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




'The bribery Commission alleged that the accused had had given information....'

I have found this sentence from a local newspaper. I would like to know could we use 'had' like this? I mean back to back.

Please help me with this.

Thank you.

Hello naaka,

The answer is that we can't use 'had' in this way! The sentence is not correct and I can only guess that it is a misprint. It is possible to use either 'had given' or 'had had' in this sentence - both are examples of the past perfect using the third forms of the verbs 'give' and 'had', respectively.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello all
I am studying English but I didn't understand the difference between was/were and V2
someone help me please :)

Hello rvnn4,

I'm not sure what you mean exactly. 'Was' and 'were' are the second forms (past simple) of the verb 'be'. They can be used as main verbs or as as auxiliary verbs in various structures. 'V2' is not something we use on these pages but it may be an abbreviation for the second form of the verb. If so then 'was' and 'were' would be examples of 'V2'.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter
Thank you so much

Hello dear team,
You said:
Past perfect: I had worked
Past perfect continuous:I had been working

What the different from:
I have worked
I have been working.

Is there any different meaning from the both sentences?

Thank you very much

Hello again fahri,

The two forms you mention are present perfect simple ('have worked') and present perfect continuous ('have been working'). These are explained on this Quick grammar page and in this language focus video.

The difference between past perfect and present perfect is explained on our talking about the past page.

Please take a look at these pages and then if you have any other specific questions, don't hesitate to ask us!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello all
Please kindly let me know the difference in the meaning of these two sentences:
1.It is time for you to do something about it.
2.It is time you did something about it.

The difference in meaning is:
'It's time to do something' would normally suggest that this is a good time to do something or it was planned for now.
'It's time you did something' would normally suggest that the best time to do it has actually passed. It's overdue. You really should have done it before now.
The second phrase is often used with these extra words to emphasise how late you are in doing it:-
It's about time you did something.
It's high time you did something. (more emphatic)

Hello ashazimzadeh,

There is no difference in meaning between these two sentences and both are correct. 2 would probably be considered more correct in traditional grammars, but 1 is very commonly used and is also correct. In structures like the one in sentence 2, the past tense has a present meaning.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team