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Past tense

Level: intermediate

Past tense

There are two tenses in English – past and present.

The past tense in English is used:

  • to talk about the past
  • to talk about hypotheses (when we imagine something)
  • for politeness.

There are four past tense forms in English:

Past simple: I worked
Past continuous: I was working
Past perfect: I had worked
Past perfect continuous: I had been working

We use these forms:

  • to talk about the past:

He worked at McDonald's. He had worked there since July.
He was working at McDonald's. He had been working there since July.

  • to refer to the present or future in hypotheses:

It might be dangerous. Suppose they got lost.

This use is very common in wishes:

I wish it wasn't so cold.

and in conditions with if:

He could get a new job if he really tried.
If Jack was playing, they would probably win.

For hypotheses, wishes and conditions in the past, we use the past perfect:

It was very dangerous. What if you had got lost?
I wish I hadn't spent so much money last month.
I would have helped him if he had asked.

and also to talk about the present in a few polite expressions:

Excuse me, I was wondering if this was the train for York.
I just hoped you would be able to help me.

Past tense 1


Past tense 2



Hello suryachaitanya,

In general, both the past and present can be used for requests.

'would have chastisted' is the appropriate form for someone who has passed away but whom you think would have done something now. See our Conditionals 2 page for more on this.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

hello teacher

please If My country is Egypt and I wane take about England

please what is the difference between

- I was living in England
-I lived in England
-I have lived in England
-I have been lived in England
-I have been living in England

Hello Moka 18,

We try to answer questions in the comments section where possible but the questions need to be concrete and precise; I'm afraid it's not possible for us to explain multiple verb forms in this way. It would require pages of explanation! However, we do have pages of explanation on these forms with examples and descriptons. You can find them in this grammar section. Your sentences are examples of (in order):

past continuous

past simple

present perfect

present perfect continuous

'I have been lived in England' is an incorrect sentence.

You can find information on each of these in the grammar sections here and here.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello could you please clarify these statements
1. My brother has twice as many books as I do
2. My brother has books twice as many as I do
Is no 2 wrong

Hello Rafael darn,

Yes, the second sentence is incorrect.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir,
I have a confusion in past perfect. As I learn before we use it
: For actions that happened before a past event
: In reported speech
: In conditional sentences.

For example: when I reached the station the train had gone.
This is the way I learn this tense bt i don't understand when we said: I had loved, I had worked is this correct pls explain

Hello faizkhan,

Like many verb forms, you need to know the context to make sense of them. 'I had love' and 'I had worked' are correctly formed past perfect verbs, but I'm afraid I can't tell you if they're used correctly without knowing the sentences that come before and after them.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

How can I find your reply to my comment?

Hello memol95,

Replies to comments appear directly below the original comment. Please remember that while we try to answer as many comments are possible, that does not mean that all comments receive replies! We are a small team here at LearnEnglish and it is not possible for us to reply to all comments and questions.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello all,
I am not sure that this sentences is could be past continuous or past perfect.

They watched TV from 7.30 until 9.00. I arrived at 7.30. When i arrived, they were watching TV.

My English is not good so hope you all can understand it.

Thank you