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Simple Past Tense: Simple Past Tense #4

Dennis Oliver
Simple Past Tense #4:
Expressions Showing Past Time

In English, the simple past tense is used for finished actions
or situations that began and ended before now. There are
three ways to make simple past tense.

In order to show when an action or situation happened
in the past, particular words and phrases (time adverbials) 
are often used. Here are some of the most common ones:



This refers to the day before today, but not at
any specific time.


last _____

This time adverbial is similar to yesterday, but it
can be used with many different time references:

last night
last week
last month
last year
last Tuesday
last summer


a / an one _____ ago

A singular noun phrase showing a period of time
follows aan, or one:

a / one minute ago
an / one hour ago
a / one week ago
a / one week ago
a / one month ago
a / one year ago


(plural number or expression) _____ ago

A plural noun phrase showing a period of time
is used before ago:

two minutes ago
three hours ago
several days ago
a few weeks ago
a number of months ago
many years ago


the day before yesterday

This time adverbial has the same meaning as
two days ago.


the _____ before last

This common time adverbial is similar to
the day before yesterday, but it can be
used for many more time references:

the night before last
the week before last
the month before last


past dates

Any time expression that refers to a date
before now requires a past tense.


in 1998
on June 21st (if this date was before now)
on June 21st, 2000
during 1995
in the 19th Century
last Christmas


past events

Any time that refers to an event that happened
before now also requires a past tense.


on my last birthday
at the beginning of my class
during my childhood
when I got up this morning
when my grandfather was a boy


Special Notes:


Any time expression that refers to "before now"
can require past tense. If "now" is Monday
afternoon at 2:15 PM, for example, these time
adverbials require past tense if they refer
to Monday:

at 2:00 PM
at noon
this morning
in the morning
at lunch

2. "Last" is very commonly used, but not with "day":
use yesterday, not *last day.

Two or more time adverbial can be combined:

at 2:30 yesterday afternoon
late last night
early in the morning a couple of days ago
every Thursday last summer

Note that when two or more time adverbials are
combined, shorter periods of time come before
longer periods of time.

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