Past simple vs. present perfect simple
1 We use the past simple to talk about complete events which are finished, or before ‘now’, the moment of speaking. I called you yesterday. Where were you?
We didn't have computers when I was born.
2 We use the present perfect simple to connect the past and ‘now’, the moment of speaking. We’ve called you three times today. Where have you been?
We’ve lived in the same house all our lives.
Use the past simple with minutes ago, yesterday, last week, when I was... etc.
We often use for, since, just, already, yet, ever and never with the present perfect.
They went out a few minutes ago. They've just left
I saw that film yesterday. I've already seen that film.
I met her boyfriend last weekend. I’ve never met your girlfriend.
We moved there when I was young. We've lived there since I was a child.
1 We use just before the past participle to say that something happened a short time ago.
We’ve just arrived. They’ve just gone out.
2 We use already at the end of the sentence or before the past participle to express surprise or emphasise that something happened.
Have you finished already? We’ve already seen this film.
3 We use yet at the end of negative sentences to emphasise that something didn’t happen (but probably will in the future), and at the end of questions.
I haven’t started this exercise yet (but I will) Have you met my new boyfriend yet?
4 We use still before haven't in negative sentences, or before not in questions, to show surprise that something you expected to happen didn’t happen.
I can’t believe you still haven’t said sorry. Has she still not told you the truth?
Past simple vs. past continuous
1 We use the past simple to talk about actions that happened at one moment in time in the past. We use the past continuous to describe the background actions in progress around that time in the past.
I was playing football, (background) I broke my leg. (action)
We were having a picnic, (background) It started to rain, (action)
What were you doing? (background) I called you. (action)
2 It is common to use when with the past simple to introduce the past action, or while with the past continuous to introduce the background.
I broke my leg while I was playing football.
We were having a picnic when it started to rain.
What were you doing when I called you?
Time conjunctions: as / then / as soon as
Other time words that we use with the past simple are then and as soon as. We can also use as with the same meaning as while.
As soon as I got home, I turned on the TV for the big game.
The picture came on, then I learned the bad news.
Someone scored as I was making a sandwich.
Past simple vs. past perfect
1 We use the past simple to talk about an event that happened at a specific time in the past.
We use the past perfect when we need to emphasise that one event happened before another.
The match had started when we got there.
When I got to the street I realised I hadn't brought his address with me.
How long had you been there when they finally arrived?
2 Sometimes it is necessary to use the past perfect to make the meaning clear. She’d left when I got there. (I didn't see her.)
She left when I got there, (but I saw her.)
3 It is not necessary to use the past perfect when before or after is used.
She left before I got there.
Present perfect simple vs. present perfect continuous
1 We use the present perfect simple to emphasise the result or completion of an activity.
I've copied that CD you asked me for. Here it is.
I’ve bought everybody's presents. Aren’t I organised!
We use the present perfect continuous to emphasise the activity, not the result or completion of the activity (it may not be finished).
I’ve been copying CD’s all morning. Great fun!
I’ve been shopping for presents. That’s why I wasn't here.
2 We use the present perfect simple to emphasise ‘how many'.
I’ve done ten exercises this morning. You’ve had three pieces of cake already!
How many sandwiches have you made?
We use the present perfect continuous to emphasise ‘how long’.
I’ve been doing exercises for hours. You’ve been eating cake since you got here!
How long have you been making sandwiches?
had better / should / ought to
We use should or ought to to give advice, or say what we think is a good (or bad) idea. They have the same meaning. Remember, should is a modal verb, and is used without to. We use had better to give stronger advice or warnings. The form is always past (never have better), but the meaning is present. Had better is also used without to.
You should take a rest. You shouldn’t worry so much.
She ought to be more careful. She ought not to be so pessimistic.
He’d better start doing some work. He’d better not come near me.
100% probability will
t will probably is likely
might might not
probably won't isn't likely to
0% probability won’t
When we make predictions about the future, we can use will, might and be likely to (and their negative forms) to show how sure we are about the chances of something happening.
My parents will be really angry when I get home tonight. (100% sure)
My father will probably / is likely to shout at me.
They might not let me go out again next weekend.
My brother probably won’t / isn’t likely to help me.
But next weekend, my parents won’t remember what happened!
First conditional with if and unless
In first conditional sentences:
a both verbs refer to actions or events in the future; b the verb tense after the words if or unless is present simple; c the verb tense in the other clause is will or won’t, d we can use if or unless (which means ‘if not');
e when we use unless, the verb that follows is in the positive.
If my friends visit me (tomorrow), we’ll go out for lunch.
I'll take them to the Chinese restaurant, unless they want to eat pizza. (=.... if they don't want to eat pizza.) Unless my parents give me some money, I won’t be able to pay. (= if my parents don't give...)
moke / let / be allowed to
1 We use make [someone do) to talk about an obligation.
Our teacher makes us do a lot of homework. (= We cannot choose, it’s an obligation that our teacher gives us.) My older brother made me lend him some money. (= I could not choose, my brother forced me.)
