1 Talking about past events and situations:

We use the past simple:

  • when we are talking about an event that happened at a particular time in the past

We arrived home before dark
The film started at seven thirty.

  • when we are talking about something that continued for some time in the past

Everybody worked hard through the winter.
We stayed with our friends in London.

When we are talking about something that happened several times in the past we use

  • the past simple:

Most evenings we stayed at home and watched DVDs.
Sometimes they went out for a meal.

  • … or used to

Most evenings we used to stay at home and watch DVDs.
We used to go for a swim every morning.

  • ... or would

Most evenings he would take the dog for a walk.
They would often visit friends in Europe.

WARNING: We do not normally use would with stative verbs.

We use the past continuous:

  • when we are talking about something which happened before and after a given time in the past

It was just after ten. I was watching the news on TV.
At half-time we were losing 1-0.

  • when we are talking about something happening before and after another action in the past:

He broke his leg when he was playing rugby.
She saw Jim as he was driving away.

2 The past in the past

When we are looking back from a point in the past to something earlier in the past we use the past perfect:

Helen suddenly remembered she had left her keys in the car.
When we had done all our shopping we caught the bus home.
They wanted to buy a new computer, but they hadn’t saved enough money.
They would have bought a new computer if they had saved enough money.

3 The past and the present:

We use the present perfect:

  • when we are talking about the effects in the present of something that happened in the past:

I can’t open the door. I’ve left my keys in the car.
Jenny has found a new job. She works in a supermarket now.

  • When we are talking about something that started in the past and still goes on:

We have lived here since 2007. (and we still live here)
I have been working at the university for over ten years.

4 The future in the past

When we talk about the future from a time in the past we use:

  • would as the past tense of will

He thought he would buy one the next day.
Everyone was excited. The party would be fun.

  • was/were going to

John was going to drive and Mary was going to follow on her bicycle.
It was Friday. We were going to set off the next day.

  • the past continuous:

It was September. Mary was starting school the next week.
We were very busy. The shop was opening in two weeks' time.

 

 

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

First of all, I'd like to apologize I posted this in the wrong section.

I want to know if "After seventy years of British withdrawal...." is grammatically correct. When I read it, to me it seemed like the author was saying that the British withdrawal was a process that took 70 years, and the subject is what happened after the seventy years.

In my opinion, the correct way saying what the author means is "Seventy years after the British withdrawal...", but am I even right?

(Also, could you please provide feedback on the language used in this comment?)

Hello ItsJustADisposable,

Without knowing what is meant by this phrase, I'm afraid I can't say much for certain, but I can say the second phrasing sounds better to me, too.

We're happy to help out with any sentences from our pages that you have questions on, and occasionally help out with other specific questions about specific sentences, but otherwise I'm afraid we don't provide the service of correcting users texts. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, i got confused with 3parts

1) "past simple-happened several time in the past", the context "Most evenings we used to stay at home and watch DVDs", the meaning is the actions only happened in the past but not continue now or still continue?

2) "Past in the past", the context "They wanted to buy a computer, but they hadn't saved enough money", the meaning is they had no enough money for a computer back then, but now, they have or don't have a computer?

3) "Future in the past" - the context "It was September. Mary was starting school the next week", the meaning of the "next week" is not happen yet as of the time of speaking or already happened?

Hope you can explain further.

Thank you.

Hello again CK,

1) 'used to' only refers to past actions that are no longer true. So in this case we do not stay at home and watch DVDs in the present.

2) This form doesn't refer to the present at all, so it is not clear whether they have a computer or not now.

3) The time of speaking is presumably sometime after September, so 'next week' refers to a time that is in the past (from the perspective of the present) but in the future (from the perspective of the past time that is being talked about).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I have some problems with the word '' today ''.
If I want to describe at the evening about an event happened in this morning, which sentence is grammatically correct.
1. Today,I went to a village.
or
2. Today,I go to a village.

Hello Jack Frost,

The first sentence is correct if you are speaking after the trip (for example, if you are speaking in the afternoon).

The second sentence would be correct if you were describing a typical action which happens to take place today. For example, imagine you go to the village every Friday and it is Friday today. Then you might say 'I go to the village today', describing what is a typical action for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello

Shouldn't there be an apostrophe after the s in two weeks' time?

the past continuous:
It was September. Mary was starting school the next week.
We were very busy. The shop was opening in two weeks time.

Hello jean999,

Thank you very much for pointing this out. You are quite correct and I have edited the page accordingly.

We try very hard to avoid typos like this but some inevitably get through and when they do it is good to know we can rely on our eagle-eyed users to spot them!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Very nice! I get it.
Hope you don't mind coz I am asking again, like I really need to relate this to my previous question.
Q: if I use ''have'' is it correct if don't add a time reference to it? On the flip side, I'm aware I have to include a time reference but I'm asking if it is still possible if I don't (ex. I have finished my homework) Thx.

Hello Aoll212,

In this example you have changed the verb form from past perfect to present perfect, so it is not the same meaning at all. With present perfect sentences the time reference is already known: it is the present. There is no need to provide a time reference. The past perfect describes a time before a past time, so needs a reference; the present perfect describes a time before the present, and so the time reference is already known. Therefore your example is fine and, indeed, providing a time reference other than a duration of unfinished time (with for or since) would be incorrect.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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