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Working with Language

1. Look at these sentences from the story.
I spotted it in a junk shop in Bridport... The man said it was made in the early nineteenth century… This one was in bad condition…
The italicised verbs are in the past tense. They tell us what happened in the past, before now.
(i) Read the passage below and underline the verbs in the past tense.
A man got on the train and sat down. The compartment was empty except for one lady. She took her gloves off. A few hours later the police arrested the man. They held him for 24 hours and then freed him.
(ii) Now look at these sentences.
The veneer had lifted almost everywhere. Both fire and water had taken their toll on this desk.
Notice the verb forms had lifted, had taken (their toll).
The author found and bought the desk in the past.
The desk was damaged before the author found it and bought it.
Fire and water had damaged the desk before the author found it and bought it.
We use verb forms like had damaged for an event in the ‘earlier past’. If there are two events in the past, we use the ‘had…’ form for the event that occurred first in the past.
We also use the past perfect tense to show that something was wished for, or expected before a particular time in the past. For example, I had always wanted one…
Discuss with your partner the difference in meaning in the sentences below. When I reached the station, the train left. When I reached the station, the train had left.

When I reached the station, the train left.

When I reached the station, the train had left

Answer
(i) A man got on the train and sat down. The compartment was empty except for one lady. She took her gloves off. A few hours later the police arrested the man. They held him for 24 hours and then freed him.

(ii) In the first sentence: The train left when I reached the station [I saw it leaving]. Whereas in the second sentence:
The train had already left before I reached the station [I didn't see it was leaving].