Quick English: Past Tenses to Talk About Vacation

August is a popular month for vacations, but now that the month is over, it's useful to know how to tell people about what you did.

This post will cover how to talk about your past summer plans with the Simple Present, the Past Continuous and the Past Perfect Continuous tenses.

Simple Past Tense (verb+ed or irregular verb past tense)

Use the simple past to express something about your vacation that finished at a specific time.

This tense is for talking about what you did during your vacation, because all the actions ended at a specific time. 

This year, my family and I went to the Seychelles for a week. It was so much fun! We traveled around the islands and ate lots of delicious food.

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Past Continuous Tense (was/were + present participle)

Use the past continuous to talk about a longer action in the past that was interrupted. (Use the simple past to talk about the interruption.)

This tense is good for explaining moments that happened during your vacation. The past continuous tense helps give stories a context, or more meaning. 

Once, when we were sitting on the beach, a crab crawled over my leg!

I was reading my book when I felt something strange. I saw it and freaked out.

Then, when we were having dinner at the best restaurant in Seychelles, my mother saw George Clooney! She was so excited, but I didn't really care.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense (had been + present participle)

Use the past perfect continuous to show something that started in the past, and continued until a later time, also in the past. 

This tense is useful for talking about things that happened before your holiday, but ended when your holiday started.

I had been waiting so long for this holiday that when it started, I felt like I was dreaming.

My sister had been studying for her exams before the holiday so she could relax while we were in the Seychelles.

Test Your Knowledge

What tense is each of the italicized verb phrases?

1. I had been trying for months to save money for holiday.
2. Marco came with me to Brussels for the weekend.
3. I was at the beach for hours!
4. Eleni was sipping a cocktail by the pool when I arrived.
5. We had been climbing Mount Royal for an hour before we took a break.

Now that you've figured out the answers, check the answer key to see if you are correct.

Did you go on vacation? What did you do on vacation? Share it with us in the comments or on our facebook page!

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