English Teachers and Students: Take 30% off your first order using promo code "FirstOrder" at checkout! View all worksheets here

How to Teach Past Tense Verbs (With Examples)

Past tense verbs are used in communicating completed actions, sequential events, historical events, and many more, therefore making learning fun by providing different everyday scenarios as examples. Among the various types of verbs, understanding and mastering past tense verbs is a crucial step toward achieving clarity and precision in communication. In this guide, we will delve into the art of teaching past tense verbs. We will explore not only the fundamentals of what they are, but also equip educators and learners with practical methods to enhance their usage. 

View all of our Verb Worksheets

What are past tense verbs?

Past tense verbs are words that describe actions or conditions that occurred in the past. They are used to indicate that something happened before the present time.

The English language has several forms of the past tense, including:

Simple past

Used for actions that happened at a specific time and are now finished. Formed with + “ed” at the end for regular verbs, and a totally different word for irregular words.

Here are examples:

teaching past tense verbs

Past continuous

Used for actions that were completed before another action in the past. Formed with the past tense of “to be” (was/were) + present participle (-ing form of the verb).

Here are examples:

teaching past tense verbs

Past perfect

Used for actions that were completed before another action in the past. Formed with had + past participle of the main verb.

Here are examples:

Past perfect continuous

Describes actions that were ongoing up until another action in the past. Formed with had been + present participle (-ing form of the verb).

Here are examples:

Who can benefit in learning Past Tense Verbs?

Students

Students of all ages benefit a lot from learning how to use past tense verbs when they write and talk. Knowing how to use these verbs well is very important for doing well in school, especially in subjects like English and history where telling stories and understanding events from the past are key.

ESL Students

For ESL learners, especially those from places with different rules for talking about the past, learning how to use past tense verbs in English is very important. It helps them understand English grammar better and lets them talk and write more clearly about things that happened before. This skill makes it easier for them to join in conversations, do well in school, and write correctly. By getting good at using past tense verbs, ESL learners can share their ideas better and fit in more with people who speak English.

Job Seekers

For job seekers, knowing how to use past tense verbs well is key when talking about their past work and achievements in interviews, resumes, and cover letters. This skill helps them explain their previous jobs and what they’ve accomplished in a clear way. It makes their applications stronger and gives them a better chance to impress potential employers. So, understanding past tense verbs can really help someone looking for a job show off their experience better.

Historians and Researchers

People who study history or write about it for their jobs, like historians and researchers, find it really helpful to learn past tense verbs. This is because they often need to talk or write about things that happened a long time ago. Knowing how to use past tense verbs correctly helps them describe these events and actions accurately and clearly.

Professionals in International Business

Journalists, speakers, and writers need to be careful when they talk or write about things that happened before. It’s very important for them to use past tense verbs correctly. This helps them tell stories or share information about past events clearly and accurately. Doing this well makes sure their audience understands what happened and trusts them to give true and detailed accounts of events. Using past tense verbs the right way helps them explain the past better to everyone listening or reading.

Types of Past Tense Verbs

Past tense verbs help to improve communication, as they make sentences more clear and concise, telling us what action is taking place. When teaching past tense verbs, it’s helpful to understand the different types and provide examples to illustrate their usage.

There are four main types of past tense verbs in the English language and each of them deliver various types of context to a sentence.

Simple Past Tense

Used to describe actions or events that happened at a specific time in the past and are now completed. Used for both regular and irregular verbs.

Example: “I walked to the park.” “She went to the circus.”

Past Continuous (Progressive) Tense

Describes actions that were ongoing at a particular time in the past. It often sets the scene for another action.

Example: “I was walking to the park when it started raining.”

Past Perfect Tense

Used to talk about an action or event that was completed before another past action or event. It helps to show the sequence of past events.

Example: “I had walked to the park before it started raining.”

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Describes actions that were ongoing over a period of time in the past and were completed before another past action. This tense emphasizes the duration of the past action.

Example: “I had been walking for an hour when it started raining.”

Note: Having a solid understanding of the correct usage of past tenses of verbs will not only help in a learner’s comprehension of the language, but in its overall application as well.

