past tense


: a verb tense expressing action or state in or as if in the past:
: a verb tense expressive of elapsed time (such as wrote in "on arriving I wrote a letter")
: 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")

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The sheriff's statement addressed his status with the university in past tense. Dennis Romero, NBC News, 16 Jan. 2023 According to BookTok, that sentence should be in past tense. Sonja Sharpstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 28 Dec. 2022 But the past tense of que sera sera is what used to be used to be, and growing up is getting to know it, accepting that lives move on. Los Angeles Times, 25 Jan. 2023 As a search and rescue team took over, Carole was dismayed to hear her dear friends being referred to in past tense through television coverage and even called ABC News to voice her displeasure. Tierney Mcafee, Peoplemag, 17 Nov. 2022 Peter Van Sant: Why would a man who was claiming his wife had walked away, have to remind himself to not speak about her in the past tense? Peter Van Sant, CBS News, 10 Dec. 2022 Referring to her in the past tense is still too painful to bare. Michael Mayo,, 14 Feb. 2019 Note the past tense here; Charlie's death burst the fantasy of their happy family. Sara Netzley,, 24 Oct. 2022 Don’t mean to overreact here, spilling into eulogy mode, writing in the past tense. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 9 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

First Known Use

1729, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of past tense was in 1729

Dictionary Entries Near past tense

Cite this Entry

“Past tense.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition

past tense

: a verb tense expressing action or state in the past

More from Merriam-Webster on past tense

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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