[Grammar] past perfect, past perfect continuous, past continuous..

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Feb 28, 2010
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Hi every one!

I am teaching English to upper-intermediate students, and they really have problems about the use of past perfect, past perfect continuous and past continuous. In fact, I especially find it difficult to explain the differences of these three tenses. Do you have any suggestions, or are there any methods you use? I can also make use of some good-clear examples, putting forward the differences..

Hi tschansey,

Here are some examples from Murphy´s grammar book. I hope you find them useful. :)

Past continuous:
Yesterday Karen and Jim played tennis. They began at 10 o´clock and finished at 11.30.
So, at 10.30 they were playing tennis.
They were playing = “they were in the middle of playing”. They had not finished playing.

The past continuous is used to say thay somebody was in the middle of doing something at a certain time. The action or situation had already started before this time but had not finished.

Past continuous (in the middle of an action)
I was walking home when I met Dave. (= in the middle of walking home)

Past simple (complete action)
I walked home after the party last night. (= all the way, completely)

Past perfect:
Sarah went to a party last week. Paul went to a party too but they didn´t see each other. Paul went home at 10.30 and Sarah arrived at 11 o´clock. So:
When Sarah arrived at the party, Paul wasn´t there. He had gone home.

Sometimes we talk about something that happened in the past:
Sarah arrived at the party.
This is the starting point of the story. Then, if we want to talk about things that happened before this time, we use the past perfect.
When Sarah arrived at the party, Paul had already gone home.

Past perfect continuous:
Yesterday morning I got up and looked out of the window. The sun was shinning but the ground was very wet.
It had been raining.
It was not raining when I looked out of the window; the sun was shinning. But it had been raining before. That´s why the ground was wet.

You can say that something had been happening for a period of time before something else happened:

Our game of tennis was interrupted. We had been playing for about half an hour when it started to rain very heavily.

Ken gave up smoking two years ago. He´d been smoking for 30 years.

Ann was sitting in an armchair watching television. She was tired because she had been working very hard.
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