Grammar: Simple Past & Past Progressive

In this episode from Perfect English Podcast, we will focus on grammar and we will learn how and when to use the simple past and the past progressive. After you listen to the episode, take the quiz to make sure you have understood everything and to consolidate the information you learn here.

Perfect English Episode 49 – Grammar: Simple Past & Past Progressive Audio

Perfect English Episode 49 – Grammar: Simple Past & Past Progressive Quiz

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______ what she just said?

Correct! Wrong!

I am sitting in class right now. I _______ in class at this exact same time yesterday.

Correct! Wrong!

I couldn't come to the meeting because ______ fro an overseas call from my family.

Correct! Wrong!

I got a package in the mail. When I _____ it, I ______ a surprise.

Correct! Wrong!

I don't want to go to the zoo today because it is raining. The same thing happened yesterday. I ______ to go to the zoo because it ______.

Correct! Wrong!

It was beautiful yesterday when we went for a walk in the park. the sun ______.

Correct! Wrong!

I ______ the thunder during the storm last night because I ______.

Correct! Wrong!

My brother and sister ______ about something when I _____ into the room.

Correct! Wrong!

While Mrs. Emerson ______ the little boy a story, he ______ asleep, so she ______ the book and quietly ______ out of the room.

Correct! Wrong!

I ______ Roger at nine last night, but he ______ at home. He _____ at the library.

Correct! Wrong!

Perfect English Episode 49 - Grammar: Simple Past & Past Progressive Quiz
Perfect English Episode 49 - Grammar: Simple Past & Past Progressive Quiz

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Episode Transcript

0:04
Welcome to a new episode from perfect English podcast. Today is all about grammar. And we’re going to focus on the simple past and the past progressive. And we’re going to see the difference between these two tenses. But before we start, remember that you can check your understanding of the things you’re going to learn in this episode by taking a short quiz that I have created for you and left a link for in the description of this episode. So make your learning experience complete by learning new things, and checking what you’ve learned through a short quiz. And now let’s get to it. The episode is all about the simple past and the past progressive. Let’s start with the simple past. We use the simple past to indicate that an activity or a situation began and ended at a particular time in the past. For example, when we say I walked To School yesterday. Now when I say I walked to school yesterday, this is the focus of the action. This is what I’m telling you about. I’m just telling you about yesterday, I am not trying to tell you about what happens every day. I am not trying to tell you what I’m going to do tomorrow. I’m just telling you about what happened yesterday. So that particular time in the past, and I walked to school yesterday, that means the action started in the past and finished in the past. We can say for example, john lived in Paris for 10 years, but now he lives in Rome. So when we say john lived in Paris for 10 years, we use the simple past, even if we don’t continue on and say but now he lives in Rome. When we say that to people, they will understand that john doesn’t live in Paris anymore, because we use the simple past we said john lived in Paris for 10 years. Let’s take another example. I bought a car three days ago. Well this action happened three days ago. And the action of buying the car is over it started it finished in the past. So remember, you use the simple past when you want to talk about an activity and you want people to understand that this activity started in the past and ended in the past and simple past sentences are usually used with when. Now if a sentence contains when and has the simple past in both clauses, the action in the when clause happens first. Now let’s listen to an example and see what that means. JOHN stood under a tree when it began to rain. So here we have two verbs in the past simple. The first one is john stood under a tree. The second one, it began to rain but we use when would the second one we say when it began to rain. So when we have a storm sentence like this we have when we have past simple in both parts. The first part john stood that’s past simple. The second part when it began to rain, the thing we need to know is that when we have this, the part that comes with when happens first, and it happens a lot. When we want to talk about the past simple. We want to mention two things that happened in the past, but we want to make sure that people understand which one happens first. So if you want to do this, use when, and remember the clause you use with when is the one that happened first, let’s see how that works. In another example, when Mrs. Jones heard a strange noise, she got up to investigate. So here we have two parts. Mrs. Jones heard a strange noise. The second one she got up to investigate. So as you can see in this sentence, we started

