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

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4answers
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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.
12
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3answers
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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 ...
2
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2answers
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Question about interrogations in past tense

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'? ...
42
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3answers
7k 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 ...
4
votes
4answers
767 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: ...
33
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5answers
18k 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.
2
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3answers
3k views

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

I've finished my work. I finished my work. When do I use one or the other?
10
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2answers
9k 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 ...
22
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7answers
14k 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 ...
14
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3answers
10k 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 ...
22
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2answers
5k 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.
10
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5answers
10k 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.
5
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8answers
2k 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 ...
2
votes
2answers
727 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: ...
6
votes
4answers
5k 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 ...
21
votes
6answers
71k 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
587 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 ...
8
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1answer
2k 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 ...
12
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2answers
4k views

Past tense and “rather than”

I found myself with a sentence like this, using "accept" in the infinitive form after "rather than": They left the club, rather than accept the terms. But I'm unsure of its grammatical ...
10
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3answers
16k 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 ...
3
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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 above example?
4
votes
3answers
11k 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.
3
votes
2answers
269 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?
3
votes
2answers
383 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 ...
1
vote
3answers
9k 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 ...
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votes
1answer
2k 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 ...
25
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4answers
10k views

“Cancelled” or “Canceled”?

Cancelled or Canceled ? Which one is right? You have successfully canceled the registration or You have successfully cancelled the registration
13
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2answers
93k views

'I get it' vs. 'I got it'

When someone tells me something, how should I respond, "I get it" or "I got it"? I have a feeling that "I got it" means "I already knew the thing before you told me," and "I get it" means "Now I know ...
6
votes
6answers
10k 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
1answer
11k views
4
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2answers
24k views

“Has been” vs. “was”

Should one use has been or was in the following sentence, and why? For many years the USA has been a British colony. For many years the USA was a British colony.
2
votes
1answer
59 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 ...
1
vote
2answers
1k 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?
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4answers
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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 ...
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6answers
6k 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 ...
5
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2answers
2k 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 ...
3
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3answers
584 views

Correct tense for events which happend long time ago but still have direct connection with present time

Suppose that a man disappeared twenty years ago and I haven't had a notice about him since then. What should I say to my interlocutor if I want to tell him about this story? You know, Harry has ...
3
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2answers
1k views

“Would you have liked to have been” vs. “would you have liked to be”

I was interested in the following sentence which appeared in an article titled “No Rest for the Weary” in The New York Times (February 15, 2008). Would you have liked to have been president from ...
3
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2answers
3k views

When and why is “flied” used as the past tense of “fly”?

Why is the form "flied" used in baseball instead of "flew"?
2
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2answers
747 views

Using verb tenses correctly

I'm trying to keep this descriptive essay in the past tense. I bolded the words of my concern (and italicized the ones I believe are in the right tense) in the following passage: As a result of ...
1
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1answer
4k 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 ...
-1
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3answers
196 views

Stating facts that occured in the past

We were shocked when we found/find out the toilet had/has no flush. My natural intuition would lead me to write this way: We were shocked when we found out the toilet had no flush. Then ...
8
votes
2answers
12k views

Is “should” ever used as past tense of “shall”?

Looking at the dictionary, I read that should has origin as past tense of shall. In the modern English, is should ever used as past tense of shall? ORIGIN Old English sceolde: past of shall.
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3answers
14k views

“I didn't finish” versus “I haven't finished”

If I worked on something yesterday but it was not finished, should I use "I didn't finish it yet" or "I haven't finished it yet"?
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votes
9answers
55k 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
34k views

Difference between 'haven't …yet' and 'didn't… yet'

I was wondering what the difference was between a sentence with have and one with do. For example this one: They haven't started yet. They didn't start yet. Is there a difference? ...
5
votes
4answers
380 views

“I left before they had decided what to do” Why is 'decided' in the past perfect?

I left before they had decided what to do. Is this because this is a past version of "I leave before they have decided what to do"? Because "left" doesn't come before "decided".
0
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1answer
160 views

it “went” without saying?

I was reading a traveling novel and came across this sentence: We all caught the metro back to the centre of town at about midnight, drunk and very happy. It goes without saying that the carriage ...
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4answers
1k views

Are the verbs that are conjugated to end in “-n” in the past related?

There are many words that in English are conjugated in the past tense to end in "-n": grow goes to grown, sew goes to sewn, throw goes to thrown, etc.. I'm guessing it was probably the regular ...
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6answers
1k views

How can I change the tense of a hyphenated verb?

I'm certain this can't be the only example there is of a hyphenated verb, but it's the only one I can think of right now. How should one appropriately convert "mouse-over" into the past tense? ...