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

Comments

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

My question is should I use dies or died?
Thanks

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

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much.

May be you should add a clickable button to give a thumbs up as a sign of appreciation and clarification.

Hello,
Could you please clarify which tense I could use in this sentence please as I am confused as to which tense best suits to talk about a past event like this which leaves the result in the present: "No one knows exactly how the planets come/ came/ have come/ had come into being" thank you.

Hello Widescreen,

The most appropriate verb form here is the past simple:

No-one knows how the planets came into being.

 

We don't consider the existence of the planets to be a present result here. Unless the consequence is an identifiable particular change in the present (something new), we do not tend to use the present perfect in contexts like this.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you

Could you please tell me what’s wrong my sentence? sir I need your help. thank you.
“Two weeks ago I tested my level on Learnenglish.britishcouncil.org. The result was shown that my level is Intermediate. “

Hello amit_ck,

The problem is in the second sentence. You need an active verb, not a passive form:

'...the result showed that my level is intermediate.'

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please help us?
I told him that we ……….. any more people today.
a) hadn’t interviewed b) aren’t interviewing
Is "today" an indicator to choose "b"?
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both forms are possible here. 'Hadn't interviewed' would tell us about the time before you told him; 'aren't interviewing' would tell us about your plans later today.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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