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Verb Tenses

A Summary of English Verb Tenses

by Owen Fourie

To speak of an English verb tense can cause students to become tense.

The first use of tense in the opening sentence is as a noun. It refers to the aspect of a language that enables us to tell the time of any action or condition. Tense indicates time and also tells us if an action or a state of being is to be regarded as complete or continuing.

The second use of tense in the opening sentence is as an adjective. It describes the state of mental or nervous tension experienced by students faced with the task of using verb tenses correctly.

The purpose of this article is to present a simple and useful reference point for anyone struggling with verb tenses.

English verb tenses: a quick overview

3 basic tenses x 4 forms = 12 tenses

Three basic tenses

  1. Present
  2. Past
  3. Future

Four forms

  1. Simple
  2. Progressive
  3. Perfect
  4. Perfect Progressive

Twelve tenses

  1. Simple Present
  2. Simple Past
  3. Simple Future
  4. Present Progressive
  5. Past Progressive
  6. Future Progressive
  7. Present Perfect
  8. Past Perfect
  9. Future Perfect
  10. Present Perfect Progressive
  11. Past Perfect Progressive
  12. Future Perfect Progressive

What does each of these tenses do? The following definitions will tell you, and the examples that conclude this article will show you how these tenses are used.

English verb tenses: definitions

Simple Present

The simple present tense reports present actions, habits, facts, and conditions. It speaks of regularly performed or recurring actions, generally accepted facts or truths, and present or usual feelings and conditions.

Simple Past

The simple past tense reports a completed action started and finished at some time in the past.

Simple Future

The simple future tense reports an action that will take place in the future.

Present Progressive

The present progressive tense reports an action that is in progress now, at this moment.

Past Progressive

The past progressive tense reports an action that was continuing for some time in the past.

Future Progressive

The future progressive tense reports an ongoing action that will exist in the future.

Present Perfect

The present perfect tense reports an action that is completed in the present.

Past Perfect

The past perfect tense reports an action that has been completed in the past.

Future Perfect

The future perfect tense reports an action that will be completed in the future.

Present Perfect Progressive

The present perfect progressive tense reports an action that started in the past and is continuing now, or it stopped recently and has some impact on present conditions.

Past Perfect Progressive

The past perfect progressive tense reports an action that continued for some time in the past and was completed at some point in the past.

Future Perfect Progressive

The future perfect progressive tense reports an action that will continue until a certain point in the future

In these definitions, the word action is used. Other words such as event, situation, and condition could also be used in addition to action to broaden the scope of some definitions.

English verb tenses: examples

Simple Present

He always climbs Mount Everest and none of the other Himalayan peaks.

The highest mountains in the world are in the Himalayas.

The height of Mount Everest is 8,848 meters.

He likes the challenge of mountaineering.

Simple Past

He climbed Mount Everest in 1984.

He wrote an article about that expedition.

Simple Future

He will climb Mount Everest again next year.

He is going to climb Mount Everest next year.

He climbs Mount Everest tomorrow.

Present Progressive

He is climbing Mount Everest at this moment.

Past Progressive

He was climbing Mount Everest last month.

Future Progressive

He will be climbing Mount Everest next year.

Present Perfect

He has climbed Mount Everest.

He has written articles about some of his adventures.

Past Perfect

He had climbed Mount Everest in 1984.

Future Perfect

By this time next year, he will have climbed Mount Everest.

By this time next year, he will have written about that event.

Present Perfect Progressive

He is tired because he has been climbing.

Past Perfect Progressive

He had been climbing for two hours before he took his first break.

Future Perfect Progressive

He will have been climbing for two hours by the time he takes his first break.

Don’t let English verb tenses cause you to be tense. Relax and use this article as a handy reference point to relieve your tension.

Click on the following link to a video that will give you a well-constructed overview of English verb tenses.

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If you are still unsure about any point concerning verb tenses, ask here for clarification. Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

Here are more articles to help you with English words, grammar, and essay writing.

Copyright © 2013 by English Essay Writing Tips www.englishessaywritingtips.com


1 comment

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