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

Section: 

Comments

Hi :)

I have some confusion about the appropriate use of tenses in a specific context as folows:

Spring Festival is a very important festival because it tells us we need to forget all the things that HAVE HAPPENED / HAPPENED in the past ...

Which tense should be used, simple past tense, present perfect tense or both? Please tell me why.

Many thanks :)

Hello beckysyto,

You could use either 'have happened' or 'happened' here. The present perfect form more clearly includes everything that has happened up until this moment. The past simple form could also imply that, too, though. Although I don't know a lot about the Spring Festival, I'd probably just use the past simple form, since it's focusing more on making a separation between the past and the present (if I've understood it correctly).

I'd also refer you to a useful explanation of these two different tenses in the Cambridge Dictionary that you might find useful.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello pls help me these..
I read somewhere that if English is ur second language and ur thoughts are always in ur mother's tongue when expressing urself in English, it will always affect ur mastering of English. I belief this is wot confuses me most time in d appropriateness of present n past tenses in conversations like these..
" l don't just move here,l ve been here since last year " or " l didn't just move here l ve been here since last year " don't and didn't which is correct in conversation going on between two person now. And also
"That was why l didn't call u" or "that is why l didn't call u"
" l will tell u wot l told her n in response to d statement.. Which was or which is"
"This is why u left or this was why u left"
What are d correct uses in d sentences above
I will b glad sir if u can give me a simple way to master this. Thanks in anticipation
Thank u sir

Hello crownriches,

For most people, it's quite difficult to master a new language. Trying to think in the new language is certainly a good way to practise it, so I'd encourage you to do it as much as possible. There are some other useful tips on how to get the most out of our site on our Frequently asked questions page.

As for the sentences you asked about, in the first, 'didn't' is the correct form. You could also use the present perfect ('haven't just moved'). In the second and fourth sentences, both 'was' and 'is' are correct. If you use the past form, it gives a bit more sense of the past moment, but they mean the same thing.

I'm afraid I don't understand what you're asking in your third question. Please feel free to ask again, but please explain it a bit more.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hello help me out with these; something happened and someone said this is on me, and another person responded this wasn't your fault.
What's d difference: what u just said wasn't nonsense and what u just said isn't nonsense

Hello crownriches,

In most contexts there is no difference. If we say ...wasn't nonsense... then we are referring to something at the moment of speaking. However, this does not mean that it is not still the case now. If we say ...isn't nonsense... then we make it clear that it is still true now. The only difference would be if what was said was nonsense then but now makes sense, which is fairly unlikely.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Which are correct; l didn't know it was u or l didn't know it is u
Successive presidents have maintained d culture of excellence and tradition of being d best up to my predecessor who also passed it on to me or
Successive presidents had maintained d culture of excellence and tradition of being d best up to my predecessor who also passed it on to me

Hello crownriches,

We use the present perfect only when there is an unfinished time period. In this example the time period is finished as it says 'up to my predecessor'. Therefore 'have maintained' is certainly incorrect.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
I'd like to know if this sentence is correct:
if I had stayed in my last job, I wouldn't been unemployee right now.
I'm not sure if is mandatory put 'have' after wouldn't.
Thanks a lot for your feedback

Hello felipeur,

The correct sentence is:

 

If I had stayed in my last job, I wouldn't be unemployed right now.

 

As the result is a present result we need 'wound't be'. For past results we use 'wouldn't have been'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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