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.




Hi Sir ,
I haven't finished any of the books I ( started / had started / has started ) in the last couple of months.

Which for is correct and when to use the other ones?!

One more thing my English is quite good now but still it's hard to write Sentences some times. it's hard to link them together and I don't know if it's a grammatical defect or vocabulary so any advice please!

Thank you and sorry for the inconvenience :)

Hello Ahmedkhairy,

In that sentence, 'started' is the correct form. You can see explanations of the other two forms - 'had started' is past perfect and 'has started' is present perfect - by following the links. Our talking about the past page might also be helpful. If it's still not clear to you after reading those pages, you're welcome to ask again, but please make your question as specific as possible.

There's some general advice on improving your writing on our Frequently asked questions page that you might find helpful. If possible, I'd suggest looking for a teacher to help you. You could contact the British Council in Egypt about a class to find one. It's also important that you read widely in English. Make a note of how sentences are joined together and imitate what you read in your own writing.

Good luck!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir, a university has placed students to their various departments few days ago, and I want to inform them about it. QUESTION: Hi all, registration starts tomorrow for students that ARE PLACE in erciyes university. should the word place be in past simple?
Thank you for d good work

Hello sirmee,

I think what would be best here is 'that have been placed', which is the verb 'be' in the present perfect tense and using the past participle of 'place' as an adjective.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir
I have one doubt regarding 3rd conditional

Sir can we use SHOULD in 3rd conditional for result clause like how we use could might and would.


Hello Ajaz ajju,

I can't think of a situation in which 'should have' + past participle could be used in the third conditional. But there may be some situation where it's appropriate that I just can't think of off the top of my head, so if you have something specific in mind or have seen it somewhere, please mention it.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

They killed the man with a gun.

Which one is correct passive form?and why

The man was killed by them with a gun.

The man with a gun was killed by them.

Hello Sunny21parikh,

Both are possible. The first version means that the gun was used by the people who killed the man (i.e. he was shot). The second version means that the man had a gun when he was killed.

The reason both sentences are possible is that the example you provide at the start is ambiguous - it could mean either of these, and so both are possible.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

But Sir, which one is more appropriate than other?
If I have been given this sentence in exam then what should I follow first,any grammatical rule like relative adverb or anything.....?

they killed the man with a gun,

What Should I understand first the man had a gun or they had ?

Hello Sunny21parikh,

Tests are made with specific purposes in mind, and since we didn't create this test it's difficult to know this. In any case, I?m afraid we don't generally comment on exams – really the best person to speak to would be your teacher.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team