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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 Everyone, could someone help me? I need to practice Conditional Sentences With Mixed Time Frames for example
If I had been working at the restaurant last ight, I would have waited on your table.
I don't know how to write this kind of sentence, I know that each one depend for situation, time, but I am confused. help me ;( thanks

Differnce among these three sentences....... had occured to me that i forgot ur birthday.. occured to me that i forgot ur birthday... has occured to me that i forgot ur birthday..
Thanx in advance......

Hello videsh,

The difference is the verb form (tense and aspect) used in each sentence.

The first sentence is an example of a past perfect form [had + past participle] and you can find an explanation of when this is used here.

The first sentence is an example of a past simple form [the second form of the verb] and you can find an explanation of when this is used here.

The first sentence is an example of a present perfect form [has or have + past participle] and you can find an explanation of when this is used here.

I hope those links are helpful.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello guys how are you ? I hope you are all fine.
I hope some one can help me with my problem.
Could someone explain me these two things : past perfect and past perfect progressive : When I have to use these tense and what are the difference .

I know how to built the grammatical structure, but I have no idea I have to use past perfect or past perfect progressive.

Hello bashkim,

This is a very large area which requires a detailed and long answer, rather more than we can provide in this comments section. However, a good starting point would be this page, which is all about the past perfect.

All continuous forms are similar in terms of the additional information they express, whether present continuous, past continuous or past perfect continuous. You can can find information about the continuous aspect on this page, which should help you.

I think those pages should be a good starting point for you. Once you've worked through them if you have any specific questions about examples then we'll be happy to respond to them in the comments sections of those pages.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank very much for your help. I will work first the pages through. I will do as you recommended .

best regards

i don't know when and how to use "could have" please assist me with examples

Hi Oscas Po,

You can find information on this topic on this page.

To look up aspects of grammar you want to study you can use the links at the top of the page ('Grammar & Vocabulary'), or the search window on the right of the page.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Some people say you need to use "that" in making wishes or hypothetical sentences. Some people say "I wish you could see this" is wrong it should be "I wish that you could see this." What do you think?