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.






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,
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!

Hello, I wanted to ask about subject, object questions. I have a sentence: Jim should not say that.

Who should not say that? What should Jim not say?
Are these questions correct?
Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

Yes, those questions are grammatically correct.

You can read more about subject and object questions on this page on that topic.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

When do we have to use past future?

Hello Risa warysha,

I'm not sure exactly which form you are referring to here. Could you provide an example sentence, please, and then we'll be happy to explain it for you?


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

This site is so helpful, I think I have found the wright place to improve my grammar.
My question is, should I use I have found or I found. Which one is correct

Hello sirmee,

It's nice to hear that the site is helping you!

You should say 'have found' as this is a past event which has an effect in the present. You should also say 'right' and not 'wright'.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Which one z right??

They had often heard about the ship they have to travel on.
They had often heard of the ship they have to travel on.

Hello Sunny21parikh,

Both sentences are possible. Which is correct depends on the meaning that the speaker has in mind.

We use 'hear about' when we have heard information about something.

We use 'hear of' when the name of something has been mentioned.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team