talking about the past


1 Talking about past events and situations:

We use the past simple:

  • when we are talking about an event that happened at a particular time in the past

We arrived home before dark
The film started at seven thirty.

  • when we are talking about something that continued for some time in the past

Everybody worked hard through the winter.
We stayed with our friends in London.

When we are talking about something that happened several times in the past we use

  • the past simple:

Most evenings we stayed at home and watched DVDs.
Sometimes they went out for a meal.

  • … or used to

Most evenings we used to stay at home and watch DVDs.
We used to go for a swim every morning.

  • ... or would

Most evenings he would take the dog for a walk.
They would often visit friends in Europe.

WARNING: We do not normally use would with stative verbs.

We use the past continuous:

  • when we are talking about something which happened before and after a given time in the past

It was just after ten. I was watching the news on TV.
At half-time we were losing 1-0.

  • when we are talking about something happening before and after another action in the past:

He broke his leg when he was playing rugby.
She saw Jim as he was driving away.

2 The past in the past

When we are looking back from a point in the past to something earlier in the past we use the past perfect:

Helen suddenly remembered she had left her keys in the car.
When we had done all our shopping we caught the bus home.
They wanted to buy a new computer, but they hadn’t saved enough money.
They would have bought a new computer if they had saved enough money.

3 The past and the present:

We use the present perfect:

  • when we are talking about the effects in the present of something that happened in the past:

I can’t open the door. I’ve left my keys in the car.
Jenny has found a new job. She works in a supermarket now.

  • When we are talking about something that started in the past and still goes on:

We have lived here since 2007. (and we still live here)
I have been working at the university for over ten years.

4 The future in the past

When we talk about the future from a time in the past we use:

  • would as the past tense of will

He thought he would buy one the next day.
Everyone was excited. The party would be fun.

  • was/were going to

John was going to drive and Mary was going to follow on her bicycle.
It was Friday. We were going to set off the next day.

  • the past continuous:

It was September. Mary was starting school the next week.
We were very busy. The shop was opening in two weeks time.





you were always like you have to put in all the efforts to make it happen at its best and u did it.
Is there any grammatical mistake?

Sometimes people says i dont understand wat u said and sometimes they say i didnt understand wat u said?'
Could u plz explain me why it is so?
How the both are correct at the same time.

About the "Future in the past", can the next two forms be used with the same meaning?

It was September. Mary was starting school the next week.

It was September. Mary was going to start school the next week.



Both of those forms have the same time reference, but there are slight differences, in the same way that 'Mary is starting school next week' and 'Mary is going to start school next week' are not exactly the same, although they refer to the same action at the same time.

You can find more information about the differences here:

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for answer my question so quickly, AdamJK. I haven't studied that lesson yet, but i will as soon as possible. Thanks again and congratulations for your job with all your colleagues from The LearnEnglish Team. You all are very good and help many people around the world every day.


They could have helped me instead of just sitting there.
Can i also say this. Would it be correct?

They could help me instead of just sitting there.

Hello tagrapankaj,

'Could have' has a past meaning: they could have (then, yesterday, two years ago), but that time is now past.

'Could' here has a present meaning, showing that something is possible for them.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

3 chances are left.

3 chances are remaining.
Could u plz tell me difference between them.
which 1 should be used when if both have same meaning context wise.
I remain confuse in these sort of sentences.

Hello tagrapankaj,

There is no difference in meaning between the expression with 'left' and that with 'remaining', though there is a slight difference in use. 'remaining' is more commonly used in more formal contexts, and 'left' is more common after the verbs 'there is/are' and 'have got'.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team