2 We use let [someone do] to talk about permission.
Our teacher lets us leave early on Fridays. (= The teacher gives us permission to leave early.)
My father let me use the car yesterday. (= My father gave me permission to use the car.)
3 We use be allowed to [do something] to say that someone has (or has not) got permission.
At our school, we're allowed to wear jeans if we want to.
When we were young, we weren’t allowed to play outside in the street.
Modals of obligation, prohibition and permission
1 have to / don’t have to is used to talk about obligation / no obligation.
We don’t have to wear school uniform. (= Wearing school uniform is not an obligation for us.)
We didn’t have to pay for the meal. (= It was not necessary to pay.)
2 can / can’t is used to talk about permission.
You can watch TV if you want to. (= I give you permission to watch TV.)
We can’t go in because were not 18. (= We don’t have permission to go in.)
3 We use mustn't to prohibit someone from doing something, or to say that something is very important.
We mustn’t be late! (= It is very important for us not to be late.)
You mustn't talk to me like that! (= I am telling you that I don’t allow this.)
Present and past passive review
We form the passive with a form of the verb to be + the past participle of the main verb.
English is spoken all over the world. My bike was stolen last night.
Causative hove (have something done)
We use have something done when we talk about a service or function that someone else does for us. I had my hair cut last week. (= I went to a hairdresser and a person cut my hair.)
We’ve had our car repaired. (= We’ve taken our car to a garage and someone has repaired it for us.)
Present perfect passive
We form the present perfect passive with have/has been + past participle.
Our old house isn’t there any more - it’s been pulled down.
The rules of tennis haven’t been changed for a long time.
We form the future passive with will be / wont be + past participle.
Those trees will be cut down next month.
If you don’t behave properly, you won't be invited again!
Gerunds and infinitives
1 When a verb is followed by another verb, the second verb is either in the gerund (-ing) or infinitive form. The form of the second verb depends on the first verb.
2 Some verbs (e.g. enjoy, detest, (don’t) mind, imagine, feel like, suggest, practise, miss) are followed by a verb in the gerund form.
I don't enjoy living in the city very much. She doesn't feel like going out tonight.
3 Other verbs (e.g. hope, promise, ask, learn, expect, decide, afford, offer, choose) are followed by a verb in the infinitive form.
We can't afford to go on holiday this year. I promise to pay you on Monday.
Verbs with gerunds or infinitives
1 Some verbs (e.g. remember, stop, try) can be followed by a second verb in either the gerund or infinitive form. The form of the second verb depends on the meaning of the sentence.
I remember going to my first football match with my dad. (- I remember the occasion.)
I remembered to go to the stadium and buy the tickets. (- I promised my son I would buy the tickets and I didn't forget to do this.)
I stopped to watch the news headlines. (= I was doing something (my homework / talking to my parents) when the news started. I stopped the first activity because I wanted to watch the headlines.)
I stopped watching TV and went to bed. (= I was watching TV. I was tired so I turned off the TV and went to bed.)
2 Some verbs (e.g. like, love, hate, prefer, begin, start) can be followed by gerund or infinitive with no difference in meaning.
We began to run when it started raining. We began running when it started to rain.
1 When we want to talk about imaginary actions and their consequences, we use the second conditional.
2 The second conditional has two clauses; ‘if* the past tense' to introduce the hypothetical situation and ‘would / could / might + verb' to talk about the imaginary result.
If! had more time, I would learn the guitar.
3 The clauses can be put the other way around. In this case we don’t use a comma.
She would be the best student if she worked harder.
4 Other ways of saying if in a second conditional include what if, suppose, imagine and say.
What if you won the lottery? Would you be happy?
Suppose you could live forever. Would you want to?
Imagine you knew your brother was a burglar. Would you tell the police?
Say you could live anywhere. Where would you choose?
I wish / if only
1 When we want to talk about how we would like our present life to be different, we can use wish or if only + past simple.
2 Although we are talking about our present situation, wish / if only are followed by the past tense.
/ wish I didn't have so much homework. Dave wishes he had a girlfriend.
3 We use wish / if only + could when we want to talk about having the ability or permission to do something.
I wish I could play the guitar. Sally wishes she could go to the party.
Linkers of contrast: however / although / even though / in spite of / despite
1 Despite and in spite of are followed by a noun or verb in the gerund form.
Despite being very rich, he’s not happy. In spite of his wealth, he's not very happy.
2 Although and even though are followed by a clause.
Although they played badly, they still won.
Even though he's lived in Paris for three years, he doesn't speak French.
3 However always starts a new sentence.
I don’t usually like action films. However, I really enjoyed Troy.
Modals of deduction (present)
1 When we are sure something is true, we use must.
She got ten Valentine cards. She must be popular.
2 When we are sure something is not true, we use can’t.
He's failed the driving test five times. He can’t be a very good driver.