Verbs come in three tenses: past, present, future. The past is used to describe things that have already happened (e.g. earlier in the day, yesterday, last week, three years ago). The present tense is used to describe things that are happening right now, or things that are continuous. The future tense describes things that have yet to happen (e.g. later, tomorrow, next week, next year, three years from now).
The Present Tenses
* Simple Present
* Present Perfect
* Present Continuous
* Present Perfect Continuous
* Simple Present
* Present Perfect
* Present Continuous
* Present Perfect Continuous
The Past Tenses
* Simple Past
* Past Perfect
* Past Continuous
* Past Perfect Continuous
The Future Tenses
* Simple Future
* Future Perfect
* Future Continuous
* Future Perfect Continuous
Simple Present Tense:
Simple Present Tense (Present Indefinite)
The simple present tense is the one which we use when an action is happening right now, or when it happens regularly (or unceasingly, which is why it’s sometimes called present indefinite). The simple present tense is formed by using the root form or by adding ‑s or ‑es to the end, depending on the person.
In present tense, regular verbs use the root form, except for third person singular (which ends in ‑s).
First person singular: I write
Second person singular: You write
Third person singular: He/she/it writes (note the ‑s)
First person plural: We write
Second person plural: You write
Third person plural: They write
This sentence implies that I write grammar books on a regular basis, perhaps as a career.
Anna writes the letter.
This sentence could be from a narrative, telling a story about what Anna is doing right now.
Here are some other examples:
I go, you go, he/she/it goes, we go, you go, they go
I see, you see, he/she/it sees, we see, you see, they see
I learn, you learn, he/she/it learns, we learn, you learn, they learn
Irregular present tense verbs are things like to be, which change for each person.
First person singular: I am
Second person singular: You are
Third person singular: He/she/it is
First person plural: We are
Second person plural: You are
Third person plural: They are
I am 20 years old.
You are 20 years old.
He is 20 years old.
Present Perfect Tense
The present perfect is used when an action began in the past yet is still relevant. It’s created by using the present tense of have + the past participle.
I have seen
You have seen
He/she/it has seen
We have seen
You have seen
They have seen
Martha has asked for the day off.
Who Has Seen the Wind is an excellent book.
They have slept in because it’s Saturday morning.
Remember to look out for irregular past participles.
He has drunk all the milk again.
The dogs have lain down in front of the fire.
You’ve left your umbrella behind.
Present Continuous Tense (Present Progressive Tense)
When something is happening at the same time we’re talking about it, that’s when we use the present continuous tense. We form it by using the present tense of be + present participle (the root word + ‑ing).
She is washing the car as we speak.
Are you coming with us to the party?
Where we going?
I am not arguing with you; I am discussing the matter with you.
Remember not to use the present continuous tense with non-action verbs like seem and know. These verbs should use the simple present.
She is seeming tense.
She seems tense.
Present Perfect Continuous Tense (Present Perfect Progressive Tense
The present perfect continuous is used with actions that began in the past and are still continuing. The formula for present perfect continuous is present tense of have + been + present participle (root + ‑ing). You’ll most often see this verb tense used with the wordsfor and since.
What have you been doing since I last saw you?
We’ve been moving house. There are still boxes to unpack.
They’ve been watching TV for three hours now.
The car has been sitting in the garage, unused, since last month.
Has Mary been going to all her classes?
Remember not to use the present perfect continuous tense with non-action verbs like be,seem, and know. These verbs should use the present perfect.
Mary has been seeming tired.
Mary has seemed tired.
Simple Past Tense
The simple past refers to things that have already happened, and are finished doing their thing.
World War II was from 1939-1945.
Mom cooked supper.
I did the dishes.
Margaret aced her math exam.
Regular verbs are changed to the simple past by adding ‑ed to the end of the root form. If the verb already ends in ‑e, we just add ‑d.
- Play – played
- Type – typed
- Listen – listened
- Push – pushed
- Love – loved
Irregular verbs follow no pattern when they change to the simple past tense. You’ll have to check a dictionary if you’re unsure as to what the past tense might be.
