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 – things that are imagined rather than true.
  • for politeness.

There are four past tense forms in English:

Tense Form
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 since July.

  • to refer to the present or future in conditions:

He could get a new job if he really tried.
If Jack was playing they would probably win.

and hypotheses:

It might be dangerous. Suppose they got lost.
I would always help someone who really needed help.

and wishes:

I wish it wasn’t so cold.

  • In conditions, hypotheses and wishes, if we want to talk about the past, we always use the past perfect:

I would have helped him if he had asked.
It was very dangerous, What if you had got lost?
I wish I hadn’t spent so much money last month.

 

  • We can use the past forms 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.

Exercise

Comments

Peter,
I assure you it's not the case! I just wanted to make sure wheather my professor is right or not. She said in the first sentence I could use Past Perfect Continuous (had been sitting), but in the second – I had to use only Past Simple (sat). Is this right? Is there such a rule? Or I can still use Past Perfect Continuous in the second sentence, since there is "for two hours" which emphasizes the process?
Thank you!

Hello Daniel157,

Context is crucial here. The forms suggested by your teacher are the most likely here and without any context to guide us those are the forms I would choose. The past simple suits the second sentence because the word 'then' indicates a sequence of actions and so we can see the sitting as something unitary and complete, as opposed to an ongoing process. However, it is not impossible to image a context in which other forms would be possible, including perfective and continuous forms. It's very hard to exclude all options in a decontextualised sentence.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there, I am writing an article about my recent trip.

I first wrote "After three hours ride, we arrived at the resort." Then, I want to describe the lobby and its surroundings.
Which one(s) of the followings is(are) proper?

1. The lobby was so beautiful. There are trees around it. And there is pond in front of it.
2. The lobby was so beautiful. There were trees around it. And there was pond in front of it.
3. The lobby is so beautiful. There are trees around it. And there is pond in front of it.

Thank you for your comments.

regards,

MTeng06

Hello MTeng06,

I would encourage you to try to meet with your teacher to get some help with these kinds of questions, but I would choose the second one because it's in the past tense. Your first sentence uses the past and so I would recommend continuing with the past.

By the way, a lobby is an indoor space, so it's a bit strange to mention trees and a pond near it. I would recommend using the word 'entrance' or something similar instead.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there, are both of the following sentences correct?
I lived in Rome for 17 years but I barely went traveling in Italy when I was there
I lived in Rome for 17 years but I wasn’t going traveling a lot in Italy when I was there

Hello Robert157,

Both of those sentences are grammatically correct. They may or may not be the sentences you need, of course - that will depend upon the context and your intended meaning.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Also how would you say it if u were asked the same question ?
Regards,
Robert

Hi Peter,
Thanks a lot for your comment. Which one will be better if i intend to explain why I dont know of many places in italy although I’m from there and i dont enjoy going travelling ? I’m just asking because people are always surprised when i say i’ve nevEr been in supposedly famous cities in italy they’ve gone to on holidays

Hello Robert157,

Your first sentence, with both verbs in the past simple, is probably best for most contexts, as you're probably looking back on your time in Rome as a finished period of time. I'd say something like 'I lived in Rome for 17 years but didn't travel much' (or 'hardly traveled at all while I was there').

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I'm searching for the meaning of "Diobestiola".
Can you please help me? Thank you!

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