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

Good evening.
Please, help me to put correct tense in the following sentence:
From 5 to 7 p.m. John _______ (work). Then he went home.

a) was working
b) worked

I would be very grateful if you help me to choose the correct answer and explain why the other variants are not possible in this case.
Thank you.

Hello Nadiia,

We don't usually complete questions like this which are from tests or homework - it's not our job to provide answers for such things, and if we tried to do so we would never stop as we would have so many questions! In any case, this particular question does not have a correct answer. Both forms are possible. More context would be needed to say that either is correct or incorrect.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Could you explain the difference of the following sentences?
- I used to work as sales manger for 3 years.
- I worked as sales manager for 3 years.

Both of them are the same meaning,or not? Which one can I choose to say?

Thank you.

"Use to" refers to something you did a lot in the past, but now you don't...
When I was a kid I used to play with snails, but now I hate them.

I'd prefer to use "I used to work in the store for 4 years", because it means you worked in the store but now you don't, if you still work there I think it sounds better "I've been working in the store for 4 years", that means you started working there 4 years ago, and you stil do.

Hello HexYamiko,

Thanks for your explanation - it's great that you want to help other users. I just wanted to point out one mistake: 'I used to work in the store for four years' is not correct because 'used to' isn't used to specify length of time.

In other words, you can say 'I used to work in the store', but if you want to say how long you worked in the store, you must use the past simple: 'I worked in the store for four years'.

Thanks again for your comment! I hope you don't mind me correcting this minor error.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Montri,

We have pages on 'used to' and the past simple ('worked') which I'd suggest you read through. The two can mean the same thing, but 'used to' has more specific uses that the past simple, which can be used in many different ways. If you have a more specific question after reading those two pages, please feel free to ask us.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I have tried to read for several time in many sources but i am not sure about how to use "used to". The following is my question
1.Can we use a period of time at the end of sentence? Ex.I used to be a salesman for 3 years. I used to live there for 3 months.
2.Can we use a point of time (last week,in 2011)at the end of sentence?

Thank you

Hello Montri,

The answer to both of your questions is no. The past period of time referred to by 'used to + verb' is not specific, so we don't use expressions like 'for three months' or 'in 2011'. Both of your sentences would be fine without those expressions in them.

Although 'used to' is used to talk about the past, in some ways the focus is more on the present in that you're also saying that what was true in the past is no longer true.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please help me to distinguish the diffencences between these 2 sentences follow?
1. Up to now, I have never seen such a fat man.
2. Up to then, I had never seen such a fat man.
Why can't i write " Up to then, I have never seen such a fat man." ?
Thank you !

Hello Xuy_en,

Sentence 1 means 'up to the present moment'. Sentence 2 means 'up to a past moment'. You cannot mix a present form ('have never seen') with a past time reference ('then').

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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