Past verb forms with present or future meaning

Posted by Manjusha Filed in English Grammar

A past verb form does not always have a past meaning. Verbs like I had, you went and I was wondering are often used to talk about the present or the future.

after if, unless, supposing etc.

After if, unless and words with similar meanings, we often use past verb forms to refer to the present or the future.

after it's time, would rather and wish

After these expressions, past verb forms can have present or future meanings.

distancing in questions, requests etc.

We can make questions, requests and offers more polite by using past tenses. Common expressions are I wondered, I thought, I hoped, did you want.

modal auxiliaries

The modal auxiliaries would, should, could and might usually have present or future meanings.

See also

Common errors with adverbs New!
Common errors with conjunctions New!
Expressing a condition
Expressing a concession or contrast
Common errors with adjectives
Common errors with pronouns
Common errors with nouns and noun phrases
Causative use of Have
Indirect questions