Past Future Tense

Basically, the forms of the Past Future Tense are similar in structure and implication to those of the Present/Simple Future Tense. What makes them different is that the auxiliary verb will or shall that appears in its past form would or should. The Past Future also has two forms; they are would and was going to. Though sometimes the two forms can be used interchangeably, they often state different meanings. Would is used for volunteer or promise whereas was going to is used for plan. Yet, both forms can be used to make prediction about the future in past.

The Pattern

1. Would


Subject + would/should + V1 (verb base) ————->> I would do ….


Subject + would/should + not + V1 (verb base) —–>> I would not do ….

Interrogative (Yes/No Question)

Would/should + Subject +V1 (verb base) —————>> Would you do ….? Yes, I would/No, I wouldn’t.

2. Was Going To


Subject + past be (was, were) + going to + V1 (verb base) ————->> I was going to do …..


Subject + past be (was, were) + not + going to + V1 (verb base) ——>> I was not going to do …..

Interrogative (Yes/No Question)

Past be (was, were) + subject +going to + V1 (verb base)————->> Were you going to do ….? Yes, I was/No, I wasn’t.

Time Signals

The time signals usually used with the Past Future among others are yesterday, last Sunday,last night, two days ago, etc.

The Uses

The Past Future is used to express:

1. prediction in the past;

The first function of the Past Future is to tell the past prediction, an action which was predicted to happen at a certain time in the past. In the past you thought that something would happen in the future. You may use either would or was going to in this case.


  • According to the weather forecast, it would be cloudy yesterday.
  • I guessed that he would take me to the cinema last night.
  • I thought that she was going to come along with her brother, but she didn’t.
  • Mom would probably get angry to see her beautiful vase was broken.

2. a planned action in the past;

You can also use the past future to tell about an action which was planned to be done at a certain time in the past. As the rule stated above, so we will use was going to form to make a planned action in the past.


  • I was going to pick her up at the station at 7 last night but I cancelled it because my boss asked me to attend a sudden important meeting in the office.
  • He was going to give me a nice gift.
  • We were going to leave for Jakarta last night but the flight was canceled due to pilot strike.

3. volunteer or promise;

A promise or a volunteer action in the past can be stated in past future. We use would form in this case.


  • He promised me that he would send me an email as soon as he arrived.
  • The company management promised that the salary of the employee would be increased.
  • The candidate of the president stated that he would make the people more prosperous.

4. An action would happen in the past;

 The next function of Past Future Tense is to explain about an action whìch will happen in the past when there is another activity in the past.


  • I would go to the book store when my friend came at 9 a.m yesterday.
  • When you paid me for the food yesterday, actually I was going to pay it myself.
  • They wouldn’t go anywhere two days ago when I asked them to help me.

5. conditional sentence type II (present unreal condition);

Use the Past Future to make the conditional sentence type II, especially the main clause. The sub-clause is in Simple Past.


  • I would be happy if you were with me now.
  • He would accompany me if I asked him to.
  • You wouldn’t fail if you made well preparation.

6. reported/indirect speech;

You need to use the Past Future Tense to make an indirect speech if the direct speech is in Simple Future Tense.


  • My husband told me that he would give me a special gift on my birthday.
  • The man told his daughter that he would take her to the zoo the following Sunday.
  • He promised me that he wouldn’t leave me anymore.

7. request or command

To make request or command more formal or polite, would is better than will. Remember that the meaning is present, not past. We make the command or request now, at the time of speaking.


  • Would you open the window, please! It’s very hot here.
  • Would you help me with my complicated math problem, Sir?
  • Would you please give me a glass of fresh water? I’m very thirsty.


Just like all future forms, Past Future can not be used with time clauses as well (the clauses begin with before, after, when, while, by the time, as soon as, etc). You must use the Simple Past instead of the Past Future.


  • When you would arrive at the station, we would pick you up. (not correct)
  • When you arrived at the station, we would pick you up. (correct)

Check the 16 English Tenses you want to study more below!




Past Future

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