You are here

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



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

Hello Sir,
how do we use Sequence of tenses in a correct manner.
Like, that clause(Sub ordinate Clause) follows Each tense in sub ordinate clause.

Hello Kapil Kabir

There are explanations of this on our Reported speech 1, 2 and 3 pages. Please have a look at those pages and try the exercises on them. If you have any further question, don't hesitate to ask us on one of those pages.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

I wanna ask that
Which is correct
I want to buy the house which we had seen yesterday
I want to buy the house which we have seen yesterday

Hello Santinder,

As presented and without any other context, neither sentence is correct. The present perfect (have seen) is not used in a finished time context (yesterday). The past perfect (had seen) is only used when there is a second past reference, not a present time reference (want).


The most natural way to form this sentence is with a past simple verb:

I want to buy the house which we saw yesterday.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks sir you cleared my doubt