Grammar Toolbox: Past and perfect tense

The past tense and the perfect tense are used almost always in the same way in English as in Norwegian. Let us therefore simply look at how they are formed: Most verbs in English form their past and perfect tenses by adding -ed at the end. These are called regular verbs.

Examples:

  • I like to walk. (infinitive)
  • I walked to school yesterday. (past)
  • I have walked to school every day this year. (perfect)

Some of the most common verbs form their past and perfect tense in other ways. These are called irregular verbs. Three very important ones are be, have and do:

Infinitive              Past                     Perfect

be                       was/were             have/has been

have                    had                     have/has had

do                        did                      have/has done

Most dictionaries have lists showing how irregular verbs are conjugated.

 

The past perfect

Look at this short text:

The little boy searched everywhere for his favourite toy. He didn’t know that somebody had stolen it.

As you have probably figured out, the stealing happened before the searching. The verb form had stolen is called ‘past perfect’. We use it just like in Norwegian: ‘hadde stjålet’.