- See – saw
- Build – built
- Go – went
- Do – did
- Leap – leapt
- Rise – rose
- Dig – dug
Some verbs don’t change from their present form.
- Put – put
- Cut – cut
- Set – set
- Cost – cost
- Hit – hit
Past Perfect Tense
The past perfect tense is used to show that one action in a sentence finishes before a second action begins. Words like before and after are indicators that the past perfect tense may be used; however, there are no strict rules for this situation. You must choose the best verb tense for your sentence.
The past perfect is created by using I had, you had, he/she had, we had, you had or they had + past participle.
Both of these sentences are correct.
After he tied his shoes, he left the house.
After he had tied his shoes, he left the house.
The maitre d’ poured the dessert wine, but not until the cake had been cut.
The baby ripped the book before the mother had noticed him playing with it.
Past Continuous Tense (Past Progressive Tense)
The past continuous tense is used to refer to several temporal situations. It’s made with the past tense of be + the present participle (the root word = ‑ing).
Narrative in past tense.
It was raining. The water was pouring down in sheets and the passersby wre getting wetter with every step, despite their umbrellas.
When one action is happening at the time of another particular time.
It was raining at noon.
It was raining during lunch.
When one action is happening at the same time as another.
It was raining while I was out walking.
Remember not to use the past continuous tense with non-action verbs like seem and know. These verbs should use the simple past.
I was knowing my neighbour quite well.
I knew my neighbour quite well.
Past Perfect Continuous Tense (Past Perfect Progressive Tense)
The past perfect continuous is written by using the past tense of have + been + present participle. It’s used when one activity in the past was happening before or after another activity had taken place. Look for the words for, since, and before.
The car had been sitting in the garage, unused, for a month.
It was 5 o’clock; his parents had been waiting for him since 2 o’clock.
Before they immigrated, my father had been working as a surgeon and my mother had been training to be a psychiatrist.
We'd been walking for only 5 minutes when the rain started.
Remember not to use the past perfect continuous tense with non-action verbs like be, seem, and know. These verbs should use the past perfect.
The baby had been being cranky all night.
The baby had been cranky all night.
Simple Future Tense
The simple future is the tense we use when something will begin and end later. It’s created by putting will in front of the root word.
I will learn a new language.
Annie will make a cake.
The cat will sleep all day.
Will you come to the beach with us?
Who will become the next president?
Future Perfect Tense
The future perfect is used to talk about an action that will be finished before something else happens in the future. It’s made by using will + have + the past participle. Look for key words which suggest the action is in the future, such as later, tomorrow, next week and next year.
I promise I will have this finished by the end of today.
Hopefully, the prospectors will have found gold before winter comes.
Will you have shaken that cold by next week, do you think?
We will haveeaten all the food by the time he arrives.
Remember to check for irregular past participles.
Future Continuous Tense (Future Progressive Tense)
The future continuous relates one action in the future to another specific action or time.
It’s formed this way: will + be + present participle (root word + ‑ing).
We will be going to the gym after work.
Will you be joiningus?
At 5 a.m. tomorrow, they will be departing Alaska.
I'll be returning home next Thursday.
Remember not to use the future continuous tense with non-action verbs like seem and know; include be in this list for future continuous tense. These verbs should use the simple future.
She will be being here at 3:00.
She will be here at 3:00.
Future Perfect Continuous Tense (Future Perfect Progressive Tense)
The future perfect continuous tense is used much like the future perfect, but one of the actions is likely to continue beyond the other. It can also be used when one action will be continuing at a certain time in the future. Create the future perfect continuous this way: will+ have + been + present participle (root + ‑ing). Look for key words like in and by.
In September, I will have been going to school for 4/5 of my life.
By 2015, you will have been living in Mexico longer than you’ve lived anywhere else.
By the end of this month, she will have been working long enough to get benefits.
In three months, they will have been seeing each other for a year.
Remember not to use the future perfect continuous tense with non-action verbs like be, seem and know. These verbs should use the future perfect.
Tomorrow, I will have been being here for a week.
Tomorrow, I will have been here for a week.