This tag is for questions related to usage of the past tense in English.

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14
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4answers
7k views

When is the present perfect tense used instead of the past tense?

When is the present perfect tense used instead of the past tense? I know that the present perfect tense is used when some adverbs (e.g., never, ever) are present in the sentence; the same is true ...
52
votes
3answers
12k views

Why do some words have two past tense forms (e.g. “dreamed” vs. “dreamt”)?

While perusing ShreevatsaR's answer to this question, it occurred to me that my own verbal usage is out of step with what I see in current American literature. When speaking in the past tense, I ...
12
votes
2answers
15k views

Why do people sometimes use the past perfect form of a verb when the past would suffice? (e.g. “you had mentioned”)

I noticed that my American friends tend to use the past perfect form when they use the verb mention in its past form, almost despite of the context of the sentence. I hear them say "you had mentioned"...
16
votes
4answers
9k views

When will “Present Perfect vs. Past Tense” cases be affected by culture?

Regarding actions taken in the past, besides the differences those two tenses have semantically, my teacher shared that it could be a British vs American English case. When talking about past action,...
6
votes
4answers
1k views

Tense change: previous actions on something that's currently true

I'm describing a situation that happened in the past. To explain it, I want to use a description that is both true now and true when the situation happened. Specifically, I want something like: ...
2
votes
2answers
4k views

Why do we use the base form of verbs instead of the past form in past tense questions?

In regard to this answer, my question is similar but that answer is not clear. I want to know why we use base form of verb, e.g. 'go' to form the past tense instead of past form such as 'went'? ...
37
votes
5answers
35k views

What's the negation of “I used to be”? Surely not “I didn't used to be”?

What is the negative form of "I used to be"? I often hear "I didn't used to be" but that sounds awfully wrong in my ears.
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Why is the present perfect used in headlines? [duplicate]

In news reports, we often read or hear events introduced with the present perfect, and then the past simple like this: The film star Jim Cooper has died of cancer. He was 68 and lived in Texas. ...
7
votes
8answers
9k views

“I didn't know you liked her” or “I didn't know you like her”

I have a friend who insists that "I didn't know you like her" is more correct than "I didn't know you liked her" if the liking is still taking place. But to my ear, only the latter ...
8
votes
2answers
3k views

what does “it's time I told you” mean and why past tense here? [duplicate]

I'm watching Suits TV Series, and there was something that caught my attention. 2 guys meet, have a drink, chat, and then one guy says: I mean it's time I told you. I made a deal with Darby to ...
24
votes
7answers
32k views

Is “must” ever grammatical as a past tense verb?

I have seen uses of must that appear to be in the simple past tense. Sometimes these seem grammatical, but sometimes not. Examples that help illustrate my confusion: He knew he must go to New York ...
11
votes
6answers
10k views

“I have never said” versus “I never said”

I have never said this. I never said this. Is the usage of have in the first sentence justified or grammatically correct? What is the difference in meaning? When should I use one form over ...
16
votes
3answers
13k views

Why do we use 'did' with questions using the simple past tense?

Where did you go last night? Where went you last night? Is there a reason we say the first of the previous two sentences as opposed to the last one? I know the second sentence is ungrammatical. ...
25
votes
2answers
10k views

When do you use “learnt” and when “learned”?

Is learnt UK English and learned US? Is it that simple? I’m used to using learnt, but my US spellchecker says it is wrong.
15
votes
9answers
2k views

Must present perfect tense be used if the action takes place more than once?

I was told that if an action is completed once in the past, the simple past is used. Ex: I saw that movie. If the action is completed more than once, the present perfect tense must be used. Ex: I ...
5
votes
2answers
779 views

Using past tense when referencing a still-true fact [duplicate]

In the sentence: "I didn't know she had a son," Can I say "I didn't know she has a son" instead, because he is a teenager now? Or are both correct?
0
votes
2answers
944 views

Present or Past tense to describe a past condition which is still present?

Scenario: My friend John has a personality disorder, intensely paranoid for example. Can I say: There were three events last year that told me John had a problem. or can I say: There were ...
14
votes
5answers
39k views

Why is the past tense used in “I was wondering if you would like to come for dinner?”

Why isn't the present tense used? I am wondering if you would like to come for dinner.
10
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3answers
30k views

“Had better” — what is the meaning of this grammatically?

I'm interested to know why we use had better for recommendation. Technically we're speaking of an action that hasn't yet occurred. Like he had better leave a tip means he hasn't yet left a tip, but I ...
7
votes
3answers
19k views

“I just ate them” and “I've just eaten them” — What's the difference in American and in British?

I know there are differences between American and British English in this area. So when answering, please specify whether you speak American or British English.
2
votes
3answers
4k views

When do I use present perfect tense instead of the simple past? [duplicate]

I've finished my work. I finished my work. When do I use one or the other?
2
votes
3answers
3k views

Why do you write “occurred” but “listened”?

The past tense of to occur is occurred (not occured), but the past tense of to listen is listened (not listenned). Why? What is the general rule that is applied to make the past tense of a verb?
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Is the past tense correct in “Did you know Fred was a doctor?” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicates: He didn't know where New Jersey was… Tense change: previous actions on something that's currently true My wife and I were disagreeing about this today: ...
24
votes
6answers
139k views

Which is correct: “troubleshooted” or “troubleshot”?

Troubleshooted is not a word, but troubleshot is. Is this really the correct word to use? I always feel like saying: I troubleshooted it. vs I troubleshot it For some reason, it just ...
30
votes
9answers
90k views

Is “errored” correct usage?

