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.





Hello teacher, i'm sorry to ask a question thay surely a lot of other users have asked many times, and probably you've already answered it somewhere else in this website.. it is about a sentence that i found in a book i'm reading right now. the sentence goes like that " she thought that he took advantage of her mother "..i was wondering why didn't he use the past perfect instead of past simple in the second verb "she thought that he had taken advantage of her mother " since the action of taking advantage is a past action comparing to the action of thinking...many thanks

Hello paris-sorbonne

Without knowing more about the text, I can't really say more about this specific instance, I'm afraid, but as you suggest, it looks as if it would indeed be correct to use the past perfect tense here. Often, when the context is clear people use a simpler form (such as the past simple here), especially in speaking. Perhaps that is why the writer chose to use it here.

Hope this helps!

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello.I ask two question that i tried to figure out. One is: "A recent study, *was published which in the British Dental Journal, *focuses on a comperative analysis of the skulls of modern day people and two sets of older skulls." I think it should have been "is published" and "has focused" words after *. Why not? How can we use past tense and present tense together in one sentence. Thank you.

Hello baburbb,

The act of publishing was in the past. It is one act which is done at a particular moment, so the past tense is used.

The study itself has an ongoing existence and so we use a present tense to describe what it does/says/claims etc.


If you had a different verb than 'publish' you might use a present form. For example:

A recent study can be read in the British...

A recent study which is available in the British..




The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Mr. Peter. But there is one point that i still don't understand. Why is it past tense? Is there any sign? Is it about with word "publish" ?

Hello baburbb,

In your sentence, the verb publish refers to the act of creating a book/journal/magazine etc. Before the book is available to buy it is not published; when it is available is has been published. The act of publishing, in your sentence, happened in the past.


Here is another example:

Melville’s sixth book, Moby-Dick, was first published in October 1851 in London.



The LearnEnglish Team

I like this grammar!


I don't know why, but I'm not findings as much as satisfaction in learning German as I ....... when I started the program.

1. had done 2. have done 3. did 4. was doing

past continuous when simple past
simple past when simple past
past perfect when simple past

Hello amirfd,
I'm afraid we don't provide answers to questions like this. We're happy to explain the information on our own pages, or to answer more general questions about the English language where possible, but we don't provide an answer service for questions from elsewhere. If we did, soon we would end up doing users' homework for them!
I can tell you to look at the time relationships in the sentence. You have two times here: present ('I'm not finding') and past ('when I started'). You need to decide when the third action happens: before the past action or at the same time as/after the past action.
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter.
It's not my homework. Thank you.