Completed Action in the Past : Use the Simple Past to express the idea that an action started and finished at a specific time in the past. Sometimes the speaker may not actually mention the specific time, but they do have one specific time in mind.
A Series of Completed Actions : We use the Simple Past to list a series of completed actions in the past. These actions happen 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th...
Single Duration : The Simple Past can be used with a duration which starts and stops in the past. A duration is a long action often used with expressions like “for two years,” “for five minutes,” “all day” or “all year.”
Habit in the Past : The Simple Past can also be used to describe a habit which stopped in the past. It can have the same meaning as “used to.” To make it clear that we are talking about a habit we often use expressions such as “always,” “often,” “usually,” “never,” “…when I was a child” or “…when I was younger” in the sentence.
Interrupted Action in the Past: Use the Past Continuous to indicate that a longer action in the past was interrupted. The interruption is usually an action in the Simple Past. Remember this can be a real interruption or just an interruption in time.
Specific Time as an Interruption: In the use described above, the Past Continuous is interrupted by an action in the Simple Past. However, you can also use a specific time as an interruption.
Parallel Actions: When you use the Past Continuous with two actions in the same sentence, it expresses the idea that both actions were happening at the same time. The actions are parallel.
Atmosphere: In English we often use a series of Parallel Actions to describe atmosphere in the past.
Repetition and Irritation with “Always”: The Past Continuous with words such as always or constantly expresses the idea that something irritating or shocking often happened in the past. The concept is very similar to the expression used to but with negative emotion. Remember to put the words always or constantly between “be” and “verb + ing.”
Completed Action Before Something in Past: The Past Perfect expresses the idea that something occurred before another action in the past. It can also show that something happened before a specific time in the past.
Duration Before Something in the Past (Non-continuous Verbs): With Non-progressive Verbs and some non-progressive uses of Mixed Verbs, we use the Past Perfect to show that something started in the past and continued up until another action in the past.
Unlike the Present Perfect, it is possible to use specific time words or phrases with the Past Perfect. Although this is possible, it is usually not necessary.
If the Past Perfect action did occur at a specific time, the Simple Past can be used instead of the Past Perfect when before or after is used in the sentence. The words before and after actually tell you what happens first so the Past Perfect is optional. However, if the Past Perfect action did not happen at a specific time, Past Perfect MUST be used at all times.
Read the following and determine whether you should use the simple past, the past continuous, or the past perfect. Add the appropriate form of the "be" verb where necessary. Solutions tomorrow.
It ________________________ (happen) so quickly, so unexpectedly, that Little Jon’s cry ________________________ (cut, almost, instantly) short as the blackness ________________________ (close) over him. No one ________________________ (know) the hole was there. It ________________________ (be, not) there the day before, and in the twilight no one ________________________ (notice) it.
At the moment it ________________________ (happen), the first shooting stars ________________________ (cross) the sky – they ________________________ (begin) to stream across like strings of jewels ________________________ (fling) from another planet – and everyone ________________________ (watch) them. The smaller children ________________________ (exclaim) in delight, while the older one s ________________________ (stand) silent and enthralled. Here on the hill, where the valley people often ________________________ (come) to watch the glittering night unfold, you could see the whole magic sweep around you, and you ________________________ (feel) close to everything in the heavens. Other people, you ________________________ (know), ________________________ (stand) on other hills on other worlds, ________________________ (watch) even as you ________________________ (watch).
Little Jon, whose eyes ________________________ (be) quicker than most, should have seen the hole, but all his attention ________________________ (be) on the stars. Small for his age, he ________________________ (move) away from the rest for a better view, and as he ________________________ (step) backward, there ________________________ (be) suddenly nothing under his feet.
It ________________________ (astonish) at that moment to find himself falling swiftly into the hill at a spot where he ________________________ (walk) safely all his life. But in the brief seconds before the blackness ________________________ (swallow) him, he ________________________ (realize) what must have happened: there ________________________ (be) a cave-in over the old Door – the Door that ________________________ (lead) to another place, the one that ________________________ (close) so long.
He ________________________ (cry) out and tried to break his fall in the way he ________________________ (teach), but the effort ________________________ (come) an instant too late. His head ________________________ (strike) something, and darkness ________________________ (swirl) over him.
Long later, when Little Jon ________________________ (be) able to sit up, he ________________________ (have) no idea where he ________________________ (be) or what ________________________ (happen). Memory ________________________ (flee), and he ________________________ (ache) all over. He would have been shivering with cold, but his thick jacket and trousers and heavy, woven boots ________________________ (keep) him warm.
He ________________________ (seem) to be in a narrow cleft of broken rock. There ________________________ (be) mossy stones around him, and just ahead he ________________________ (can make) out a bed of ferns where water ________________________ (trickle) from a spring. He ________________________ (daze, still, too) to be frightened, but now he ________________________ (realize) he ________________________ (be) thirsty, terribly so. He ________________________ (crawl) painfully forward and ________________________ (lie) with his face in the water while he ________________________ (drink).
--from "The Forgotten Door" by Alexander Key