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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 Sir,
how do we use Sequence of tenses in a correct manner.
Like, that clause(Sub ordinate Clause) follows Each tense in sub ordinate clause.

Hello Kapil Kabir

There are explanations of this on our Reported speech 1, 2 and 3 pages. Please have a look at those pages and try the exercises on them. If you have any further question, don't hesitate to ask us on one of those pages.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

I wanna ask that
Which is correct
I want to buy the house which we had seen yesterday
I want to buy the house which we have seen yesterday

Hello Santinder,

As presented and without any other context, neither sentence is correct. The present perfect (have seen) is not used in a finished time context (yesterday). The past perfect (had seen) is only used when there is a second past reference, not a present time reference (want).


The most natural way to form this sentence is with a past simple verb:

I want to buy the house which we saw yesterday.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks sir you cleared my doubt

I have question
If I have visited place and I am describing it should I refer to present simple or past simple and also the people if I am talking about my someone at past but i wanna say they are kind for ex should I use present simple or past simple
Thanks in advance

Hello Marmar234

You can choose whether to speak about it in the present or in the past. In general, if you want to focus on your visit and your experience there, the past is probably a better choice. If you want to focus on the place, then the present might make more sense. The same is true for speaking about people.

You might find the Talking about the past page useful.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

It is actually an introduction. Now I know why it is so. Thank you so much, I highly appreciate.

Hi there,
Fight to enemy or fight enemy?
Which one is correct and why?
Thanks in advance

Hello mehransam05

'to' is not used before the object of the verb 'fight' -- we just say 'fight the enemy' here.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team