Lesson Summary 

Let's test your PAST TENSES! This grammar quiz will help you to practise Narrative Tenses – you'll use ALL the past tenses in English! This is your grammar practice with Past Simple, Past Continuous, Past Perfect, Past Perfect Continuous

Practising these grammar skills will help you to talk about past events and tell better stories in English!

Are you ready to test your knowledge of PAST tenses with me?

Study & Practice Using Narrative Tenses in these lessons:
Past Perfect Continuous & Past Continuous: https://youtu.be/S70AtMUUAns
Past Perfect Simple & Past Perfect Continuous: https://youtu.be/Ey0JqLSfCdA
Narrative Tenses Speaking Practice: https://youtu.be/IqJlqzEfyKo

CLICK HERE to read the full lesson transcript.

Extra Quiz Notes!

When it comes to choosing the correct English Tense to use, there isn’t always one correct answer. 

Often the tense we choose to express an action reflects a perspective or point of view. Did the action go on for a long time? Were two actions in progress at the same? Is there a series of actions that we need to put in chronological order? Or do we simply want to say that an action took place in the past? These are all aspects of the past that can be expressed with narrative tenses.

This is a particularly tricky aspect of learning English because there are so many tenses to choose from and the ways they are used can be very very subtle and nuanced. 

We gave this quiz to a couple of people on the mmmEnglish team and the answers were definitely NOT always the same!  

So let’s see how the answers differed.

The sentences in the quiz join together to make a short story. In the first 5 sentences, the past continuous has been used to set the scene for the story. And the past simple expresses shorter ‘interrupting’ actions. 

  1. When I left the house this morning it was raining.
  2. It was pouring with rain and the streets were flooded with water.
  3. I was listening to my favourite podcas
  4. and I was paying close attention to my feet,
  5. as I didn’t want to slip in the rain. 

However, if you look at each of the sentences as a standalone action and not as a connected story. It would also be possible to express all 5 sentences as completed actions in the past simple. 

  1. When I left the house this morning it was raining.
  2. It poured with rain and the streets were flooded with water.
  3. I listened to my favourite podcas
  4. and I paid close attention to my feet,
  5. as I didn’t want to slip in the rain. 


Another reason for answering these questions with the past simple is that in storytelling, the past simple can be used to list a series of actions that happen one after the other.

In Question 8 there are four different ways to view this action! That’s right, four! That means technically anyone of the narrative tenses could be used to complete that sentence. So let’s take a look at how each tense changes the intention of the action.

One woman said she waited for over an hour! 
Past simple: completed action

One woman said she had waited for over an hour!
Past perfect: the action is complete, but it is viewed in the context of a second action which took place after this one for example “She had waited for over an hour when the tram finally arrived.”

One woman said she had been waiting for over an hour!
Past perfect continuous: the action is incomplete so the woman was still waiting when a second action occurred OR the action is completed and duration of the action is emphasized.

One woman said she was waiting for over an hour!
Past continuous: the action was in progress at a particular time in the past OR sometimes past continuous is used instead of past perfect continuous especially in informal spoken English.

We use the past simple in English as a general tense to express completed past actions. That means that when we simply want to mention that an action took place we can use the past simple instead of the past continuous, the past perfect and the past perfect continuous. 

Question 11:

It had been raining all morning so the streets were very wet.
Past perfect continuous: emphasise the duration of the action

It rained all morning and the streets were very wet.
Simple past: completed action in the past


Question 15:

A nurse, who had witnessed the accident, was helping the injured people.
Past continuous: an incomplete action in progress at a particular moment in the past

A nurse, who had witnessed the accident, helped the injured people.
Simple past: completed action in the past

Question 16: 

The evening news from the day before had warned of storms and wild weather
Past perfect: completed action took place before a second past action (first, the news warned of storms and then the next day an accident happened)

The evening news from the day before warned of storms and wild weather
Simple past: completed action in the past


So next time you write a sentence in the past simple, stop for a minute and think about what you really want to express. Can you use a different past tense to give more information about the state of that action? 

Correctly using some of the more complicated English tenses will definitely impress! So why don’t you give it a try?

More English lessons recommended for you: 

Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there I'm Emma from mmmEnglish. Today I've got a quiz for you, a narrative tenses quiz. It's gonna test your ability to use all of the past tenses in English, that's right all of them.

Now I'm not going to lie, this quiz will really push your limits but practising all of these tenses all at once is going to help you to better understand how they fit together and how they get used together and that's going to help you to become a better English speaker, especially when it comes to talking about past events and experiences and telling stories.

So here on the mmmEnglish channel, we've been talking a lot about storytelling and about narrative tenses lately. I've shared some really great grammar lessons to help you understand and to practise some of the more complex parts of the English language.

This quiz, this challenge today is going to test your understanding of past tenses, past perfect, past continuous even past simple.

And I've added links down in the description to all of the grammar lessons that I've made that are going to help you to study and go deeper on some of the things that we'll test today in this lesson.

The cool thing about that is you'll get to find out what you're really comfortable and confident with but we'll also work out what you need to work on a little more or what you need to improve on.

