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.
- If I had the money now I would buy a car.
- You look as if you were just about to scream.
after it’s time, would rather and wishAfter these expressions, past verb forms can have present or future meanings.
- I wish I had a better memory.
- Ten o’clock – it is time you went home.
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.
- I thought you might like some coffee.
- I wondered if you were free this evening.
modal auxiliariesThe modal auxiliaries would, should, could and might usually have present or future meanings.
- Would you lend me some money?
- Could you help with me for a moment?
- She should be here soon.