Activities for Teaching Past Tense Verbs

To better understand how past tense verbs are used in sentences, here are activities for teaching them:

Activity 1: Mistake Correction

Instructions: Correct the mistakes in the following sentences related to past tenses (Simple Past, Past Continuous, Past Perfect, Past Perfect Continuous):
1. She was sleeping when the alarm clock rings.
2. I had readed the book before I watched the movie.
3. They were play basketball while it was raining.
4. By the time I arrive, the party had already started.
5. We had been study for the exam since morning.
6. He was cook dinner when the guests arrived.
7. When she checked her email, she saw that she received a promotion.
8. They were walking in the park when it gets dark.
9. By the time I realize my mistake, it was too late.
10. He been writing the report for two hours before he took a break.
Answer key (for teachers)
1. She was sleeping when the alarm clock rang.
2. I had read the book before I watched the movie.
3. They were playing basketball while it was raining.
4. By the time I arrived, the party had already started.
5. We had been studying for the exam since morning.
6. He was cooking dinner when the guests arrived.
7. When she checked her email, she saw that she had received a promotion.
8. They were walking in the park when it got dark.
9. By the time I realized my mistake, it was too late.
10. He had been writing the report for two hours before he took a break.

Activity 2: Fill In the Blanks.

Instructions: Fill in the blanks with the correct past tense form of the verbs provided in parentheses. Choose the appropriate past tense according to the context (Simple Past, Past Continuous, Past Perfect, or Past Perfect Continuous)
1. While I __________ (watch) TV, the phone suddenly __________ (ring).
2. By the time we __________ (arrive) at the party, most of the guests __________ (leave).
3. When I __________ (arrive) home, my family had already __________ (eat) dinner.
4. They __________ (play) football when it __________ (start) raining heavily.
5. By 6 PM, she __________ (finish) her work and __________ (prepare) dinner.
6. Before she __________ (leave) the house, she __________ (check) if she __________ (turn off) the stove.
7. I __________ (wait) for the bus for an hour when it __________ (finally arrive).
8. When the teacher __________ (enter) the classroom, the students __________ (work) quietly.
9. By the time I __________ (realize) my mistake, it __________ (be) too late.
10. They __________ (walk) for hours before they __________ (reach) the summit.
Answer Key (for teachers)
1. was watching / rang
2. arrived / had left
3. arrived / eaten
4. were playing / started
5. had finished / had prepared
6. left / checked / had turned off
7. had been waiting / finally arrived
8. entered / were working
9. realized / was
10. had been walking / reached

Activity 3: Matching Type

Instructions: Match the sentences with the correct form of the verb given in parentheses
1. By the time we arrived, the movie _________ (start).
A) had started
B) was starting
C) started
D) had been starting
2. I __________ (walk) to school when it began to rain.
A) walked
B) was walking
C) had walked
D) had been walking
3.They __________ (live) in Paris for ten years before moving to London.
A) lived
B) were living
C) had lived
D) had been living
4. While she __________ (study), her friends __________ (play) in the garden.
A) studied, played
B) was studying, were playing
C) had studied, had played
D) had been studying, had been playing
5. He __________ (not finish) his homework by the time class started.
A) did not finish
B) was not finishing
C) had not finished
D) had not been finishing
6. They __________ (watch) TV for hours when the power went out.
A) watched
B) were watching
C) had watched
D) had been watching
Answers key (for teachers)
1. A) had started
2. B) was walking
3. C) had lived
4. B) was studying, were playing
5. C) had not finished
6. D) had been watching

Final Thoughts on Teaching Past Tense Verbs to Your Students

Thank you for reaching the last portion of our blogpost. Teaching this topic to your students is important for them to have an understanding of past tense verbs which is a foundation for effective communication and portraying actions or happenings that occurred before now. They are essential in shaping narratives, recounting past events, and expressing completed actions.

Using portals such as EnglishLearningByPro, that deliver readily available and adaptable materials, teachers can customize their pedagogic strategies to match individualized student requirements. Ultimately, the objective is to enable students to grammatically master the use of verbs such as do and does with ease, which in essence bolsters their communication in the English language.

EnglishLearningByPro helps English teachers around the world better serve their students. Our English worksheets (Editable, Fillable, Printable PDFs) are perfect for English students (ESL, ESOL, ELL, and more) and teachers (TESOL, TESL, TEFL, and more). Our English worksheets can be downloaded and used for proficient English learning, giving you or your students the ability to fill them out on a digital device or print them out. If you have an English teaching business, add your listing free to let potential students find you. Thank you for supporting EnglishLearningByPro!

View all of our Verb Worksheets

John Bart
Author: John Bart

I am the co-owner of englishlearningbypro.com, a community built specifically for English teachers around the world trying to make a living teaching English. I have lived in Brazil for four years and had previously taught private English classes for three years. I am passionate about helping others, and making English teaching and learning easier.

Scroll to Top