So here's how today's quiz works. I'm going to start off by telling you the verb that I need you to think about and then you'll see a sentence appear on screen just like this.

So the verb is write. And I want you to put it into the past continuous tense. You'll have a few seconds to write down your answer before I read the correct one out loud.

She was writing an email.


So I know that was an easy one to get started but there are three practice rounds, each one is going to focus on a different tense. The first will be the past continuous. The next, the past perfect simple and then the past perfect continuous.

But the final round is longer and you'll need to think hard about how these tenses work together, including the past simple tense so you'll really get to put everything that we've been learning over the last few weeks into practice.

As always if you have any questions, write them down in the comments below. If you have any example sentences you want me to check or you want feedback on, drop them down there as well. I'll be down there giving comments and guidance and explanations as we need it.

All right let's get started!


Round 1: The Past Continuous.

  • Drive.
    I was driving to work when it started to rain.
  • Wait.
    They were waiting for the bus.
  • Do.
    What were you doing when you heard the news?
  • Watch.
    When the alarm went off, we were watching a movie.
  • Eat.
    They were eating lunch when he arrived.

Round 2: The Past Perfect Simple

Okay round two. We're talking about the past perfect simple.

  • Drive.
    The train wasn't running but luckily I had driven to work.
  • Finish.
    We had finished eating dinner by the time he finally arrived.
  • Not / Hear. So this is a negative sentence.
    I was shocked when you told me you hadn't heard the news.
  • Go.
    The alarm went off for a second time. It had gone off earlier in the week.
  • Eat.
    They had already eaten lunch when I arrived.


Round 3: The Past Perfect Continuous.

  • Drive.
    I had been driving behind Jim before the accident happened.
  • Wait.
    We had been waiting for a long time and the tram was still nowhere to be seen.
  • Follow.
    We had been following the news closely, listening for updates.
  • Go off.
    The alarm had been going off all week before they finally fixed it.

Right, so before we start the final round, I want to find out which of the tenses we've practised so far has been the most challenging for you.

Let me know down in the comments which one was the trickiest. I'll be able to share a lesson or two that will help you out and help you to study further.


Round 4: Narrative Tenses all together!

So these sentences will be a little longer and they'll all be connected together into a story. So you'll need to work out which tense is the best one to use with the information that you have.

Now it may be possible to use more than one in some of these situations so don't stress too much but remember, if you need a little bit more time to think hit pause. There's no rush, you're in control. Pause, have a think, write it down before you keep going.

  • Leave.
    When I left the house this morning it was raining.
  • Pour.
    It was pouring with rain and the streets were flooded with water.
  • Listen.
    I was listening to my favourite podcast
  • Pay, to pay attention.
    and I was paying close attention to my feet
  • Not / want.
    as I didn't want to slip in the rain.
  • Arrived.
    When I arrived at the tram stop, there must have been 50 people there!
  • Wait.
    All of them were waiting for the tram.
  • Wait.
    One woman said she'd been waiting for over an hour!
  • Notice.
    Then I noticed the street was full of cars.
  • Be.
    The traffic was backed up as far as I could see.
  • Rain.
    It had been raining all morning so the streets were very wet.
  • Cause.
    All that rain had caused a car to slide through a red light and into the oncoming traffic.
  • Call.
    A man at the tram stop had already called the emergency services
  • Not / arrive.
    but they hadn't arrived at the scene yet.
  • Help.
    A nurse who had witnessed the accident was helping the injured people.
  • Warn.
    The evening news from yesterday had warned of storms and wild weather.
  • Not / stop.
    but the warnings hadn't stopped people from driving in the storm.
  • Treat.
    By the time the emergency services got to the scene, the nurse had treated the injuries already.
  • Exchange.
    And the drivers had exchanged insurance details.


So what did you think? Hopefully, you enjoyed the challenge.

The really cool thing is that you've been practising your grammar, reminding yourself of these tenses as we went through this video but you can also use this same quiz to practise your speaking skills because now you've got the answers, you can watch it again.

But instead of thinking of the answers, say the sentence out loud because then you'll get to hear me say it and you'll get to compare how you're pronouncing each of these words and these expressions as we go.

Now there was probably a couple of answers that you're a little on the fence about. If you've watched any of the narrative tenses lessons that I've prepared then you'll know that sometimes more than one answer is possible.

So I've talked a little bit more about this over on the mmmEnglish blog so if you want to go a little deeper and try and understand a little bit more then check out the link in the description or this one up here.

So a great way to really lock in everything that you've been learning through this lesson and through the grammar lessons on the channel is to start writing your own story.

Now I'd love to hear about something that happened to you recently, something funny, something annoying, something strange that you witnessed, whatever it is.

Tell me about it down in the comments. I'll be reading all of your wonderful stories with a cup of tea and giving you any tips and advice as I see that I need to.

So thank you so much for watching, looking forward to seeing you in the next lesson.

Bye for now.

mmmEnglish Video Lessons are a series of video lessons created to build confidence in English learners and focus on English in daily life. Download them and watch them anywhere! Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to be the first to get my new videos, and come and say hi on my Facebook page!!