Grammar 06a: Verb Tense 2


Past Tenses


Simple Past 

The simple past tense depicts an event that happened at a definite or known (though not necessarily explicitly indicated) point in the past.  


I saw a Baltimore Oriole bird in the park last week.

My dog dug a hole in my neighbor’s yard, and his little son fell into it.


The kids in the neighborhood hit a baseball through my car’s rear window, though I don’t think they meant any harm. 


My cousin Marissa gave a jazz concert at Club Nouveaux last weekend—it was fantastic!


The American Civil War was a catastrophe for a lot of ordinary civilians, both in the North and South. 


The other day, it rained.


On my way to work this morning, I spilled hot coffee all over myself; it made my morning meetings with my staff very uncomfortable.  


I dreamed I was a baseball player last night.


Andre got his bachelor’s degree in 2009. 





Past Perfect 


This past tense depicts an event that took place in relation to another event.  This is formed with the word “had” and the simple past tense of the verb. 


I had walked six miles with the gas can in my hand before the state trooper picked me up and offered me a ride to a gas station.


We had discussed The Birth of a Nation in class, so I rented it. 


By the time we’d arrived at the party, Clark and his three friends had eaten all of the guacamole.


I had dreamed of what it would be like to be a dad many times, but I still wasn’t prepared for it. 


I hadn’t done the reading when the professor handed out the quiz for the day. 


Maria had written to me before we got to Rome, so I knew what to expect.  


By midway through the first season of Lost, I was, well, lost.  


I was hoping to meet Kenny’s aunts and uncles at the reunion, but they had gone home before we got there.  



Exercise: Identifying Past Tenses


Identify the type of past tense—simple past or past perfect—used in each of the following sentences.


  1. John’s cousin Mirabelle lived in Houston for a long time. Past Tense  ________________
  2. The offensive poster had been removed by the time we got to the hall. Past Tense ________________
  3. My Honda broke down. Past Tense  ________________
  4. Corinne’s mechanic had said it was impossible to fix her car with the parts he had on hand. Past Tense  ________________
  5. The leaves had turned in the valley, so we got to see them. Past Tense ________________
  6. The movie had been rated NC-17, so my little brother was not allowed to go with us. Past Tense ________________
  7. I dropped a quart of milk on the kitchen floor yesterday. Past Tense  ________________
  8. There was broken glass in the parking lot last night. Past Tense  ________________
  9. I had dropped a quart of milk on the floor when my daughter ran into the kitchen. Past Tense ________________
  10. Robert complained about the lack of support for teachers in the meeting this morning. Past Tense  ________________ 




Exercise: Past Tenses


In the sentences below, correct the incorrect uses of the past tenses.  Look carefully at the sentence to determine which tense, the past or past perfect, the writer intends. 


  1. Garvey’s comments had riled up the audience last night.

  2. Doctor Winningham traveled to Jamaica by the time his daughter was born.

  3. Joseph change his mind after he saw how committed the activists were.

  4. In the middle of the match, the boxer’s trainer throw in the towel and ended the fight.

  5. When LouAnne finished making her bed, her daughter had got up.

  6. Mark and Zachary were suppose to change out the scuba tanks last night, but they did not get to it.

  7. Anna regret not making cookies when her entire family surprised her on her birthday last year.

  8. When the campus security guards arrived the people who were fighting left the party.

  9. Amy walk home after the party, and her feet were sore afterwards.

  10. Edward’s temper got him in trouble before, and the principal knew it.



Proofreading and the Past Tense


Many student errors in tense are the result of inadequate proofreading.  In some cases, students miss correcting errors in their tense usage—most times leaving off the “-ed” ending—because the sound of that ending is minimized in the spoken forms of some particular verbs. 


Hearing the “-ed” sound in verbs with an “-ge” ending or an “se” ending is particularly challenging:  here are some examples:


“-ge” Verbs

“-aze” Verbs

“-ose” Verbs

“-use” Verbs




























Exercise: Correcting Errors in Past Tense


In the passage below, identify and correct the errors in indicating past tense.  There are 21 total errors in the passage.   Assume that the writer intended to use some version of the past tense throughout. 


