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.




I need a little help to understand the tense in which a line of a poem by Stevie Smith, " A Man I Am", was written. The line is this: "I was consumed by so much hate". I need to know what kind of tense is "I was consumed". I understand that it has the past form of the verb to be (was) + a participle (consumed). I guess what I am asking is whether this kind of past has a name or not, and how can I understand it better in order to explain it to my students.
Thank you.

Hello ArgelCorpus,

The form here is past simple passive:

Active: So much hate consumed me

Passive: I was consumed by so much hate


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Simple past tense:
My mum and dad had worked incredibly hard to afford me an education.
My mum and dad worked incredibly hard to afford me an education.

Both sentences are grammatically correct. But why 'had' is used , that is past perfect as there are no two events in the sentences and " since " is also not used at the end as it is used to specify a time event.
The first statement is a quote by Benedict Cumberbatch

Hello Vickyy,

It's difficult to say without knowing the full context of this sentence, but probably the context, i.e. the sentences before it, include some reference to a past time. It is probably this past time that the past perfect in the quote refers to.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir;

I don't know that this is the right page to ask my question.My question is related to past tense. That is why I chose this page.

They might have thought we didn't raise any issue. [here I want to tell abut a past thought which someone thought.]
They thought we came early.

The above sentences are correct ?


Hi Hasipumba,

It's very hard to comment on these without knowing the context in which they are to be used. For example, all of the following are possible sentences:

They might have thought we won't raise any issue.

They might have thought we aren't going to raise any issue.

They might have thought we weren't going to raise any issue.

They might have thought we wouldn't raise any issue.

They might have thought we didn't raise any issue.

They might have thought we hadn't raised any issue.

And other forms are possible too. Some - including the example you gave - can only be used in very specific contexts while others are more common. Without knowing the context, it is impossible to say which is the correct form. The same is true of the second example: it may be correct but that will depend upon the context.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Sir ;

I want to tell what I guess that someone thought in the past like this.


A person : What do you think about Marry's answers for the questions we asked in the conference call?.

B Person : I think , they might have thought that we didn't ask any questions about the report in the conference call

When A person is asking this question from B person , A and B persons have participated the call and already asked the questions.After the call,they are discussing what they happened in the conference call.


Hello Hasimpumba,

We would generally use 'might have thought' when we are describing an opinion which has changed:

They might have thought it was impossible before, but now they know it can be done.

The form doesn't really work in this context because they know whether or not questions have been asked. Before they questions are asked they may have expected something, but not thought something. You could say:

...they might have been surprised that we didn't ask any questions about the report in the conference call


they might have expected us to ask some questions about the report in the conference call

I hope that helps.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

“I work in a bank”), or we can use reported speech (He said he worked in a bank.)

he said that he works in a bank. is it possible to make