There are two tenses in English – past and present.

The past tense in English is used:

  • to talk about the past
  • to talk about hypotheses – things that are imagined rather than true.
  • for politeness.

There are four past tense forms in English:

Tense Form
Past simple: I worked
Past continuous: I was working
Past perfect: I had worked
Past perfect continuous: I had been working

We use these forms:

  • to talk about the past:

He worked at McDonald’s. He had worked there since July..
He was working at McDonald’s. He had been working since July.

  • to refer to the present or future in conditions:

He could get a new job if he really tried.
If Jack was playing they would probably win.

and hypotheses:

It might be dangerous. Suppose they got lost.
I would always help someone who really needed help.

and wishes:

I wish it wasn’t so cold.

  • In conditions, hypotheses and wishes, if we want to talk about the past, we always use the past perfect:

I would have helped him if he had asked.
It was very dangerous, What if you had got lost?
I wish I hadn’t spent so much money last month.

 

  • We can use the past forms to talk about the present in a few polite expressions:

Excuse me, I was wondering if this was the train for York.
I just hoped you would be able to help me.

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Hi there, are both of the following sentences correct?
I lived in Rome for 17 years but I barely went traveling in Italy when I was there
I lived in Rome for 17 years but I wasn’t going traveling a lot in Italy when I was there

Hello Robert157,

Both of those sentences are grammatically correct. They may or may not be the sentences you need, of course - that will depend upon the context and your intended meaning.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Also how would you say it if u were asked the same question ?
Regards,
Robert

Hi Peter,
Thanks a lot for your comment. Which one will be better if i intend to explain why I dont know of many places in italy although I’m from there and i dont enjoy going travelling ? I’m just asking because people are always surprised when i say i’ve nevEr been in supposedly famous cities in italy they’ve gone to on holidays

Hello Robert157,

Your first sentence, with both verbs in the past simple, is probably best for most contexts, as you're probably looking back on your time in Rome as a finished period of time. I'd say something like 'I lived in Rome for 17 years but didn't travel much' (or 'hardly traveled at all while I was there').

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I'm searching for the meaning of "Diobestiola".
Can you please help me? Thank you!

Hi Criscuotardo,

I've never seen that word before. It certainly doesn't look like an English word so I'm afraid we can't help you with this.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

In the exercise section I found these 2 sentences:
1- If she could see him she would be proud of him.
2- If you moved away you might not see them again.
I answered that they both are conditionals, but the auto-correcting gave me wrong for the second sentence!!
So please could you help me to stinguish the hypothetical from the conditional??

Thank you in advance

Hello Yasser Azizi,

I'm sorry those answers confused you. We are going to change the exercise so that options 2 and 3 are the same. It will say something like 'The past tense is used to describe hypothetical situations in the present or future. These may be part of a conditional structure.' because really these are the same thing. We'll also change the page so that the explanation is clearer.

It will probably take us a few days to do this. We're very grateful that you took the time to ask us about this. The page will be better because of you!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much
Very greatfull

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