To increase speaking range, practice using the past grammar structures below to answer the speaking questions at the bottom of the page

grammar structures for the past

Talking about a past habit that isn’t now I used to exercise a lot but now I do nothing
Giving background before main event I had always wanted / hoped to / dreamed of
Showing disappointment by talking about what didn’t happen I had hoped / I had expected / I had anticipated that I would … but..
Showing relief (talking about something bad that didn’t happen) I could (easily) have died
Talking about a result We ended up going home.
Reminiscing about the past When I was young I would (often / always) play football (every day) after school
imagining about the past 1 If I had(n’t) done it…..careful!
imagining about the past 2 (before ) Had my parents not helped me so much, I never would have become a …
criticizing about the past 1


I (really / probably) should have started studying Egnlish ealier.
I (really / probably) shouldn’t have chosen my career.



Criticizing about the past 2 (when someone chose the wrong thing) The hospitals are bad now. The government would have been better off spending more on them and less on the army.
Critiziing about the past 3 (soft) My parents let me play too much when I was young. It would have been better if they had made me study more.
Critcizing about the past 4 (strong) Politicians are really bad. They could have done a lot more in the last 10 years to help people.


speculating about the past 1 : I am sure that (+ past) People before must have worked less before because they did not have computers.
speculating about the past 2: I am not sure / I can guess that People before might have been happier as there was less stress. me might / could / might well / could well have liked it because
speculating about the past 3: kind of sure / good guess Families might well have had an easier life before because there were less divorces.
speculating about the past 4: sure NOT People can’t have had a better life before because they died earlier than now.
speculating about the past (until now) 5: I’m sure sure Most people won’t have tried Fijian food.
speculating about the past 6: I’m logically sure You would have been a good student at school


complaining about the past The government could have invested more money in hospitals in the last 10 years. The hospitals now are really bad
regretting about the past 1 I wish I / we / the government had (n’t) done it because had I done so…
regretting about the past 2 If only I had(n’t) done it, I would (n’t)…..

questions (IELTS Part 2) about the past

Talk about a time you made a mistake

– When was it

– Why did you make the mistake

– What did you do about it

And what happened as a result

Talk about a time someone you know made a big mistake

– When was it

– Why did he/she make the mistake

– What did you do about it

And what happened as a result

Talk about a time you were late for something

– When was it

– Why were you late

– What did you and others think about this

What happened as a result

Talk about a time you made someone unhappy

– Who was the person

– What did you do

– How did you feel about it

Did the other person forget about this

Talk about a time someone made you feel bad

– Who was the person

– What did he / she do to make you feel bad

– What happened as a result

and do you still see this person

Talk about a time you forgot something important

– What was it

– Why did you forget it

– What were the consequences

And has this happened again

Talk about a time you missed a good opportunity

– When was it

– What was the opportunity

– Why did you miss it

And did you get the opportunity again

Talk about a time you had difficulty going to sleep.

– When was it

– What caused the difficulty

– What did you do about it

and what was the end result

Talk about a time you were a passenger in a car

– Whose car was it

– Where were you going

– Why

and what did you think about it

Talk about a time you were irritated or annoyed

– When was it

– How badly annoyed or irritated were you

– Why

and what was the end result

Talk about a time you needed a break

– What were you doing

– Why

– Why did you need the break

and if you took it