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Grammar Spot: narrative tenses

When you’re telling a story or describing a past event it’s essential to be able to use different past tenses: past simple, past continuous, past perfect

We call these narrative tenses. First of all you need to know how to form the tenses and when to use them. Let’s start with the past perfect tense.

                                          How do we form it?     

HAD + PAST PARTICIPLE       HAD WORKED (regular verb)      HAD BOUGHT (irregular verb)

                                          When do we use it?   

              When one action in the past occurred BEFORE another action in the past

For example;            I had paid for the dress before I left the shop.

Read the following story and decide if the missing verbs should be past simple or past perfect.

It was my first time abroad and my first holiday without my parents. I was 17 years old and 1. __________ (decide) to go to the Greek island of Crete with my best friend. When we 2. __________ (arrive) we were a bit disappointed as the hotel was very basic and it wasn’t near the beach as we 3. __________ (expect). But the weather was fantastic, very hot and sunny, and the hotel had a great pool so we 4. __________ (spend) most of the time sunbathing and swimming. We also 5. __________ (book) to go on some excursions including a boat trip around the island and a bar-b-q on the beach. We were really looking forward to it because we were starting to get bored of being at the hotel all the time. But then disaster struck! On the day of the trip I 6. __________ (wake up) with terrible stomach pains and feeling very sick. We had been told not to drink the water but I had been having lots of drinks with ice and I think the water from the ice 7. __________ (give) me some kind of food poisoning. There was no way I could go on the excursion so my friend 8. __________ (go) without me and had a great time! I was really fed up so although the hotel doctor 9. __________ (tell) me to stay in bed I 10. __________ (go) down to the pool to sunbathe. But to make matters worse I 11. __________ (fall asleep) in the sun and woke up two hours later with not only a sore stomach but terrible sunburn too!!! If only I 12. __________ (listen) to the doctor!!

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How did you get on? Here are the answers!

1. had decided
2. arrived
3. had expected
4. spent
5. booked
6. woke up
7. had given
8. went
9. had told
10. went
11. fell asleep
12. had listened

But do you know why numbers 1,3,7,9 and 12 are in the past perfect?

By Jenny Bedwell on 2011 10 18

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