Intermediate grammar exercise: past perfect vs. past simple

English grammar practice exercise, for pre-intermediate and intermediate level.

In this exercise you will practise the difference between the past simple and past perfect tenses.

Instructions: Put the verb in brackets into either the past simple or past perfect simple.

questions go herescore goes here

Structure of past simple
positive negative question
I / you /
he / she / it /
we / they
arrived.
I / you /
he / she / it /
we / they
didn’t arrive.
Did
I / you / he / she / it /
we / they
arrive?
Past simple – common mistakes
Common mistakes Correct version Why?
I was work in London. I 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.
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?
Past perfect simple – common mistakes
Common mistakes Correct version Why?
I didn't been to London. I 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).

4 Comments

  1. English Ebook » Vocabulary - May 18, 2012, 10:22 am Reply

    […] Past perfect versus past simple […]

  2. Win Sandar Htay - September 30, 2015, 9:02 am Reply

    I would like to take this exam and i want to know that the difference between past simple and past perfect, must and have to, don’t have to and mustn’t. not only these but also i would like to know all about of English grammar structure and how to write the witting essay. Thanks a lot.

  3. Bombo - June 30, 2016, 2:48 pm Reply

    There is a mistake in the fifth example, the correct version is supposed to be: I had gone to Ireland in 2008 and then to Sweden 2009, so he was first in Ireland, right? While the suggested version on the website is: I went to Ireland. . .

    • Stuart Cook - June 30, 2016, 8:20 pm Reply

      The word ‘then’ explains the order of events very clearly in this example, so it’s fine to use past simple + ‘then’ + past simple. The past perfect isn’t necessary.

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