past tense

noun

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 Correa, a free agent, talked about the Astros in the past tense on Tuesday. BostonGlobe.com, 6 Nov. 2021 Its characteristic temporal setting is the almost-past tense, its characteristic register the elegiac. Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, 5 July 2021 Manohla Dargis argued this week for referring to Tony Soprano in the past tense, even though critics usually write about the action of a fictional work in the present. Jo Livingstone, The New Republic, 1 Oct. 2021 During the 16th century, its past tense gave rise to the modern hoist/hoisted. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, 27 Sep. 2021 Even Theater District power-lunchers are skittish about referring to Rudin in the past tense, knowing that everything gets back to him. Benjamin Wallace, Vulture, 4 Aug. 2021 The use of the past tense leaves those close to Chris with lumps in their throats. Los Angeles Times, 6 July 2021 Among them is Richard Luna, who is praying for a miracle but already speaking of his sister in the past tense. Regina Garcia Cano, sun-sentinel.com, 26 June 2021 Among them is Richard Luna, who is praying for a miracle but already speaking of his sister in the past tense. Regina Garcia Cano, orlandosentinel.com, 26 June 2021

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.

See More

First Known Use of past tense

1729, in the meaning defined above

Learn More About past tense

Time Traveler for past tense

Time Traveler

The first known use of past tense was in 1729

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near past tense

past service

past tense

past the hour

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for past tense

Last Updated

14 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Past tense.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/past%20tense. Accessed 27 Nov. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for past tense

past tense

noun

English Language Learners Definition of past tense

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

past tense

noun

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

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about past tense

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!