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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 Ateh,

'learnt' is the form used in British English and 'learned' is more common in American English – both are correct. 

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

I would like to know which sentence is correct from the two below
1. I don't have assurance whether I will come or not
2. I'm not sure whether I will come or not
Thank you

Hello Oscas Po,

The second sentence is correct.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I have many dificulties to understand past perfect and past perfect continuous. I am studying very hard. but i don´t get achieve my target.

Hello Mpihow,

I'd recommend you read through our past perfect page, including the comments below, where Peter recently helped another user with this same issue. I'd also recommend taking a look at our perfective and continuous aspect pages.

This is one of the more subtle areas of English grammar, so be please patient with yourself. Most people need a good amount of time and practice to master this.

Best regards,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Sir. You help is much appreciated.

Which one of following sentences is correct .
Gary's game was uninstalled automatically and further reinstallation is not taking place.
Gary 's game has been uninstalled automatically and further reinstallation is not taking place

Hello neh,

That really depends on what you want to say. For example, if you view the action as recent or being connected to the present, then the present perfect form would make more sense.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

What is the difference between - " tom' s game got uninstalled automatically " and " tom's game has got uninstalled automatically ".

Hello neh7272,

These are examples of non-standard passive forms. The standard form is [be + past participle]:

Tom's game was uninstalled automatically


Tom's game has been uninstalled automatically

We can, in informal speech, replace 'be' with 'has got', as in your examples.

The difference between these is the tense: was (got) is past simple, while 'has been' (has got) is present perfect. To find out about the uses of these forms, look here for information on the present perfect, and here for information on the past simple.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team