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 LearnEnglish Team
I have some problem with past tense verb, when I make Sentence in my mind it is correct but when I want speak about past ,I have a lot of problem.

Hello Shahla Aminaei,
I know just what you mean, because I have similar problems when I speak in foreign languages!  It's the difference between competence (what we know in our heads) and production (what comes out of our mouths), and it's very frustrating.  I'm afraid it's a case of keeping going and keeping using English... and slowly you'll make fewer and fewer mistakes.  It's a normal part of the learning process.  Just don't give up!
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

I think you should build a"monitor" to control your utterances. The more you use the monitor, the better quality you will gain. Try to speak slowly. I believe it's everybody's problem.

What is the difference between two sentences below:
It started to rain.
It started raining.
Is it true if I say the second sentence means: "It was raining in the past" and the first sentence means "It has started some minutes ago and it is raining now"
Thank you in advanced.

Well. according to the book entitled "How English Works" pp.220, they are not really different. Both versions are acceptable.

Dear Teachers : My question is...
is the past perfect and past participle are the same?
thank you

Dear Omer,
A simple answer - no, they're not! The past perfect is a verb form like the present simple. The past particple is one of the forms of a verb in English.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

that was really interesting..I liked it 

Hi I'm new here and I would like to speak with people who speak the English language via Skype, to improve my language and I hope to help me because my exam after a one month

Hello h_z, and welcome to LearnEnglish!
We really like it when students want to practice their English together. That's why we have comment sections on almost all of our pages – so you can talk to other students!
However, please remember our house rules ask you not to share personal information, including Skype and e-mail. This is to protect you and everyone else who uses our site. Why not tell us a little bit about yourself and your exam here in the comments, and see if anyone has advice or help for you?
Have fun, and enjoy your stay on LearnEnglish!
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team