fbpx

Past simple, past perfect and past continuous

Upper-intermediate grammar exercise: past simple vs. past perfect

English grammar practice exercise, upper-intermediate / advanced level.

This exercise focuses on the difference between the past simple and the past perfect.

Past simple – common mistakes
Common mistakes Correct version Why?
I was work in London. worked in London. In positive sentences, a helping verb such as was or did is not used.
He worked in London? Did he work in London? The helping verb did is used in past simple questions.
Worked he in London? Did he work in London? The helping verb did is used in past simple questions.
Did he wrote a letter? Did he write a letter? The main verb is used in the infinitive form in questions and negatives.
He didn’t wrote a letter. He didn’t write a letter. The main verb is used in the infinitive form in questions and negatives.
He writed a letter. He wrote a letter. Some verbs are irregular. Not all verbs end in –ed in the past simple form.
Past perfect simple – common mistakes
Common mistakes Correct version Why?
I didn’t been to London. hadn’t been to London. We use the helping verb had (negative = hadn’t) in the past perfect.
When I saw him, I noticed that he had a haircut. When I saw him I noticed that he had had a haircut. The action (a haircut) happened before the other past action (I noticed). We use the past perfect for the action which happened first to make the time order clear to the listener.
He told me has been to London. He told me he had been to London. His original words were: ”I have been to London.” However, in reported speech we move the tense back – the present perfect (have been) becomes past perfect (had been).

Exercise instructions

Complete the sentences below by putting the verb in brackets into the past simple or past perfect.

1While I was away on holiday, my sister (fall)  ill and I had to come home. 

2By the time we reached Frankfurt I (already/be)  very tired of driving. 

3There was a terrible atmosphere in the room. They (have) an argument just before I came. 

4First she (be)  a teacher, then she became a journalist. 

5I gave my friend directions to my house, but later realised that I (forgot) to give her the exact address. 

6I got to work this morning and was angry when I saw that no one (arrive) yet. 

7He awoke thinking he was in a prison and that he’d been arrested for robbery. He then realised that it (all/be)  just a bad dream. 

8Michael had a black eye. It looked as if he (be)  in a fight. 

ANSWERS

 

Upper-intermediate grammar exercise: past perfect simple vs. past perfect continuous

English grammar practice exercise, upper-intermediate / advanced level.

This exercise focuses on the difference between the past perfect simple and past perfect continuous.

Structure of past perfect simple
positive negative question
I / you / he / she / it / we / they
had gone.
I / you / he / she / it / we / they
hadn’t gone.
Had
I / you / he / she / it / we / they
gone?
Structure of past perfect continuous
positive negative question
I / you / he / she / it / we / they
had been going.
I / you / he / she / it / we / they
hadn’t been going.
Had
I / you / he / she / it / we / they
been going?

 

Exercise instructions

Complete the sentences below by putting the verb in brackets into the past perfect simple or past perfect continuous:

1It was a relief to find the documents. I (look)  for them all afternoon. 

2He was dismissed, even though, in his opinion, he (not/do) anything wrong. 

3It was not the first time I’d met him. We (meet)  many times before. 

4He called me at eleven in the evening to tell me that he (find/finally) a solution. 

5When he (finish)  his speech, he waited for the reaction of the audience. But no one said a word. 

6By the time I came back from my business trip, a lot of things (changed) . 

7The doctor asked me how long I (have)  the symptoms. 

8It was more than a month before we realised what (happen)  to him. 

9We (work/already)  on this project for a month before we found a fundamental flaw. 

10The invoice (not/arrive/still)  by the end of the week so we sent them a strong reminder. 

ANSWERS

Past perfect simple – common mistakes
Common mistakes Correct version Why?
I didn’t been to London. hadn’t been to London. We use the helping verb had (negative = hadn’t) in the past perfect.
When I saw him, I noticed that he had a haircut. When I saw him I noticed that he had had a haircut. The action (a haircut) happened before the other past action (I noticed). We use the past perfect for the action which happened first to make the time order clear to the listener.
He told me has been to London. He told me he had been to London. His original words were: ”I have been to London.” However, in reported speech we move the tense back – the present perfect (have been) becomes past perfect (had been).
Past perfect continuous – common mistakes
Common mistakes Correct version Why?
I had working hard, so I felt very tired.
I had been worked hard, so I felt very tired.
had been working hard, so I felt very tired. The form of the past perfect continuous is had + been + verb (-ing).
I had been hearing the song many times before. had heard the song many times before. Some verbs (called stative verbs) are not normally used in the continuous form, e.g. know, like, understand, believe, hear, etc.