past tense


Definition of past tense

: a verb tense expressing action or state in or as if in the past:
a : a verb tense expressive of elapsed time (such as wrote in "on arriving I wrote a letter")
b : a verb tense expressing action or state in progress or continuance or habitually done or customarily occurring at a past time (such as was writing in "I was writing while he dictated" or loved in "their sons loved fishing")

Examples of past tense in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

According to Marca, Ramos at first dismissed his teammate's apparent use of the past tense but appealed to the Portuguese star to explain the meaning behind his comments., "Sergio Ramos Issues Response After Cristiano Ronaldo's Cryptic Comments About His Future," 27 May 2018 But that version of Macerata seemed more in the past tense. Jason Horowitz, New York Times, "This Italian Town Once Welcomed Migrants. Now, It’s a Symbol for Right-Wing Politics," 7 July 2018 Image But his confidence is not widely shared, and, indeed, many in the political world have already begun to refer to his candidacy in the past tense. New York Times, "‘Ruthless’ Mexican Candidate Goes Far. But Maybe Only So Far.," 14 June 2018 To quote Ford’s old friend Arnold, who also committed suicide by Dolores: Never mind the fact that Anthony Hopkins himself has used the past tense when talking about his work on the show. Joanna Robinson, HWD, "Westworld: Eight Lingering Questions from Season 1," 20 Apr. 2018 Myriad other conservatives spoke of Williamson in the past tense, as though he himself had been murdered or imprisoned or exiled, rather than simply denied a job. Danielle Tcholakian, Longreads, "The Myth of Kevin Williamson," 7 Apr. 2018 But the digital photo age passed Kodak by, and today, the Rochester, N.Y., company exists mostly in the past tense. Kevin Roose, New York Times, "Kodak’s Dubious Cryptocurrency Gamble," 30 Jan. 2018 Shrove is the past tense of shrive, which means to gain absolution of sins by confession and repentance. Greg Garrison,, "It's Shrove Tuesday: What is 'Shrove'? Why eat pancakes?," 13 Feb. 2018 While many people worldwide sense their favorite places are changing, residents of Utqiaġvik use the past tense. Ned Rozell, Anchorage Daily News, "Utqiaġvik, where the climate has already changed," 27 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'past tense.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of past tense

1729, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for past tense

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Time Traveler for past tense

The first known use of past tense was in 1729

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More Definitions for past tense

past tense


English Language Learners Definition of past tense

grammar : a verb tense that is used to refer to the past

past tense


Kids Definition of past tense

: a verb tense used to express an action or state having already taken place or existed The past tense of the verb “run” is “ran.”

More from Merriam-Webster on past tense

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with past tense Encyclopedia article about past tense

Comments on past tense

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