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.






" Samantha hadn’t had time to explain her side of the story. " it looks strange to me.... why this sentence having hadn't and had both

Hello Devesh Raj,

This is an example of a past perfect form. The construction for the past perfect is:

had + past participle

For example: had gone, had looked, hadn't eaten.

In your example the main verb is 'have' and its past participle is 'had'. Therefore we have hadn't had.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Team,

I am confused about the proper tense for appraisal writing and hope that you would kindly give me some advice.

My previous boss told me that present tense should be used for general description of appraisee's performance even if the appraisal period was in the past. However, my present boss considered that past tense should be used under all circumstances for past appraisal period.

Allow me to provide some sentences in question:
1. "When she was asigned of ad hoc duties, she completed the tasks timely with good quality of output." While it happened during the appraisal period, can it be interpreted as a general description of the appraisee's performance (because the description is also true to her present performance) and hence present tense be used?
2. "Miss Chan is a bright officer. She has good knowledge about her work." Is present tense the correct tense be used for comment on appraisee in an appraisal report?

Thanks a lot!


Hello Evachi,

I would say that if you are describing something which is finished - a completed time period - then past forms are appropriate. If you want to draw more general conclusions then present forms are fine. You can use both, of course:

She worked very well as part of the advertising strategies team, and copes well under stress.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thks a lot for the prompt reply, Peter!

Hi Team,

In the 6th sentence from exercises:
We ______ anything quite so extraordinary in our lives.
Why "never saw" is marked as a wrong answer? The correct one "had never seen" seems to me a bit out of the context as I am not sure if this happens in the past or the present.

Hello Jarek_O,

Strictly speaking, you could use the past simple in this sentence. This kind of sentence, however, is usually used to tell the story of how you witnessed an extraordinary event. In this use, since you're referring to a past event from a past perspective, the past perfect is nearly always the tense you see or hear used in it.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Which one is correct?
I would have changed the plan , if I had known it.
or, I would have changed the plan , if I knew it.

Hello Vickyy Bhardwaj,

Grammatically speaking, both of these are possible, depending on the context. If you say 'had known' then you are describing a situation in the past which was not true:

I would have changed the plan , if I had known it. [you did not know it and you did not change the plan]

If you say 'knew' then you are talking about a true situation in the past and speculating about possible outcomes. We do not tend to use this when talking about ourselves because we know the outcomes made (so speculation is generally not possible). However, when talking about other people it is possible. For example:

I heard he studied French at Oxford University.

If he studied French at Oxford then he would have met Sarah. She studied French there too. [we know he studied French; we are speculating about his meeting Sarah]

As you can see, the context is very important here.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I don't know how much my question is exactly related to this topic however, I really hope to get an answer for it.
"I have been watching a movie before I come here" is it correct?
thank you