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Past tense

Level: intermediate

Past tense

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 (when we imagine something)
  • for politeness.

There are four past tense forms in English:

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 there since July.

  • to refer to the present or future in hypotheses:

It might be dangerous. Suppose they got lost.

This use is very common in wishes:

I wish it wasn't so cold.

and in conditions with if:

He could get a new job if he really tried.
If Jack was playing, they would probably win.

For hypotheses, wishes and conditions in the past, we use the past perfect:

It was very dangerous. What if you had got lost?
I wish I hadn't spent so much money last month.
I would have helped him if he had asked.

and also 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.

Past tense 1


Past tense 2



Hello. Could you please help me?
Is the following sentence correct?
- Nobody has come to see us since we lived in our new house.
Thank you. I appreciate your help.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

That's not quite right. We would use the verb 'moved (to)' rather than 'lived (in)':

Nobody has come to see us since we moved to our new house.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Could you please help me? Which sentence is correct? If both are correct, what is the difference between them?
- When she left school, she learnt many things and decided to be a teacher.
- When she left school, she had learnt many things and decided to be a teacher.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both sentences are grammatically possible.

The first sentence (she left) implies the following sequence: first she left school, then she learnt many things.

The first sentence (she had left) implies the following sequence: first she learn many things, then she left school.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. What's wrong with the following sentence? I think it is OK.
- I did my homework when the telephone rang.
Thank you.

I was doing my homework when the telephone rang.

India went on to win after following-on at Eden gardens or India went on to won after following-on at Eden gardens which is correct

Hello Badagoni.Naresh,

'went on to win' is the correct form. In this case, the phrasal verb 'to go on' is followed by an infinitive.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir I have an another example
We know When we change Imperative Sentence(Direct Speech) into Indirect Speech we use "to" to join two clauses.
He said to me"Come here."(Direct Speech)
He ordered me to come here.(Indirect Speech)
We know that the Indirect Speech is also a Simple Sentence which has a finite verb(Ordered).
If we change this Simple sentence into a complex sentence.
He ordered me to come here.(Simple sentence)
He ordered me that I come/came here.(Complex Sentence)
Which verb is preferable here.

My doubt regarding to this question is that can we assume this order as an Indirect Order if it is an Indirect Order then the verb must be Base form of verb.

Hello Kapil Kabir,

I'm afraid ...ordered me that I... is not a correct construction, irrespective of the form of the verb which follows.



The LearnEnglish Team