I sang
   you sang
   he sang
   she sang
   it sang
   we sang
   you sang
   they sang

a  He (live) in London until he (die)
b  We (play) football last Sunday.
c  She (come) in second because she (have) a fall. (come→came, have→ had)
d  He (marry) last winter.
e  Then, the car (stop) at the traffic lights and a woman (get) out of the car. (get→got)

 

2. In the negative, we place did not (or the contracted form didn't) between the subject and the verb in the infinitive.
   I enjoyed the party. (affirmative)
   I did not enjoy the party/I didn't enjoy the party. (negative)

a  She (not want) to meet him.
b  We (not believe) them.
c  You (not do) your homework yesterday.
d  We (not go) to the cinema last week.
e  They (not impress) her.

 

3. In the interrogative, we put did before the subject. Do not forget to use the infinitive.
   He robbed the bank. (affirmative)
   Did he rob the bank? (negative)

a  You (see) the accident?
b  He (love) her?
c  We (invite) the Adams?
d  They (tell) her the truth?
e  Sir Alexander Fleming (discover) penicillin?

 

4. The form of the past continuous is as follows: was or were3 + verb-ing4.
   I was cooking dinner when the light went out. (affirmative)
   She was not doing her homework when I arrived home. (negative)
   Were they watching TV when she came in? (interrogative)

a  My mother (prepare) a special meal that day, as it was my birthday.
b  I (go) to say that, too!
c  They (talk) to her when you saw them?
d  They (not do) the proper thing when I entered the house.
e  We (go) to have a party that night, but my father fell ill and we had to postpone it.

 

5. It goes without saying that the simple past is the past of the simple present, and the past continuous is the past of the present continuous5. In other words, the simple past is used for habits and finished actions in the past, and the past continuous, for unfinished actions:
   My father was fixing the washing machine (an unfinished or uncompleted action) when I arrived home. (a finished or completed action)
   When the teacher came in, (a finished action) the pupils stood up. (a completed action)
   While I was studying, (an uncompleted action) they were playing cards. (an unfinished action)

a  Last year I usually (go) for a walk every afternoon, but now I can't, as I'm very busy.
b  She (put) on her best clothes because she (meet) the boy of her dreams that very same evening. She (want) to be very attractive.
c  When the fire (begin), we (be) in the dining room.
d  When I (meet) her, she (wear) a mini skirt. She (look) beautiful!
e  While my mum (watch) a soap opera on television, my dad (read) a comic.

 

6. Revision exercise.
a  She (sleep) when I (enter) her room.
b  As a child, I (use) to play tennis every Sunday morning.
c  She (win) the lottery last year and (buy) a big house.
d  I couldn't believe my eyes when I (see) my best friend dressed up as Cinderella.
e  While he (have) breakfast, she (have) a bath. When she (finish) her bath, they (go) out together, as they (have) a very important appointment.
f  When I (run) into Peter, he (wear) very strange clothes and green hair. I (not recognise) him at first because of his look, but when he (say) hello to me, I (tell) him, "You are beyond recognition with such clothes and hair."
g  It was a very special evening, since the girl of his dreams (take) him to a luxurious restaurant in half an hour.
h  "You (go) to the zoo yesterday?"
   "No, I didn't: the weather (be) awful."
i  What lousy weather we (have) last week! It never (stop) raining and (be) very cold.
j  When they (get) home, they (sit) down and (have) a hearty lunch.
k  If I had known that you (come), I would have made a chocolate cake.
l  When we (be) children, we never (do) such things. Everything (be) stricter than now.
m  While she (wait) for him, it (start) to snow and she (have) to go home.
n  Once upon a time, there (be) a princess who (feel) very lonely because her father had departed this life and her stepmother (be) a sort of an ogre and never (let) her go out or do anything she (like).
o  One day she (run) away from home and (meet) an attractive peasant. She (fall) in love with him and they (get) married. They (live) happily ever after.
p  He never (tell) the truth, so nobody (believe) him, but one day he (need) help urgently and nobody (help) him because nobody (believe) him, as he always (lie6).
q  This time last week, we (sunbathe) on a beach, and today we are working in this horrible factory.
r  When the earthquake (destroy) most of the city, I (spend) some days abroad.
s  John Lennon (write) some of the best songs in the twentieth century.
t  In former times, people (think) that the sun (revolve) around the earth.
u  We (stay) at home that night, since it (be) very windy and chilly outside. We (light) a fire, (open) a bottle of champagne and (have) a cosy chat.
v  When he (enter) the place, he (hear) the sound of heavy breathing, but (not see) anybody there. He (get) frightened to death, but very soon he (notice) that a homeless man (sleep) under a table.
w  She couldn't attend our weekly meeting last night because some friends of hers (come) to town and she (have) to be with them.
x  They usually (play) cards on Friday evenings, but when Mr Blake (die), they (cease) playing cards."
y  "What you (do) when I (phone) you yesterday?"
   "I (do) aerobics."
z  "You (inform) the boss of the accident you (have) on Monday morning?"
   "No, I didn't, because she would have got very angry with me."

 

____________________
1  The past continuous is also called "the past progressive".
2  See footnote in unit 5, section 4.
3  See unit 1.
4  See unit 5, section 4 for additional details.
5  See unit 5.
6  We use the past continuous here to indicate that we disapprove of his behaviour/lying.
Written by Miquel Molina i Diez
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