Last week, my brother invite me to be his guest at a special event—the Academy Awards.  Jacob is an independent filmmaker, and one of his short movies had nominated for “Best Short Subject Documentary.”   When I first seen an early cut of the film, which focus on a group of Marines returning home from Afghanistan, I was not too impress, but I want to support my brother.   I offer him some criticism, and he is a little upset about it.   A couple days later, I get a call from him, asking if I could come over and see a new edit of the movie.  I say of course, and went over to his studio.  The new cut much better; the scenes flow better, and the viewer get a much better sense of the really compelling story my brother was trying to tell.   Over the next six months, my brother take his film to several film festivals all around the country, and the response is pretty positive.  He even was suppose to make a bit of money from a small distribution deal.   I don’t hear anything else about the movie for a couple of months, but then two weeks ago, I answer the phone, and it’s my brother:  his movie was nominate for an Oscar, and he want me to go with him to the Awards for good luck, as I gave him such honest feedback on the first version. 





Future Tenses


The future tenses in English indicate that a verb’s action will take place at some point in time that has yet to occur. 


Future Tense


This is the “simple” future tense.  This indicates that the actor or subject of the sentence will do something at a definite or indefinite point in the future.  


Tomorrow, I will buy some plums at the farmer’s market and cook them with pork chops for dinner.


The museum will open at eleven o’clock due to a power problem on its second level.


The Shins will release their fourth album on March 22nd


Jason and Lilly will get married.  


The economy will eventually recover from the recession of 2007 and the financial crisis of 2008.


Even if they never admit it, political analysts will make mistakes in predicting the outcome of elections.  


Emitting carbon into the atmosphere will have an adverse effect on the planet’s health.





Future Perfect Tense


A slightly more complicated use of the future tense is the future perfect tense, which designates that an action will have been completed by a definite point in the future.  Like all the perfect tenses, this tense depends on the use of “have” as a helping verb. 


By the time John completes work on my car, I will have missed my meeting. 


I will have earned my master’s degree by my thirtieth birthday. 


The team will not have eaten prior to the game.


We will get to the party at 10 p.m.; most of the guests will have arrived by then. 


In ten years, you will have forgotten me and all the good times we are having now.


After we get back to the house after our late dinner party, our daughters will have gone to bed.


Will the company have received our documents by the time our deposition is scheduled?  




Exercise: Identifying Future Tenses


In the sentences below, identify the type of future tense used.  


  1. I will travel to New Brunswick on the twelfth of this month and to Vancouver on the thirtieth.
    Type of Future Tense ______________
  2. John will have left the party by eleven, so we might not see him if we’re late.
    Type of Future Tense ______________
  3. Tamara will graduate with her law degree in 2013; we’re very proud of her.
    Type of Future Tense______________
  4. The team will not have played a game on the road by the time their away uniforms are complete. Type of Future Tense______________
  5. Kobe Bryant will not score 40 points against the Heat on Wednesday night; their defense will contain him. Type of Future Tense ______________
  6. The university will have invested millions in the computer infrastructure project at the time of its completion in 2017. Type of Future Tense ______________
  7. Kathleen and Lulu will have seen the movie by Wednesday, so we should choose another.
    Type of Future Tense______________
  8. I will see you on Tuesday, provided my car is running.
    Type of Future Tense ______________
  9. I will not have had time to complete my homework by then.
    Type of Future Tense ______________
  10. Markus, Vlad, Tim, Bryan, and Alex, if they are not tied down by their own work schedules and family commitments, will attend the gala. Type of Future Tense ______________




Exercise: Correcting Uses of the Future Tense


In the passage below, identify and correct any incorrect uses of the future tenses.  



Anatoly Karensky’s film Slow Burn is a masterpiece of comic timing and dramatic tension.   It is clear to this reviewer that the film will be view as a classic for many years to come.  It will thrills audiences and critics alike as long as there are prints of it available.  Given the ever-increasing pervasiveness of electronic media in our country, it will have been a shock if the film ever becomes unavailable.   When a first-time viewer leaves the theatre the first time after seeing this wonderful movie, she will have been thrill by the top-rate performances by George Clooney, Don Cheadle, and Anne Hathaway; she will have been enthralled by the pitch-perfect dialogue by screenwriter Katherine Irena; she will have mesmerized by the almost hypnotic photography by cinematographer Juliet Brown.  In short, this film will be remember as a modern classic, now and always.