English Verb Tenses: “I Was There” vs. “I Had Been There”

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Verb tenses are really important to learn and master when you commit yourself to the English language. They help make your message become more specific. And their proper use will help others, especially natural English speakers, understand you better and relate to you better.

Are You Preparing For An Exam?

If you’re preparing to take an English-proficiency exam such as TOEFL, TESOL, CPE, etc., then it is recommended that you learn these verb tenses. While some verb tenses are used much more frequently than others in English-speaking countries, it’s still important to learn the other tenses so you can achieve a high score on your exam.

No Exam?

If you’re just wanting to improve your conversational skills and interact with native English speakers on the streets of New York or Los Angeles, or anywhere really, then it’s still necessary to learn the proper use of these verb tenses.

Don’t worry, I’ll break each one down for you and give you lots of examples!

Simple Past Verb Tense

“I was there” is in the simple past tense. This verb tense is used when you are talking about something that has already happened. You use it to talk about activities or instances and situations that have occurred before now. In the sentence “I was there,” was is the simple past verb tense of be. Here are some examples.

“I was at the grocery store yesterday.” 

“I was just at home last night.” 

“I was at the beach last week.” 

“I was in Paris last month.” 

You can use other verbs in the simple past tense too, of course.

“I went there last night.” 

“I ate an hour ago.” 

“I slept over at my cousin’s house this weekend.” 

“I bought that book.” 

“I sent him a message.” 

It’s important that you know how to formulate verbs so that you are able to transform them to the proper simple past verb tense. Regular verbs usually just need an -ed added at the end.  But irregular verbs will have a different form, and sometimes there’s no specific pattern or formula. The best thing to do is to familiarize yourself with them.

Here are some examples of regular verbs and their past tense form:

  • Allow – Allowed
  • Bolt – Bolted
  • Compare – Compared
  • Care – Cared
  • Dance – Danced
  • Escape – Escaped
  • Hug – Hugged

And here are some examples of irregular verbs and their simple past verb tense form:

  • Eat – Ate
  • Come – Came
  • Drink – Drank
  • Feed – Fed
  • Read – Read
  • Find – Found
  • Shake – Shook

Past Perfect Verb Tense

“I had been there” on the other hand is under the past perfect verb tense. The past perfect tense (“I had been there”) is used to describe a past action that happened before another past action. Imagine that you have been to Santiago, Chile in 2014, but you already went there once in 2010. How would you say this?

“I was in Santiago in 2014, and I had been there before, in 2010.”

Again, you’re just describing something that happened before something else in the past. Think of it as a sequence: a first action and a second action, but “had been” is for a past action that happened before “was.”

Here are some other examples:

“I was at the grocery store last night and I had been there the night before that too.” 

“I was at the beach last week but I had been there the week before, too.” 

“After I had finished my work, I went out for lunch.” 

“I found this old diary after she had moved out.” 

Conversationally, it’s really necessary to learn the Simple Past verb tense (“I was there”), since we often don’t use the Past Perfect (“I had been”) very much in conversations. A tip that will always be effective, however, is to practice grammar with native speakers or with anyone who is fluent in English.

You can also check out this post to learn more about verb tenses and proper grammar. It’s another great lesson that will surely help you!

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