of the main reason for using the past simple, past progressive,
past perfect, present perfect, etc, and then try to
use them consistently, Zeinal. Here are some examples and some guidance
notes to help you.
take a look at three short sample letters, Krasimir, and see how
tenses are used in these letters.
the first letter, a student is writing to her friend, Cynthia, about
her first few weeks at university as a 'fresher' or new student.
Freshers are students who have just started their first year at
university or college.
how she uses the present perfect (I've made loads of friends)
and present perfect continuous (I've been working quite hard)
to relate past actions to the present. She uses the simple past
to refer to an action completed in the past (I met him at
the freshers' ball.):
only been here a month, but I've made loads of friends
already. I've met a boy called Charlie, who wants me to
go out with him, but I haven't decided yet whether I will.
I met him at the freshers' ball during the first week
of term and we've been bumping into each other ever since.
been working quite hard too. I've already written my first
essay but my tutor hasn't marked it yet. I'm pretty tired
today because I've been preparing for a seminar on Spanish
linguistics. I worked on it from seven o' clock till midnight
must come and see me. There's so much to tell you. So much
has happened! How about the weekend after next? Text me.
this second letter, Julie is writing to her older sister about a
week-end trip to Dublin which is now over. Note how she uses the
past perfect to make clear how one action was completed before another
action began (we found that our rooms hadn't been prepared).
Note how she uses the past continuous to describe a longer activity
in progress (my head was spinning; we went to bed as the
sun was rising):
got here at six thirty on Saturday morning. The coach and
ferry journey from Manchester had taken eighteen hours so
we were pretty tired. Then when we arrived at our accommodation
in the suburbs, we found that our rooms hadn't been prepared
so we had to wait for another hour until they were ready.
Saturday evening, we went on a tour of central Dublin. I had
never been in an Irish pub before and by midnight my head
was spinning. So from midnight to four a.m. I drank just
mineral water. Then, at five in the morning, just as the dawn
was breaking, we went for a ride round the historic parts
of Dublin in a horse-drawn carriage. We went to bed
at six o' clock, just as the sun was rising.
this final letter, Julie is writing home from her gap-year base
in Mexico City. A gap year is the year taken off by students between
school and university. Note how all these past tenses which we have
talked about are combined in this letter:
I arrived here in mid-February, the heat has been getting
worse and worse. Now the days are all hot and sticky and it
pours with rain every afternoon or evening.
weekend Paco and I took the coach to Palenque on the edge
of the jungle so that we could visit the Mayan ruins in the
early morning to avoid the worst of the heat. You'll never
guess who we met as we were climbing down. Two of the Back
Street Boys! They were climbing up in the hottest part of
the day and I have never seen people who were sweating so
much. That night we slept in hammocks in the jungle and had
the best sleep we have ever had. But the howler monkeys woke
us up at dawn with their loud screaming and I thought they
were going to attack us. They didn't!
of love from your favourite niece - you are my favourite aunt!