If "errored" is not a valid word, then how should I say: The program errored at line 44 I guess I could say: The program threw an error at line 44 But why is "errored" wrong? Is there a ...
15
votes
3answers
10k views

Past tense of wake: is there a difference between “waked”, and “woke”?

I just stumbled over the verb "to wake", which according to various sources has two valid forms for the past tense: "woke" and "waked". Some further research stated, that there seem to be two (Old / ...
13
votes
5answers
11k views

Is “shined” correct? If so, is “he shined X on the tree” also correct?

Recently, I overhead a former professor of mine use the word shined, a word that makes me grammatically uncomfortable. She used it as following: "Then, after we shined a light on the other ball, what ...
10
votes
1answer
5k views

UK English: Is “dived” a valid word?

Proofing a manuscript, I found this in the middle of a chase scene: Spotting an opening, I dived into it and was horrified to find it was a dead end. Is “dived” a valid past tense of the verb “...
5
votes
2answers
3k views

Past tense of “must” when meaning logical probability

I'm wondering how to say this sentence in the past tense: He must be very clever I have seen that the past tense of "must" is "have to" but it doesn't sound good to me to say something like "he ...
6
votes
2answers
65k views

Was vs had been

I guess this question has been asked before, but please take a look the following sentence and tell me if there is a difference between them. When the transaction had been completed, A was still a ...
5
votes
2answers
3k views

The habitual past “would” versus “simple past” tense

One can use the habitual past 'would' to describe past events. For example one could say, Jim would spend weekends at the farm. He would cut weed and water the plants. One can also use the ...
4
votes
2answers
745 views

Tense agreement in conditional statements: “I could do whatever I want” vs. “I could do whatever I wanted”

Consider the following sentences: If I had my own place, I could do whatever I want. If I had my own place, I could do whatever I wanted. She said I could do whatever I want. She ...
2
votes
1answer
141 views

“Has changed since March 1” vs “Changed on March 1”

My address has changed since March 1. The new address is now 123 Mapple Street. Is the verb tense in “has changed” correct in this case? If the action is completed, it seems like it should be: ...
2
votes
3answers
75k views

Which is correct: “is solved” or “has been solved”?

In a technical environment, what is the most suitable sentence to use when answering to someone about a problem that they had and we solved it for them: The problem is solved The problem has been ...
-1
votes
1answer
4k views

“Did it close” vs “Has it closed”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: How do the tenses in English correspond temporally to one another? What's the difference between the following? Did the shop close? Has the shop closed? I suspect the ...
33
votes
4answers
27k views

“Cancelled” or “Canceled”?

Cancelled or Canceled ? Which one is right? You have successfully canceled the registration or You have successfully cancelled the registration
7
votes
6answers
26k views

Are “might” and “should” past tenses of “may” and “shall”, respectively?

According to the dictionary definitions (e.g. in Merriam-Webster) , "should" is the past of "shall" and "might" is the past of "may": But are these modal verbs really used as such? I know they are ...
6
votes
4answers
12k views

Tenses after “as if”

"I'll always remember this rule as if I had just learned it" Do you consider this sentence grammatically correct? The main clause refers to the future, so I guess that the Past Simple would convey ...
6
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1answer
22k views
9
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2answers
49k views

Is “earnt” a real word?

Is the past tense for the word "earn" "earned" or "earnt", and does the word "earnt" even exist?
8
votes
4answers
65k views

“Lept” vs. “leapt” vs. “leaped”

After reading this discussion, I'd like to know what example sentences distinguish the meaning of the words lept, leapt, and leaped from each other?
2
votes
1answer
7k views

Did you ever hear(see, do, anything else) vs. Have you ever(seen, done, and so on) heard? [closed]

What's correct? If both, what is the difference between these questions? An example from The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: MacDonald turned over the letter which Holmes had handed him....
2
votes
1answer
2k views

“Have you seen…” or “Did you see…?”

In the US, when people work together, they may look for a colleague or any person to say something or for any other reason, asking colleagues or other people this type of question: Have you ...
5
votes
3answers
62k views

Which past tense of “to light” should I use here?

I know that there are two ways to form the past tense of to light (i.e. lit/lighted). Which one is appropriate for the sentence below? His thoughts lighted our way. or His thoughts lit our ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

“They knew what mercy is” vs. “they knew what mercy was”

They knew what mercy is. They knew what mercy was. Mercy is something that always exists so can I say is as in the quoted example?
2
votes
4answers
456 views

There is a current trend of using past tense, when meaning present tense.

For example, someone on the phone said, "I was calling to ask for a form," when she meant to say, "I am calling to ask for a form." I hear this consistently, and usually in customer service ...
2
votes
1answer
7k views

What does “I was had” mean?

Maybe he would help me with Deborah's pablum, take turns pushing the wheelchair. It's good to have someone. That reminded me that I had someone -- or perhaps I was had. In any case, Rita would ...
0
votes
4answers
18k views

I lived vs I used to live

I cannot see any difference between these two sentences. I assume both express the same but what is the difference? I thought that "used to" is used to describe an action that was happening in the ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

To tell the name of a person I met in the past

I have a basic grammar question about the past tense. If I met a guy yesterday, which tense should I use about his name today? For example, "Yesterday I met a guy, his name is/was John."
7
votes
8answers
836 views

Differentiate between past and present just by pronunciation when word is followed by d- or similiar sound

How can we distinguish, for example, these two sentences just by listening to the pronunciation? They first kill the trees. They first killed the trees. When pronouncing kill the trees, ...