1 Talking about past events and situations:

We use the past simple:

  • when we are talking about an event that happened at a particular time in the past

We arrived home before dark
The film started at seven thirty.

  • when we are talking about something that continued for some time in the past

Everybody worked hard through the winter.
We stayed with our friends in London.

When we are talking about something that happened several times in the past we use

  • the past simple:

Most evenings we stayed at home and watched DVDs.
Sometimes they went out for a meal.

  • … or used to

Most evenings we used to stay at home and watch DVDs.
We used to go for a swim every morning.

  • ... or would

Most evenings he would take the dog for a walk.
They would often visit friends in Europe.

WARNING: We do not normally use would with stative verbs.

We use the past continuous:

  • when we are talking about something which happened before and after a given time in the past

It was just after ten. I was watching the news on TV.
At half-time we were losing 1-0.

  • when we are talking about something happening before and after another action in the past:

He broke his leg when he was playing rugby.
She saw Jim as he was driving away.

2 The past in the past

When we are looking back from a point in the past to something earlier in the past we use the past perfect:

Helen suddenly remembered she had left her keys in the car.
When we had done all our shopping we caught the bus home.
They wanted to buy a new computer, but they hadn’t saved enough money.
They would have bought a new computer if they had saved enough money.

3 The past and the present:

We use the present perfect:

  • when we are talking about the effects in the present of something that happened in the past:

I can’t open the door. I’ve left my keys in the car.
Jenny has found a new job. She works in a supermarket now.

  • When we are talking about something that started in the past and still goes on:

We have lived here since 2007. (and we still live here)
I have been working at the university for over ten years.

4 The future in the past

When we talk about the future from a time in the past we use:

  • would as the past tense of will

He thought he would buy one the next day.
Everyone was excited. The party would be fun.

  • was/were going to

John was going to drive and Mary was going to follow on her bicycle.
It was Friday. We were going to set off the next day.

  • the past continuous:

It was September. Mary was starting school the next week.
We were very busy. The shop was opening in two weeks' time.

 

 

Exercise

Comments

hi
i don't understand when the past perfect is used. can you help me with a simple definition and examples.

What are the stative verbs ? Could you give me some example please, thanks.
 

Hello khin!
 
Stative verbs are the name we give to verbs which go with thoughts, feelings, and our senses (seeing, hearing)  instead of actions. It includes words like believe, feel, and see. For example:
 
I believe it will rain tomorrow.
I feel happy.
I see two dogs.

We don't usually use these verbs in the present continuous, just the present simple. You find more information on our page about stative verbs.
 
Good luck!
Jeremy Bee
The Learn English Team

thanks

Hello The LearnEnglish Team,
I was wondering why we use the modal "would" to make up the past. What does   "would + verb" means there? Maybe does it express something that couldn't be done?
Thank you.

... I meant, in these sentences in particular: 
1. Most evenings he would take the dog for a walk.
2. They would often visit friends in Europe
...
Thank you

Hello The LearnEnglish Team
Could you explain me please why the word "time" is placed at the end of the next sentence and what does it means?
- We were very busy. The shop was opening in two weeks time.
 
Thank you

Hello there,
Does anyone knows an idea to improve the writing skills? please help me as my formal writing is very weak :(

Please tell me why I should use, (Q.No. 6) -- 'We had never seen anything quite so extraordinary in our lives.' instead of using -- 'We never saw anything quite so extraordinary in our lives.' . I assume the speaker is in present.
Thank you.

hi everyone!i can't make difference between exp. watched ,had watched .was watching i dont know how to use these words on the sentences can anybody help me ?
Regards,
  Blerina

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