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.





I have an exam after 2 days . please reply as soon as possible. There're a lot of questions in my book about ( covered with/by/in) what's the difference between them?
Do we say the earth is covered by or with forest?
And the forest is covered with or by or in trees?

About that sentence " they left their home at 6 am " and they would reach London some 12 hours later" ...there is no context. I read it in my school book and it says that in this sentence they already reached London but it doesn't explain why . is there a rule or something I could follow ?
My book only gave some sentences and tells which future action happened or not in the past. I got them all but this one above . how do I know they arrived as the book says when there is no context.

They left their home at 6 am and they would reach London some 12 hours later .
Does this sentence mean they arrived or not ? And how can I know?
Thanks in advance

Hi uchiha itache,

What's the context for this sentence? It sounds as if it means that they did arrive in London, but it would probably be easier to explain this in reference to the context.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

hello everybody,I would say if these sentences are correct:
1-It's been a long time since I spoke italian
2--It's been a long time since I have spoken italian
3-I haven't spoken italian for a long time
4-I haven't been speaking for a long time
what differences in meaning are there between the first one and the second one and between the third one and the fourth one?

Hello manuel24,

All of those sentences are correct. I don't think there is a difference in meaning between the first two sentences, and I think they are used interchangeably by most speakers. You could also use 'It's a long time since...' in each sentence. Again, the meaning does not change.

In the second pair of sentences the difference is subtle and more one of emphasis and context than anything else. I think the second sentence is more likely to be used when the person is in the middle of the conversation. In other words, while the person is speaking, they would say 'I haven't been speaking...' whereas 'I haven't spoken...' would be more likely before or after the conversation. However, as I said these are very subtle distinctions and certainly not fixed rules of any kind. You would be fine using the two forms interchangeably, I would say.



The LearnEnglish Team 

hello peter,which is the time period in the sentences -It's been a long time since I spoke italian and
-It's been a long time since I have spoken italian? it isn't a unfinished time and so shouldn't we only use the present perfect? why can we use the past tense?

Hello manuel24,

We often use since to refer back to a finished time in the past:

I've lived here since I was born.

This boxer has not lost since he became a professional.

I have been very busy since I started the new job.


In a way, the past form here is the more normal form. The past form (since I spoke) describes a finished time in the past, just like the examples above. The present perfect form (since I have spoken) is a rather odd construction which people use but which is conceptually rather strange. It has a sense of it's been a long time since I have been a person who has the experience of speaking Italian, I suppose. However, both are used in modern English and both are correct.



The LearnEnglish Team

ok peter,as your explanation i think that i didn't understand the sense on the sentences at all.i understood that "It's been a long time since I spoke italian and
-It's been a long time since I have spoken italian" have a sense of "it's been a long time since the last time i spoke italian,so that they are a negative sentences,isn't it so?

Hello manuel24,

Yes, both sentences tell us that the person has not spoken Italian for a long time. That's correct, and that's what I explained in my earlier answer. The difference between them is quite subtle, as I said, and they are used interchangeably in most contexts. I don't know what you mean by 'negative sentences', however.



The LearnEnglish Team