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.






Dear Sir,

I would like to ask , which of those sentences is right?

1. I have worked for this company since i left university.
2. I have worked for this company after i left university.

And what is the difference between the usage of "Since" & "After" ?

Thanks in advance

Hello elgahawy,

My first suggestion would be for you to look up both words in the dictionary – there you can see not only definitions but also example sentences. Sentence 1 is correct but sentence 2 is odd – this is because 'after I left' refers to a past point in time, and so 'I worked' (past simple) is the logical tense and 'I have worked' (present perfect) is not, as it refers to a time still connected to the present.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

how to tell sth that happened in past and we now it now? For eg, someone stole my pen yesterday and i knew it right now.

Hello nepalap,

I think we would usually use the present perfect for such a situation:

Oh no, someone has stolen my pen!

If the result (now) is important and we don't say exactly when it was then we use the present perfect. On the other hand, if we say when the incident happened then we use the past simple:

Someone stole my pen yesterday!

You can find pages on these topics in this (grammar) section.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

what are stative verbs?

Hello again chris kim,

Please note that you can search LearnEnglish by using the search facility at the top of every page – just press the small magnifying glass. If you search for 'stative verbs', you'll see we have a page on them.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi British Council advisors,
I've got this question in my book.
"The cupboard is empty because Diana ___ everything from it."
1. took 2. had taken 3. takes 4. has taken

The answer given was 4. Why is it not 1 and not 2 too?
Thank you.

Hello chiarencher,

Answer 2 is not correct here – see our past perfect page to learn about this form – but answers 1, 3 and 4 are all possible. Verb forms can be used in many different ways, so knowing the context is key when selecting them. 

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you sir.

why is there not the present ferfect in the sentence "They find it difficult to forget; they _suffered_____ tremendous hardship in the war"?