This blog is managed by Song Hock Chye, author of Improve Your Thinking Skills in Maths (P1-P3 series), which is published and distributed by EPH.

## Friday, November 09, 2007

### The Use of the Past Tense

Dear Students,

Writing well is important. For English, examiners give marks based on what you write in your exam paper. If you cannot write, you cannot score. Simple as that. Therefore, learn your tenses well! Good luck!

Most essays are required to be written in the Past Tense. As such, it is important to know how to use the Past Tense appropriately. In the English Language, there are six different tenses that can be used when we write about the past. They are:

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Simple Past
Past Progressive
Simple Present Perfect
Present Perfect Progressive
Simple Past Perfect
Past Perfect Progressive
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In Primary school, the two most important Past Tenses are the Simple Past and Progressive Past.

- Simple Past - This form is used when we talk about past event(s) that happened quickly or over a long period.

Example of past event that happened quickly
“Last night I saw the eclipse of the moon.”

Example of past event that happened over a long period
“I spent my whole childhood Singapore.”

- Progressive Past – This form is used when you want to say something that happened around a particular time.

Examples –
“What were you doing at nine o’clock last night?”
“I was watching the news on TV.”

Combining Simple Past and Progressive Past in one sentence
- can you spot the difference?

Example 1 - As I was walking to school, it started to rain.
Example 2 - While it was raining, I walked to school.

Question – Which happened first? Did it rain first, or did I start walking first?

Example 1 - As I was walking to school, it started to rain.

Example 2 - While it was raining, I walked to school.

In Example 1, I walked before it started to rain.

In Example 2, it rained before I started to walk.

The action that happens first is in the Progressive Past, while the second action that interrupts the first action, is in the Simple Past.

A student who is able to include both the Simple Past and Past Progressive in one sentence, increases his/her chances of a higher score in his/her Composition, compared to another student, who writes with just one tense per sentence. Below is an illustration how you can enhance your essay writing.

The police officer and the robber struggled. Suddenly a shot rang out.

Try this…..
While both the police officer and the robber were struggling furiously, a shot rang out.

We walked down the hall. Suddenly we heard an ear-piercing scream.

Try this....
We were walking nervously down the hall when suddenly, we heard an ear-piercing scream.