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.

 

 

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

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

Hello manuel24,

It is hard to say for sure without knowing the context, but we would generally use the present perfect if the war was still not finished, and past simple if the war was over. The present perfect is used for unfinished past, while the past simple is used for completed time.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

thank you peter,you have clarified that doubt but therefore I ask me what means "I have seen that film several time"? if the present perfect is used for unfinished past as you said..

Hello manuel24,

The unfinished time period here is 'in my life up to now'. If we make it a finished time period ('last year', 'between 2010 and 2012' etc.) then we would use the past simple rather than the present perfect.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello,
the dialogue "why are there tools in my desk? because tim has been repairing the photocopier" means that tim is still repairing?

Hello manuel24,

If the sentence was '...Tim has repaired the photocopier' then we would know that the job is finished. As it is, however, it is not clear whether or not this is the case, and the job may well not be complete yet.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

In the sentence below, why simple past is used?

I already told Mark that when he arrived, we would go out for dinner

can I also say: I already told Mark that when he arrives, we would go out for dinner

To use the simple present form of the verb "arrive" instead of its simple past.

Thanks

Mayela

Hello MayelaM,

You can say 'arrives... will go out' or 'arrived... would go out'. The difference is rather like that between the first and second conditionals: likely/possible vs unlikely/hypothetical.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

1)there is no place for you in this compartment.
2)she is very beautiful but not so intelligent as her sister is.
3)mother teresa asked for a place where she and her group could take care of poor people always.
4)what to speak of english he cannot even speak his native language correctly.
Are these sentences correct?

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