Tricky English Tenses

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Jan 16, 2018 23:04
English tenses are tricky. Though many grammar books have explained how to use them, the reality is much more complicated. Doing multiple choices questions on exams is usually not difficult, but putting the grammatical rules into use is quite a different story. For me, the trickiest thing while using tenses is how to switch spoken phrases usually used in the present tense to their appropriate forms in the past tense. It looks like there aren’t general rules, and the best way is to pick up on them one by one, so that’s why I think it’s difficult.

I’ve now learned to use the past-tense forms of some expressions and will try to summarize here. The following examples are from my Lang-8 entries.

1) Accidents will happen.
A: I got a flat tire yesterday.
B: Well, accidents will happen.

If I want to switch the expression “accidents will happen” to the past tense, the correct form should be “accidents were bound to happen” instead of “accidents would happen.”

2) who knows.
A: I didn’t make the flight to Los Angeles
B: Maybe that’s a good thing. Who knows.

If I want to use the expression “(but) who knows” in a past-tense situation, it remains unchanged as “(but) who knows.” But how about “who cares?”

3) Only God knows…
This should be changed to “Only God knew…”

4) Look who’s talking. You’re one to talk. You should talk.
The possible form is “was one to talk.”

5) Now you’re talking. (agreeing with someone’s suggestion)
What’s the past-tense form of this phrase?

6) Wanna repair your car? Now you’re talking 500 dollars.
What’s the past-tense form of the phrase “now you’re talking 500 dollars?” Is the choice “then he was talking 500 dollars” correct?

Thank you!



1) 世事难料
2) 谁知道呢
3) 只有天知道
4) 你还好意思说别人。
5) 你说得很有道理。
6) 你要修车,那要500美元。