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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



I am confusing about these two sentence
1) I was buy a new car.
2) I had bought a new car.
Both sentences are grammatically correct or not ? I am Beginner

Hello Dost Muhammad,

Sentence 1) is not correct. Perhaps you meant 'I bought a new car' ('bought' = past simple) or 'I was buying a new car' (past continuous)? 

Sentence 2) uses the past perfect and is correct.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Good evening,

I tried to solve the activity at the "Past Tense" chapter and I found myself stuck in a problem that has not got an obvious way of solving for me as a non-native English user.Here are the examples that are controversial for me:
Sentence 1-If David was here, he'd know what to do.
The valid answer to this question is: The Past Tense is used to describe present or future in a conditional statement
Sentence 2-If you moved abroad, you might never see them again.
The valid answer to this question is:The past tense is used to make a hypothetical statement (to imagine).
I thought that a conditional statement means each statement that contains an "if" but
it seems to me that the borders between the two cases are very lax.
Will you please help me and supply further criteria that would help me recognize the proper use of each case, whenever I meet it?

Hello team,

Which of the following make sense different?

1) I have seen so many people waking on the road. or,

2) I saw too many people waking on the road.

Is they similar? or there must be something which we have to use on these sentence on the suitability on the situation.

How i can view your answers, as i am new here? i am really enjoying learning from here...

Hello anandsharma143,

Both sentences are grammatically correct. 'So many' emphasises the large number; 'too many' adds information that the number is a bad thing, and that fewer would be better.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello I have a slight misunderstanding may you please help me.

She said me that she was happy. (wrong)

She said that she was happy. (correct)

My question is " Is possible to say : She said to me that she was happy?

Hello Lamastry,

Yes, that would be fine. You can say 'told me' or 'said to me'.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I get real confused of the use of past tense. For instance 'it took me ages to notice that the guy WAS/IS from the walking dead' and also 'my mom told me I WAS/AM a good cook'.
Sometimes, english speakers tend to mix up past and present tense in the same sentence. Please offer me an explanation for this rather bizarre situation

Hello syazain,

I can see how this can be confusing. Notice that both sentences are clearly talking about a past situation, as they start with the past simple verb forms 'it took me ages' and 'my mom told me'. You could just always use a past verb form after these phrases, for example 'was' in your two sentences, but a present form such as 'is' is also commonly used when the phrase is also true in the present.

In your first sentence, the guy was from the programme in the past, but he also still is now in the present. In your second sentence, presumably you are still a good cook in the present. This is why the present form is correct here.

In some cases, only the past form is correct. For example, 'My uncle told me that he stole eggs from a nearby farm when he was a boy.' Here only the past form 'stole' is correct, unless, of course, my uncle is still a boy and still stealing eggs from that farm.

I hope that clarifies it for you a bit.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team 

Hi The learn English Team,

Is correct the phrase the men whilw hw was still at school?

I do not know which kind of verbs I have to put aferte since , before, whenever