Explaining the Past – Terrorist Attack!

How well do you know English culture?

Do you know all the answers to the following questions?

Who is Guy Fawkes?

What is the celebration on the 5th of November in England?

What is Bonfire Night?

Why do the English have fireworks displays on Guy Fawkes Night, the 5th November every year?

If you don’t know the answers, don’t worry because everything is explained below…


Very early in the morning of 5th November, a 35-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack to blow up parliament.

This might sound like a familiar story, but in fact the year was 1605.

The security services found the suspect, Guy Fawkes, in the basement of Parliament.

When they arrested him he was carrying all the objects he needed to blow up the building.


He and 12 other conspirators had managed to put a huge quantity of explosives into one of the rooms under the House of Lords and had been waiting for the opening ceremony of parliament to assassinate the king and all of England’s most powerful aristocrats and politicians.

But why did Guy Fawkes want to blow up the English parliament?

Well, England in that period was a time of religious conflict. The government had forced the majority of British Catholics to convert to Protestantism.

Guy Fawkes and his followers were Catholic and wanted England to become a Catholic country again.


After his arrest Guy Fawkes was interrogated and then tortured.

He confessed in stages, first his intentions and then the names of his associates.

The trial took place in secret in January 1606 and at the end of that month they executed Guy Fawkes and three others.


After many years, GUY FAWKES NIGHT became a big celebration in England.

Nowadays, Bonfire(1) Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Night, is mostly about fireworks but traditionally children also used to make an effigy (2) and burn it on a fire.

There is also a song associated with Bonfire Night, but it is not so well known these days.

Children used to sing: Remember, remember the 5th of November, Gunpowder(3), treason(4) and plot(5), We see no reason, Why gunpowder treason, Should ever be forgot!


In the film V for Vendetta, a Guy Fawkes mask was used by a crowd of people wanting a revolution. The striking image was so powerful that it is common now around the world for people to wear a Guy Fawkes mask when they are protesting.

The mask has become the symbol of wanting to remain anonymous while protesting.

The Guy Fawkes mask has also become a sign of the Anonymous group that uses computer hacking as a form of protest.


1. We use the past simple to talk about the main events and key stages in a story. In regular verbs we make the past simple by adding –ed to the verb. The other tenses are used to add detail to the story to make it more interesting.

__x_______ x____ x _____ x ______ x ______|____________________________

past                                                                   now                                           future

2. We use the past continuous to give background information on what was in progress at the time of a main event in the story. We make it by using was/were –ing.

________~~~~~~~~~x~~~~~~~ _______|________________________________

past                                                         now                                                future

3. We use the past perfect to talk about an action which occurred before the main event we are talking about. We make it by using had + past participle.

________ x ________ x ______________|________________________________

past                                                        now                                                future

4. We use the past perfect continuous to talk about an action which was in progress up to the main event. We make it by using had been + past participle.

__________~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~x _______|_____________________________

past                                                            now                                            future

5. We use used to + infinitive to talk about habits or routines in the past which we don’t do any more.

_________|x x x x x x x x x |_______________|___________________________

past                                                                   now                                       future


[1] BONFIRE – A big fire that you often have in your garden

[2] EFFIGY – A model made of old clothes and newspaper

[3] GUNPOWDER – The first type of explosives

[4] TREASON – A crime when you betray your country

[5] PLOT – A criminal plan

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