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

thank you very much. I was wondering about how we can talk about the past in the future tenses, I have found many information in which they explained talking about the future in past tenses but nothing about the past in future .

Hello Ali-k,

I'm not sure if this is what you mean, but you can 'will have' to look into the past from a future time - see our will have or would have page for more on this. There are also some more example sentences on the Cambridge Dictionary page on the future perfect.

If you had something else in mind, please let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

"They find it difficult to forget; they suffered tremendous hardship in the war."

"They find it difficult to forget; they have suffered tremendous hardship in the war."

What's the difference between the two?

regards

Hello chancornelius,

We use the past simple when an action or event is seen by the speaker as being finished and in the past - this is the case in the first sentence. We use the present perfect when in some way an action or event which occurred in the past is still continuing or has an ongoing effect in the present - this is the case in the second sentence.

Both sentences are correct and which the speaker would say depends on how they see the hardship. If it is still ongoing, or if its effects are still evident, then the second sentence is more likely. If it is merely a memory of a finished time then the first sentence is more likely.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Is this statement written correctly? "I presently think about the past and how it came to be my future."

Hello Dragonfly,

Yes, that is correct. The only thing is that 'presently' is a rather formal word, so it sounds a bit unusual in this context, but the verb tenses are great. Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Kirk. I understand presently sounds a bit unusual. I was going for a play on words using past, present and future in one sentence.

Hello I am confused on the 3. The past and the present examples:
1. "We have lived here since 2007.(and we still live here)
Shouldn't we use present perfect continous tense?
"We have been living here since 2007."
2. "I have been working at the university for over ten years."
"have been working" is a present perfect continous tense not a present perfect tense.
Please help me thank you!

Hello jarljudele,

It's possible to use the present perfect continuous in sentence 1, but the present perfect simple is also correct. You might want to read through our Present Perfect Simple and Present Perfect Continuous page for more on this, and watch the video on this page.

As for your second remark, the present perfect continuous is a form of the present perfect tense, so that statement is not incorrect.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Kirk! I have read the page and it gives me better understanding about the lesson. I have also watched the video that is helpful.
This is the best site ever!

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