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

Sir
Which one of following sentences is correct .
Gary's game was uninstalled automatically and further reinstallation is not taking place.
Or
Gary 's game has been uninstalled automatically and further reinstallation is not taking place

Hello neh,

That really depends on what you want to say. For example, if you view the action as recent or being connected to the present, then the present perfect form would make more sense.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir
What is the difference between - " tom' s game got uninstalled automatically " and " tom's game has got uninstalled automatically ".

Hello neh7272,

These are examples of non-standard passive forms. The standard form is [be + past participle]:

Tom's game was uninstalled automatically

and

Tom's game has been uninstalled automatically

We can, in informal speech, replace 'be' with 'has got', as in your examples.

The difference between these is the tense: was (got) is past simple, while 'has been' (has got) is present perfect. To find out about the uses of these forms, look here for information on the present perfect, and here for information on the past simple.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

my question is a little twisted one. like we say
i got my house built by masons.
masons built my house
my house was gotten built by me from masons.
my house was got built by masons by me.
is that possible or not

Hello khurramsiddiqui 

i got my house built by masons.

We would say 'I had my house built by masons', meaning that I paid for them to do it for me.

Masons built my house.

This is fine.

My house was gotten built by me from masons.

We would say this without 'gotten'.

My house was got built by masons by me.

This is not a correct sentence.
 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Tea

Hello Sir,

I would need your help here. This part of the article is confusing me:

"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."

1) Can't these sentences be rephrased as:
He could get a new job if he was really trying.
If Jack played they would probably win

2)Are we talking about impossible conditions here?

3) Can we replace the words 'could' and 'would' with 'can' and 'will', as they are not highlighted in the article as the required past tense words.

4) Will these sentences refer to past if I add 'have' to them, like '..would have probably won' and 'He could have gotten a new...'

5) Could you please explain a bit more on how to phrase such sentences.

Sorry for so many questions but I am finding it really hard to understand this concept!

Hi adtyagrwl3,

1) The two sentences you propose are also correct. The past continuous could be more appropriate in some situations and the past simple more appropriate in others.

2) In most conditional forms, the past is used to express an unreal (which sometimes could mean 'impossible') situation. Please see our Conditionals 1 and 2 pages for more on this.

3) No, 'can' and 'will' cannot generally replace 'could' and 'would', with the notable exception of transactional requests (e.g. 'Could you pass me the salt?' can be rephrased as 'Can you pass me the salt?). See also our can or could and will or would pages.

4) Please see our modals + have page for more on this topic.

5) I think the Conditionals 1 and 2 pages will help with this, but if you have more specific questions after reading them, feel free to ask.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir,
I read the articles mentioned above and found most of my doubts cleared. But mixed conditionals caused a new form of confusion. From some other source, I found the following sentences on various forms of mixed conditionals. But that source isn't much reliable. Could you please tell me if these mixed conditionals are correct:

1) If I had won the lottery, I would be rich (past - present)
2) If Darren hadn't wasted his bonus, he would go to Mexico with us (past - future)
3) If I were free, I would have gone to the party (present - past)
4) If Cindy were more creative, we would be sending her on the new ad campaign (present - future)
5) If I weren't going on my business trip, I would have accepted that assignment (future - past)
6) If Seb didn't come with us, everyone would be disappointed. (future - present)

Thanks a lot!

Hi adtyagrwl,

I expect that you could hear native speakers use all of these sentences, and certainly anyone would understand them. If it were me writing, I'd change the first clause of sentence 3 to 'had been free', but otherwise they are correct.

Good work!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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