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with the When clause, but actually it doesn’t matter. You can use the when clause as the first part or the second part, but the meaning is the same. The action that happens first always comes in the when clause. So remember, it’s your choice. It’s not about just seeing something like this in an exam, for example, and understanding it. learning grammar is very important because you’re going to use these tools to express yourself. So it is all about what you want to say. If you want to say that Mrs. Jones heard the strange noise first, then she got up to investigate. So that is the sentence you want when Mrs. Jones heard the strange noise that happened first, she got up to investigate. And do you think the meaning changes if we say Mrs. Jones got up to investigate when she heard a strange noise? Do you think that means that she got up first? No. It is always the action that comes with When whether we start the sentence with when, or we continue our sentence with when the action that comes with when happens first remember that now we’ll have one more example because I really want you to remember this. A lot of people make simple mistakes here. You don’t have to. For example, when I drop my cup, the coffee spilled on my lap. Obviously you can spill the coffee before you drop the cup. So dropping the cup happened first spilling the coffee happened next so I use drop with when when I dropped my cup that happened first what the coffee spilled on my lap. And one more time. Remember that we can switch the clauses we can start with the coffee spilled on my lap when I dropped my cup and the meaning is absolutely the same. You can do that. So remember, it is up to you. It is what you want to say. It is not just grammar. We learn to do something assizes it is grammar we learn to express ourselves better. So that was about the past simple. Now let’s move to the past progressive. I focused a lot on the use of when in the past simple when both parts of the sentence or both clauses are in the past simple because I want you to see the difference when we use when with the past progressive and the past simple. Now, let’s start with this example. I was walking down the street when it began to rain. So here if you think about it, we have two actions. I was walking down the street, the second action, it began to rain. Now what we know in the past simple that the action in the when clause which is when it began to rain happens first that is right if both verbs are in the simple past, but here the situation is different. One verb is in the past continuous or the past progressive. I was walking down the street when it began to rain, so here, we cannot say that it began to rain first, then I started walking down the street. The meaning of the sentence is obvious that both actions happened at the same time. But there is one more thing we need to focus on. That one action happens over some time. It takes time to start and finish and the other action just happens. Now, if we look at the sentence again, we have the action of walking down the street, the second action, it began to rain. Now, what do you think? How long does it take to walk down the street? Well, it takes some time might take five minutes, 10 minutes, two hours, it doesn’t matter. But it is not an action that just happens. It is not like beginning to rain. It begins to rain in an instant. And once it begins, it’s over. We cannot say that this action continues. But the first action in this sentence continues. I was ready walking down the street. Now this action is continuous because this action started earlier and was in progress when the other action happened. So here, I was walking down the street, this action was happening was in progress when the other action which is it began to rain happened. So here when is used differently because we have one action in the past progressive and the other action in the simple past.

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If you’re not so sure that you understand what I just said, Don’t worry because we’re going to explore this concept in more examples. Now let’s take a look at another example. I was watching TV when he called now here we have two actions. We have the first action. I was watching TV. The second action he called when he called so which action Do you think took time Which action was in progress? Was it calling? Does calling take that much of a time, I’m not talking about talking on the phone talking on the phone can take hours, we’re talking about just the action of calling. When you call somebody, it’s an instant. It just happens in a second. That’s all talking on the phone may take hours. That’s up to you. But remember, here he called, which happens in a second, and I was watching TV, which usually takes time, which is usually in progress. Actually, I was watching TV, this action was in progress when another action interrupted or just happened, and that is that he called me so that is what I meant when I said both actions occurred at the same time, but one action began earlier and was in progress when the other action occurred. Well, in this kind of sentence, we can use while instead of when but remember That we use while with the past progressive part of the sentence, not with the simple past. So we can say for example, while I was walking down the street, it began to rain. So you see, the first example I gave you, I was walking down the street when it began to rain we linked when to the simple past part. But if I use while I say, while I was walking down the street, it began to rain. So I put while with the past progressive part. And now we’re going to look at two more examples when we don’t have when or while and actually we don’t have two actions, we have only one action, and this action is in the past progressive. at eight o’clock last night I was studying here. The only action in this sentence is that I was studying now from our understanding of the past progressive. We know that this action began earlier and was in progress when the other action occur. That’s what I said last time. But here we don’t have another action. So what is this thing that is specific in the past at this specific time at eight o’clock last night, so there is a specific time. And the action that is in the past progressive happened around the specific time. It started before this time, obviously, at eight o’clock I was studying means that I started studying a little bit before eight o’clock, maybe hours, who knows, but that doesn’t matter. When it was eight o’clock I was already studying. I started before eight o’clock, and I probably continued after eight o’clock. I didn’t stop so we can use the past progressive when we want to talk about an action that began earlier and was in progress at a specific time in the past, not only when another action occurred, we can use it as well at a specific time in the past. Let’s see Take a look at one last example. Last year, at this time, I was attending school. So you see the specific time in this sentence is last year at this time. And what was the action that was in progress that was happening, I was attending school that is in the past progressive. Now one last thing before we go. And that is the possibility of having to past progressive actions in one sentence, which is the same like when we use when or while the one that we saw at the beginning, but we can use both clauses in the past

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progressive. Now let’s take a look at this example so that you understand it better. While I was studying in one room of our apartment. My roommate was having a party in the other room here. Both actions were in progress. At the same time. I was studying in one room that was happening that was an action that was in progress. Another action was in progress at the same time, and that is my roommate was having a party, it is not like one action just occurred just happen. No, both of them were happening at the same time, both of them were in progress. So remember, this is also possible, you can use it. And remember, again, this is not for you to understand so that you can do some exercises. And that’s it. The tenses are great to learn about because they kind of give you tools to express yourself. So the next time you can think first, what do I want to say? Do I want to talk about an action that I was doing at a specific time in the past? Oh, yeah, I can use the past progressive for that. Think this way about grammar and your grammar will be a lot better. Actually. This way, you’ll use grammar as a weapon in your arsenal instead of a burden you worry about all the time, and you worry that you’re going to make mistakes. Forget about mistakes you think first of what you want to say then choose the right tool for the job. Whether that is the simple past, the past progressive, or any other tenses or other grammatical tools that we’re going to learn about in other episodes. That was all for today’s episode. Thank you very much. Remember, there is a quiz that I created to consolidate your understanding of this episode, so you can follow the link in the episodes description and take the quiz to make sure that you have understood everything we talked about today. That was your host Danny, saying thank you very much for listening. And I will see you next time in other episodes from perfect English podcast.

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