Insights Into Past Tenses at B2 Level

B2 First GRAMMAR time

The PAST is in the limelight! To be more exact, today’s activities will help you get way better at the following grammar tenses:

  • Past perfect simple
  • Past perfect continuous
  • Past simple
  • Past perfect continuous
  • USED TO, WOULD

The activities we have prepared for B2 First learners follow the TST structure:

  1. TEST
  2. STUDY
  3. TEST

Roll up your sleeves! Ready, steady, go!

B2 First past tenses TEST

Transform each of the sentences below. You must use the word in CAPITAL letters, and you must keep the same meaning.

In the past, people WOULD walk more than they do now.

Do you know that John USED TO play football for his country?

We GOT USED TO sending messages around the world instantly.

My parents NEVER USED TO let me stay out late when I was a teenager.

I DIDN’T OPEN the door quickly enough.

We GOT MARRIED ten years ago.

I BEGAN studying tenses many years ago, but they are still hard.

We ate the cake after I HAD BLOWN the candles.

I HAD BEEN WORKING as an apprentice for two years when I finally got my first paid job.

Julian WAS GETTING USED TO the idea of moving abroad.

Past tenses at B2 level

B2 First past tenses STUDY

Read the sentences below. Explain why this tense and no other must be used in each of these contexts.

Past simple

We use past simple for a single completed action in the past.

We use past simple for a sequence of events or actions.

We use past simple for a permanent or a long-term situation in the past.

We use past simple for repeated actions and habits in the past.

We use past simple for general truths and facts about the past.

Past continuous

We use past continuous to refer to two or more actions in progress at the same time.

We use past continuous to refer to temporary situations in the past.

We use past continuous with “always” or “continuously” to refer to annoying past habits.

We use past continuous with “plan” and “hope” for unfulfilled plans in the past.

We use past continuous for actions happening at a particular moment in the past.

We use past continuous for actions in progress over a period of time.

We use past continuous to give the background information in a story.

USED TO and WOULD

We use “used to” for past habits which are no longer true, particularly for the distant past.

We use “used to” and “would” for actions to refer to past habits. We don’t often use would in questions and negative statements. In negative ones, we can use would never.

We use “used to” for states to refer to past habits. We don’t use “would” for states. 

We would have a house next to the river.

  • be used to” + verb“ING”  means to be accustomed to doing something.
  • get used to” + verb”ING” means to become accustomed to doing something.

They can also be followed by a noun, e.g. “I wasn’t used to criticism and found it hard to accept it.”

Past perfect simple - Past Before Past

We use past perfect simple to refer to a completed action before another past event or past moment.

We use past perfect simple for situations and states before the past.

We use past perfect simple for completed actions, where the important thing is the result at a moment in the past.

We use past perfect simple with “when”, “after”, “as soon as”, “just”, “already”, “ever”, “never”, “by the time” to refer to past events that happened before another past event. 

We use past perfect simple with “It was the first/second/etc time

After we have used past perfect simple once, we often then use the past simple instead of continuing to use the past perfect.

Past perfect continuous

We use past perfect continuous for actions continuing up to a moment in the past.

We use past perfect continuous to focus on an action stopping just before a moment in the past. 

We use past perfect continuous to talk about how long something lasted up to a point in the past.

B2 First past tenses TEST

Activity One

Do the Mistakes Detector quiz. There are 10 questions. Decide whether each of the sentences is grammatically correct. If you’ve found a mistake, make changes and use the right past tense. 

Activity Two

Do the B2 First Reading and Use of English Part 4 task. Its 6 questions are focused on past tenses.

Check your answers afterwards. Good luck!

For questions 1-6 complete the second sentence so that it has a similar meaning to the first sentence, using the word given. Do not change the word given. You must use between two and five words, including the word given.

1. I stopped playing padel tennis when I moved house. USED

I ________________________ a lot before moving house.

2. I went abroad for the first time when I went on a business trip to London. NEVER

I ________________________ abroad before I went on a business trip to London.

3. We have been best friends since nursery school. WHEN

Our friendship ________________________ in nursery school.

4. Who told you that the meeting had been postponed? FIND

How ________________________the meeting was put off?

5. Our company went out of business after a year of losses. BEEN

Our company went out of business because it ________________________ for a year.

6. I was too late to buy the tickets for the concert. ALREADY

The box office ________________________ all the tickets by the time I got to the concert hall.

  1. USED TO PLAY PADEL TENNIS
  2. HAD NEVER TRAVELLED
  3. STARTED/BEGAN WHEN WE WERE
  4. DID YOU FIND OUT THAT
  5. HAD BEEN LOSING MONEY
  6. HAD ALREADY SOLD OUT

Let’s call it a day! You’ve done a fair share of grammar practice, which, definitely, has been a hefty boost of your control of past tenses at B2 level.

To find out more about what other grammar structures a B2 First candidate must be familiar with, check out the B2 First Grammar Checklist!

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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