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Interactive video lesson plan for: Using the past to talk about the present and future: BBC Masterclass

Activity overview:

Everybody knows that in order to talk about the past, we need to use past tenses. But did you know you can also talk about the present or the future using past forms? Sian has more.
You’ll find a summary and an exercise on our website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/course/towards-advanced/unit-8/session-1

Transcript:
Sian
Hi, Sian here for BBC Learning English. Today we're going to look at past forms - easy right? We use past forms to talk about things that happened in the past?

Well, it's not that simple! We also use past forms when we're not talking about past. Here a few ways we do this.

Number 1
Listen to these two examples. Which one do you think my plan sounds less definite?

Number 1: I'm thinking of going to that party later. Or, number 2: I was thinking of going to that party later.

That's right. The second one is less definite. We use past here – I was thinking - to show that the plan isn't certain yet. I haven't made up my mind.

Number 2
Listen to these two examples. Which one sounds more polite? 1. Is your report ready yet? Or 2, I was wondering if your report was ready yet.

The second one, of course, is much more polite. We use past forms here – was wondering/was – to make the request less direct and more formal. You'll be surprised how often British people use this structure – we like being polite!

Number 3
Which of these two examples sound more urgent? It's time to leave. Or It's time we left.

That's right – the second one sounds more urgent. The first example just means 'we should leave now': It's time to leave – the party starts in 20 minutes!

The second example, we use the past form. This conveys the idea that we should have already left! It's time we left – the party started hours ago.

Number 4
Which of these do you think sounds correct? I wish I have more time. Or, I wish I had more time.

That's right. The first one is not possible. To make wishes about the present we use the past form – I wish I had more time. We're not talking about the past here, we're talking about an unreal present situation. You could also use if only. If only I had more time.

Number 5
Which of these two examples sound less likely to happen? Suppose you lose your job. Or, Suppose you lost your job.

That's right. The second one sounds less likely to happen. We use the past after suppose or what if when we don't think something is likely to happen in the future.

That's it for this Masterclass. For more help with using past forms when you're not talking about the past, go to our website bbclearningenglish.com. Goodbye!

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