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 read this statement in Longman text book, in comprehension reading part, which is
"... and this time he did succeed."
Why the author said that "he did succeed" not "he succeeded" ?
Isn't "succeed' a verb ?

Hello masri.ahm04,

Without knowing the context I can't say for sure, but this looks to me like an instance of using 'did' for emphasis. This page explains how to use 'do' for emphasis -- 'did' can be used the same way when talking about the past.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

is hyphotheses spelling is correct?

Hello just human,

Almost. The singular is 'hypothesis' and the plural is 'hypotheses'. Please consult a dictionary for questions like this in the future.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

hello,could you tell me the difference between "who does Lucy love?" and "who loves Lucy?" .And is the second structure grammatically correct?Thanks in advance.

Hello again fatima,

In the first question, the subject is 'Lucy' and 'who' is the object of the verb. In the second question, 'who' is the subject and 'Lucy' is the object. Both are grammatically correct.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

what is the different between?
1.He had worked there since July. 2 He had been working since July.

Hello Basel Ali,

The way these two tenses are used in explained on our Present Perfect Simple and Present Perfect Continuous page. Please take a look and then if you have any specific questions about them, please feel free to ask us there.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

If I said "What if I don't like it?" it would be wrong?
Thank you

Hello tatianna_paula,

That sentence is fine grammatically. It may not be appropriate for a particular context but it is grammatically correct.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team