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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 ahlinthit

The simplest way to say it is something like 'They said that he had to go to school'. You should of course change 'they' to the person who is reporting the speech.

Thanks for telling us that the comment box didn't work for you. If you were on Reported speech 1 or 2, that's because we are currently revising those pages. Once they're finished, you will be able to comment there. In any case, on this reported speech page you can ask any other questions you have.

Thanks and best wishes


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello wesleybaan

The word 'say' doesn't collocate with the word 'speech' in that way, though I'm sure people would understand it. We usually use 'give' or 'deliver' or 'report' with the noun 'speech'.

As for the verb tense, you're right, you could use the past simple there since the action was in the past. A present tense is also possible if you're thinking more about the sentence than the actual event.

In either case, I noticed that I had left out the word 'to' before 'school' in my first comment. Sorry if that caused any confusion. I've fixed it so that it's now there and wanted to point that out.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, My question is about the verb wed. Should wedding be in past form like I wrote in the following sentence?

Wedding ceremony everywhere, Oh Lord, bless all the newly WEDDED couples. For we that aren’t, direct us to the virtuous ones.

Hello sirmee,
The past form is usually 'wed' and the past participle is either 'wed' or 'wedded':
wed > wed > wed/wedded
In your sentence, the past participle 'wedded' is functioning as an adjective describing the noun 'couples'. It is correct.

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir, please is the following sentences correct

Some people wanted to update status at the expense of their lives

This is the first time seeing a girl doing stunts.

Thank you

Hello sirmee

Without knowing what you are trying to say, I can't say for sure, but I would recommend saying 'update their status' in the first sentence. I understand the second sentence, but it is not correct in standard English: say 'This is the first time I've seen ...' instead.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir, please is this sentence correct. “He has changed my perspective towards cops.”

I used to have negative thinking about cops, but now I realize not all of them are bad.

Can I use “has changed” in the sentence above? Thank you.

Hello sirmee,

Yes, that sentence is fine. The present perfect can express a change in the past which is still true at the moment of speaking.



The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, please is the following sentence correct? Suddenly, he DIED yesterday in his room.

My question is should I use dies or died?

Hello sirmee

'died' is the correct form to refer to yesterday. I would recommend 'Yesterday he died suddenly in his room' instead, since 'yesterday' first tells us about the general time and then 'suddenly' is more clearly related to the action of dying.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team