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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 sirmee

Without knowing what you are trying to say, I can't say for sure, but I would recommend saying 'update their status' in the first sentence. I understand the second sentence, but it is not correct in standard English: say 'This is the first time I've seen ...' instead.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir, please is this sentence correct. “He has changed my perspective towards cops.”

I used to have negative thinking about cops, but now I realize not all of them are bad.

Can I use “has changed” in the sentence above? Thank you.

Hello sirmee,

Yes, that sentence is fine. The present perfect can express a change in the past which is still true at the moment of speaking.



The LearnEnglish Team

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

My question is should I use dies or died?

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


The LearnEnglish Team

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.



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 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.'



The LearnEnglish Team