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")

Examples of past tense in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web After forcing himself to use past tense to refer to Ducky, Palmer grabs his detailed case journals so the team can go through them looking for Zawadski’s entry. Sara Netzley,, 20 Feb. 2024 Spoke—either a past tense of speak or a part of a wheel—slashed that number to just two. Erik Kain, Forbes, 27 Nov. 2023 Even some of Newsom’s usual allies found this pandering ham-fisted, and more than a little insulting to Feinstein, just short of talking about her in past tense. The Editors, National Review, 5 Oct. 2023 Stories can be told in the present tense, and then reviewed using past tense forms. Los Angeles Times, 14 Sep. 2023 Seen through the players in this storied program who performed so unevenly that American dominance in this game should now be spoken of in past tense terms. Candace Buckner, Anchorage Daily News, 6 Aug. 2023 Perhaps to match the more wistful, strings-heavy instrumentation, some of the lyrics in the romantic song were also changed to past tense. Vulture, 23 June 2023 Dive Deeper: The Energy Department Now Blames a Chinese Lab Leak for COVID-19 3 CERN Helped End the World Yes, as in, past tense. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, 27 Mar. 2023 Silicon Valley Bank is now past tense, but the crisis kicked off by its collapse is not. Lila MacLellan, Fortune, 21 Mar. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'past tense.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 21 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

past tense

: a verb tense expressing action or state in the past

More from Merriam-Webster on past tense

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