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


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The LearnEnglish Team

"was there anyone from this college recruited by them ?"

Is the above sentence correct ? If not how to use it...?What is the correct form of it ?

Could you help me with these sentences? 

1. Nick (lie) ___down on the grass for a while, next to some tourists who were feeding the ducks. 

My answer is: was lying 

The textbook's answer is: lay

2. Sorry, I (not listen) ___ to you. I was thinking about something else. 

My answer is: didn't listen

The textbook's answer is: wasn't listening

3. We didn't go out yesterday because it (rain)____ 

My answer is:  rained

The textbook's is: was raining 


I don't know why I was wrong with these sentences. Please help me to understand them more. Thanks much. 

According to my opinion:

1. The verb "lie down" has implied movement or progressive action, it's an activity that you change your position from standing (for example) to lying on the ground. That's why it doesn't necessarily need to be expressed in progressive or continuous form.

2. the answer was "wasn't listening to you". It's from Betty Azar right?. The speaker in this case may try to stress the process of the action , therefore, not the result or the end of the action. Just imagine, the speaker had at least two choices in that case.

a. She was listening to her interlocutor

b. she was thinking about something else.

however, she preferred the second and the first remained undone.

therefore, if she wants to express it, she should express it in the similar form as found in the second i.e. in progressive.

3. you imagine that something was in progress whereas another activity happened in between its time duration.

so, the rain was in progress when the speakers (we) decided not to go out that day.

That's all I can render. Thank you, have a great time with Azar. :D



I`m new in this site , I registered only to improve my grammar but it seems too complicated , i`m  kind of confused now because  the list of contents is too long and in a random order i assume ! (or it is not?)  , I was wondering if you could help me sort it out  that from which part i should start it? verbs? nouns? tenses? adjectives?adverbs?! 

Thanks for your help 


Hi Adam


Would appreciate your help regarding the below:

which is correct?

I thought I should ask if u were busy? 


I thought I should ask if u are  busy?


Thanks n Regards