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Narrative tenses in the Past.

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  • Gandalf
    Participant
    7 November, 2008 at 15:33
    • Total posts: 1

    I need some clarification on narrative past tenses:

    Past simple – this is used for completed actions in the past.

    Past continuous – this is used for actions in progress at a specific point in the past.

    Past perfect – past of the past.

    This sentence is confusing me:

    I ran for the train but it had already left.

    Why do we use "ran" and not "I was running for the train" – or are both possible as realisitcally the train would have only left as the action of running was in progress.

    Is there a grammar rule that we do not mix past continuous with past perfect????

    dan
    Moderator
    11 December, 2008 at 16:33
    • Total posts: 770

    Reply To: Narrative tenses in the Past.

    I ran for the train but it had already left.

    In this sentence the train left before you ran for it. An example situation could be:

    You arrive at the station and see that your train is due to leave at 10.55. So you have a coffee, relax… then look at your watch and it’s 10.56!! So you run as fast as you can just in case the train is late, but when you arrive at the platform you find that it has left.

    I was running for the train but it had already left.

    This in fact has the same meaning as the sentence above. We would most likely use this in the context of telling a story, perhaps in response to a question. For example:

    – "What was going on earlier? I saw you dashing through the station in a panic!"

    – "Well I was running for my train, but unfortunately it had already left".

    If you wanted to specify that the train left while the action of running was in progress, you could use something like:

    "The train left while I was running for it".

    Hope that helps,

    Dan

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