past tense

 

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:

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

Comments

hello teacher :-)
i'm studying the past tense, but i don't understand these cases:

hypotheses and wishes(can you explain this cases? )
what's wishes?

Hello davide32,

I'd suggest you look up 'wish' (which is the singular of 'wishes') in the dictionary so that you can get a good sense for what it means, but basically a wish is something we want, and in this case, refers to things we want that we see as unlikely or impossible to obtain. In the third example sentence ('I wish I hadn’t spent so much money last month'), I can't change what I did in the past, but I'm expressing how I wish I had acted last month.

You might find it useful to look at our Conditionals 1 and Conditionals 2 pages, where you'll see the past tense used in a similar way in the second and third conditional structures. Please take a look and then let us know if you have any further questions.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, we know that "had to" is a past form of the "have to" but sometimes i see this form as well which is : He had had to do sth - how this form can be understood and please explain what does it really mean to use such kind of grammatic form?? how can we translate this form ? do we need to understand this as Past perfect or what?? if not please explain its meaning Thank you very much in advance - See more at: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/verbs/past-ten...

I want some explanation there is not any explanation in the provided link about my question ... Please give some explanation if possible

Hello Everyone, could someone help me? I need to practice Conditional Sentences With Mixed Time Frames for example
If I had been working at the restaurant last ight, I would have waited on your table.
I don't know how to write this kind of sentence, I know that each one depend for situation, time, but I am confused. help me ;( thanks

Differnce among these three sentences.......
1.it had occured to me that i forgot ur birthday..
2.it occured to me that i forgot ur birthday...
3.it has occured to me that i forgot ur birthday..
Thanx in advance......

Hello videsh,

The difference is the verb form (tense and aspect) used in each sentence.

The first sentence is an example of a past perfect form [had + past participle] and you can find an explanation of when this is used here.

The first sentence is an example of a past simple form [the second form of the verb] and you can find an explanation of when this is used here.

The first sentence is an example of a present perfect form [has or have + past participle] and you can find an explanation of when this is used here.

I hope those links are helpful.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello guys how are you ? I hope you are all fine.
I hope some one can help me with my problem.
Could someone explain me these two things : past perfect and past perfect progressive : When I have to use these tense and what are the difference .

I know how to built the grammatical structure, but I have no idea I have to use past perfect or past perfect progressive.

Hello bashkim,

This is a very large area which requires a detailed and long answer, rather more than we can provide in this comments section. However, a good starting point would be this page, which is all about the past perfect.

All continuous forms are similar in terms of the additional information they express, whether present continuous, past continuous or past perfect continuous. You can can find information about the continuous aspect on this page, which should help you.

I think those pages should be a good starting point for you. Once you've worked through them if you have any specific questions about examples then we'll be happy to respond to them in the comments sections of those pages.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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