Rules for writing in the past tense

Written by danny waldo
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Rules for writing in the past tense
Past tense enables a writer to share about an experience that has already happened. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Past tense is one of the three verb tenses used in writing. Along with past tense there is also present tense and future tense. Past tense is the most common verb tense used in writing because it is the most natural feeling. When you share an experience or tell about an event that already happened you are doing so using the past tense. There are four common verb modes authors use when writing in past tense: past tense, past progressive, past perfect and past perfect progressive.

Past Tense

Past tense writing is commonly identified by the ending "ed" added to verbs. All verbs that are regular end in "ed" when writing in past tense. Examples of regular verbs are walk, shout or carry. Regular verbs ending in "y" typically drop the "y" and add "i" before adding "ed." Irregular verbs do not add "ed," but change form to show past tense. Examples of irregular verbs are draw, fly or shoot.

Past Progressive

Past progressive writing adds "ing" to the end of verbs which are preceded by the helping verb "was" or "were." For example, "I was running for my life after I threw the snowball," is past progressive thanks to the "ing" on run, which is preceded by "was." Past progressive writing is used to describe an event taking place as an action in the past happened. Using the above example, the event taking place is running and the event that happened in the past is the throwing of the snowball.

Past Perfect

Past perfect writing occurs when an author adds the suffix " ed" to a verb that has been preceded by the helping verb "had." For example, "He had walked ten miles by the time they found him." "Had walked," would be the past perfect verb tense. Past perfect verb tense is used to describe events that occurred prior to the current moment of the story, such as in flashbacks. Past perfect writing is less common than past progressive or past tense writing, unless the author spends a great deal of time describing flashbacks or discussing prior events.

Past Perfect Progressive

Past perfect progressive writing is used when describing an event that is occurring as an action in the past happened prior to the current moment of time in a story. Again, think flashbacks. For example, "The sun had been setting, as Johnny ran for shelter from yesterday's terrible storm." Past perfect progressive verbs are written by adding the suffix "ing" and preceding the verb with "had been."

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