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

Section: 

Comments

hello,could you tell me the difference between "who does Lucy love?" and "who loves Lucy?" .And is the second structure grammatically correct?Thanks in advance.

Hello again fatima,

In the first question, the subject is 'Lucy' and 'who' is the object of the verb. In the second question, 'who' is the subject and 'Lucy' is the object. Both are grammatically correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

what is the different between?
1.He had worked there since July. 2 He had been working since July.

Hello
If I said "What if I don't like it?" it would be wrong?
Thank you

Hello tatianna_paula,

That sentence is fine grammatically. It may not be appropriate for a particular context but it is grammatically correct.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Which should I use when talking about an event in the past that is still true today:

2002 (is/was) the year the festival began.

Hello rjtkorea,

You can use either 'is' or 'was' in this sentence without any real change in meaning.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

How exactly do these differ and what purpose do the clear inconsistencies severe.

Prn. - Pat. - Prt. - Fut.
I. Was - Am - Will be
He, She, it. Was - Is - Will be
You, We, they. Were - Are - Will be
I, You, We, They. Had - Have - Will have
He, She, it. Had - Has - Will have
I, You, We, They. Did - do - Will do
He, She, it. Did - does - Will do

Hello D.Delicour,

I'm afraid I'm not sure what you mean. They differ exactly as you can see: different forms have different meanings (primarily in terms of time reference). As to the purpose of inconsistences the question presupposes that there is a defined purpose for linguistic structures and this is not the case. Languages grow organically through use and the systems and rules we have are descriptive, not proscriptive. In other words, we describe language as it is conventionally used; we do not set rules which must then be followed. Whether or not there are inconsistences is simply the result of how hundreds of millions of people use the language and how it evolves over time. There is no plan to this; it is organic, as I said.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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