Meaning[edit | edit source]
The past tense is used when speakers wish to distance the situation - in vividness, reality or directness. Typical uses include:
- Single past action in the past: Emma woke up at 6.30.
- Past repeated actions: I played football twice a week when I was at school.
- Past state: Peter was ill for the last ten years of his life.
- Polite conversation marker (present or future): Excuse me. I wondered if you had a few minutes after the meeting…
- Present regret: I wish I had a job that paid more.
- Counterfactual present: The children would understand if they were older.
- Hypothetical future (viewed as not very probable: If I didn’t get my degree next year, my father would be very disappointed.