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The past (abbr .: Verg., Vrg. ) Is the set of time- past events. There are different understandings, depending on the subject, how far back an event must be in order to speak of the past. Yesterday denotes the near past, especially the past calendar day .


In a linguistic context, the past denotes:

  • the linguistic implementation - the tense - of the past
  • the grammatical past tense

German grammar

The German grammar has three tenses of the past for a verb , and these in turn from the near to the distant past "sorted" are:

  • Past tense (unfinished past Nachvergangenheit, imperfect or first past, Austria frequently "past tense"): I loved
  • Perfect (perfect present, pre-present or 2nd past, in Austria often “past”): I loved
  • Pluperfect (past perfect, pluperfect or 3rd past): I had loved

In many German-speaking regions or dialects, however, the perfect tense is used almost exclusively, while other regions differentiate more strongly here.

English grammar

The English grammar , however, knows six different tenses of the past, although three of them progressive forms are:

Spanish grammar

The Spanish grammar has five different past tenses in indicative and three in the subjunctive (see Romance languages ), so are the:

  • Pretérito perfecto de indicativo , corresponds to the German perfect and is used with the French Passé composé , it. Passato prossimo and the rum. Perfect compus identical. In English it is roughly expressed using the present perfect simple .
  • Pretérito indefinido de indicativo, corresponds to the French Passé simple , the it. Passato remoto and the rum. Perfect simplu . In English it is roughly represented by the simple past or past tense .
  • Pretérito imperfecto de indicativo, identical to the French imparfait , the it. Indicativo imperfetto and the rum. Imperfect .
  • Pretérito anterior de indicativo, with the French Passé antérieur and the it. Trapassato remoto equate.
  • Pretérito pluscuamperfecto de indicativo, identical to the French plus-que-parfait , the it. Trapassato prossimo and the rum. May mult ca perfectul .
  • Pretérito perfecto de subjuntivo , corresponds to the French subjonctif passé composé .
  • Pretérito imperfecto de subjuntivo, corresponds to the French subjonctif imparfait .
  • Pretérito pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo, corresponds to the French Subjonctif plus-que-parfait .


Classical physics

Past and future in terms of the origin of coordinates.

The time arrow determines the direction of time from the past to the future . The past consists of the set of all events that are causally connected to the event called the present , that is, could influence it.

theory of relativity

In connection with the change in the concept of time since the introduction of Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity , the terms past, present and future have also been reinterpreted. Since two events that occur simultaneously for an observer may no longer occur simultaneously for an observer who is moved relative to them, the term “spatiality” replaces “simultaneity”.

If the past was earlier a point on a fictitious timeline , physics now sees it as the area in space-time that the observer can gain knowledge of in the present.

Philosophical view


The present is the space in which all processes take place. A fictitious past is only created by recording the processes taking place in the present . The recorded past only roughly reflects the causal course of the processes; a hundred percent recording of processes is practically impossible. According to Plato, only the present is viewed as the only real thing . The past is therefore a non-existent theoretical structure, since neither space nor matter is available for its existence. The same matter that was part of past events is already part of new events in the present and can therefore no longer offer existence to the past. Strictly speaking, the word “present” does not designate the sequence of events, but rather it designates space or entity.

According to many philosophers, the reflective mind only lives in the past. It also takes a certain amount of time to produce a thought, and may it be too short. Furthermore, this idea has to be expressed, which in turn takes a certain amount of time. As soon as an event is reflected, it would be the past. This means that the thinking mind lives only in the past, in memory. The present can therefore only be experienced directly, i.e. without the abstraction of the mind.


The question of the past is a question that moves many people. Where are we from Who were our relatives? How has our society developed? It is answered in different ways by science and religion . Many religions assume a planned creation of the world by a higher force. The natural sciences, on the other hand, assume that the world came into being through the interaction of chance and laws.

We get information about the immediate past through historiography . George Orwell described in his famous novel 1984 that after a revolution the writing of history and with it the known past is changed. Many just want to look ahead and some even consider preoccupation with the past to be reactionary: “Always forwards, never backwards.” Heinrich Heine, on the other hand, wrote : “Today is a result of yesterday. We have to research what he wanted if we want to know what he wants. ”The further back the past, the less precise our knowledge about it becomes. Our ignorance of the past is no different from our ignorance of the future. Past events can never be observed directly and can theoretically only be described with probabilities . Viewing past events as facts is a social convention . Various biological or physical processes make it possible to approximate past events.

Literature and film

A fictional past is often described in the literature. The correspondence with actual events does not matter, only that the fictional events lie in the past from the narrative point of view. People act as if they actually took place, for example in the fairy tale : "It was a long, long time ago ..."

In film, the past is often shown in the form of flashbacks .

In science fiction , time travel enables a fictional return to the past. That leads to paradoxes .


  • The past bites the tail of everything to come. Friedrich Nietzsche

See also

Portal: History  - Overview of Wikipedia content on history

Web links

Wikiquote: Past  Quotes
Wiktionary: past  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b LL-Web: Learning material by and for teachers: Zeiten-Quartett (PDF; 854 kB)
  2. Pretérito perfecto (Gramática, 1931) also Pretérito perfecto compuesto (Esbozo, 1973) or perfect present, also presente anterior .
  3. Pretérito indefinido (Gramática, 1931) also known as Pretérito perfecto simple (Esbozo, 1973) or Pretérito absoluto , it is also called the historical perfect, as well as Pasado simple .
  4. Heine, Heinrich: Historical-Critical Complete Edition of the Works. Windfuhr, Manfred in connection with the Heinrich Heine Institute (Ed.), Vol. 12/1, p. 130.
  5. ^ Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche: Fragments July 1882 to Autumn 1885 , Volume 4 - Chapter 5.