§ In this lesson, we will explore the different types of tenses in English.
§ After the comprehensive study of all the tenses, the students will be able to frame sentences without making mistakes with respect to usage of tenses.
Types of Tenses
§ The concept of time can be split into:
- The Present – What you are currently doing.
I eat, I am eating
- The Past – What you did some time back.
I ate, I was eating
- The Future – What you will do later.
I will eat, I will be eating
n the English language, tenses play an important role in sentence formation.
§ The tense of a verb shows the time of an event or action.
§ There are four types of tenses. Simple, Perfect, Continuous and Present Perfect Continuous and each of these has a present, past and future form.
|Tenses Form||Simple||Continues||Perfect||Perfect Continues|
|Present||Simple Present||Present Continues||Present Perfect||Present Perfect Continues|
|Past||Simple Past||Past Continues||Past Perfect||Past Perfect Continues|
|Future||Simple Future||Future Continues||Future Perfect||Future Perfect Continues|
We could use twelve tenses in active voice and we use only a few tenses in Passive Voice
Verbs in Active voice.
|Simple Tenses||V1, V1+S, V2|
|Eg: See, Sees, Saw|
|Perfect Continues||been + V1-ing|
|Eg: been seeing|
Formulation of Active Voice
|Simple Present||V1, V1S|
|Simple Future||will/shall + V1|
|Present Continues||am/is/are + V1-ing|
|Past Continues||was/were + V1-ing|
|Future Continues||will be + V1 –ing|
|Present Perfect||have/has + V3|
|Past Perfect||had + V3|
|Future Perfect||will have/would have + V3|
|Present Perfect Continues||have/has + been + V1 –ing|
|Past Perfect Continues||had + been + V1 –ing|
|Future Perfect Continues||will have/ would have + been + V1 -ing|
Formulation of Passive Voice
|Simple Present||am/is/ are + V3|
|Simple Past||was / were + V3|
|Simple Future||will be + V3|
|Present Continues||am/is/are + being + V3|
|Past Continues||was/were + being + V3|
|Present Perfect||have/has + been + V3|
|Past Perfect||had + been + V3|
A. THE PRESENT TENSE
1. SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE
Subject + V1 (Base Form) (s/es) + Object
1. I go to college everyday
2. She wakes up at 6 o clock in the morning.
The simple present tense is used:
§ To express habits, general truths, repeated actions or unchanging situations, emotions and wishes
§ To give instructions or directions
§ To express fixed arrangements, present or future
§ To express future time, after some conjunctions: after, when, before, as soon as, until:
Be careful! The simple present is not used to express actions happening now.
- For habits
He drinks tea at breakfast.
She only eats fish.
They watch television regularly.
- For repeated actions or events
We catch the bus every morning.
It rains every afternoon in the hot season.
They drive to Monaco every summer.
- For general truths
Water freezes at zero degrees.
The Earth revolves around the Sun.
Her mother is Peruvian.
- For instructions or directions
Open the packet and pour the contents into hot water.
You take the No.6 bus to Watney and then the No.10 to Bedford.
- For fixed arrangements
His mother arrives tomorrow.
Our holiday starts on the 26th March
- With future constructions
She’ll see you before she leaves.
We’ll give it to her when she arrives.
Notes on the simple present, third person singular
- In the third person singular the verb always ends in –s:
he wants, she needs, he gives, she thinks.
- Negative and question forms use DOES (= the third person of the auxiliary ‘DO’) + the infinitive of the verb.
He wants ice cream. Does he want strawberry? He does not want vanilla.
- Verbs ending in –y : the third person changes the –y to –ies:
fly à flies, cry à cries
Exception: if there is a vowel before the –y:
play à plays, pray à prays
- Add –es to verbs ending in:-ss, -x, -sh, -ch:
he passes, she catches, he fixes, it pushes
§ He goes to school every morning.
§ She understands English.
§ It mixes the sand and the water.
§ He tries very hard.
§ She enjoys playing the piano.
2. PRESENT CONTINUOUS OR PROGRESSIVE TENSE
Subject + is/am/are + Verb (ing) (Present Participle) + Object
1. John is playing football.
2. The students are learning Grammar.
Functions of the present continuous
As with all tenses in English, the speaker’s attitude is as important as the time of the action or event. When someone uses the present continuous, they are thinking about something that is unfinished or incomplete
The present continuous is used:
- To describe an action that is going on at this moment: You are using the Internet. You are studying English grammar.
- To describe an action that is going on during this period of time or a trend: Are you still working for the same company? More and more people are becoming vegetarian.
- To describe an action or event in the future, which has already been planned or prepared: We’re going on holiday tomorrow. I’m meeting my boyfriend tonight. Are they visiting you next winter?
- To describe a temporary event or situation: He usually plays the drums, but he’s playing bass guitar tonight. The weather forecast was good, but it’s raining at the moment.
- with “always, forever, constantly”, to describe and emphasise a continuing series of repeated actions: Harry and Sally are always arguing! You’re constantly complaining about your mother-in-law!
BE CAREFUL! Some verbs are not usually used in the continuous form
Verbs that are not usually used in the continuous form
The verbs in the list below are normally used in the simple form because they refer to states, rather than actions or processes.
Senses / Perception
- to feel*
- to hear
- to see*
- to smell
- to taste
- to assume
- to believe
- to consider
- to doubt
- to feel (= to think)
- to find (= to consider)
- to suppose
- to think*
- to forget
- to imagine
- to know
- to mean
- to notice
- to recognise
- to remember
- to understand
Emotions / desires
- to envy
- to fear
- to dislike
- to hate
- to hope
- to like
- to love
- to mind
- to prefer
- to regret
- to want
- to wish
- to contain
- to cost
- to hold
- to measure
- to weigh
- to look (=resemble)
- to seem
- to be (in most cases)
- to have(when it means “to possess”)*
Perception verbs (see, hear, feel, taste, smell) are often used with can: : I can see… These verbs may be used in the continuous form but with a different meaning
- This coat feels nice and warm. (your perception of the coat’s qualities)
- John’s feeling much better now (his health is improving)
- She has three dogs and a cat. (possession)
- She’s having supper. (She’s eating)
- I can see Anthony in the garden (perception)
- I’m seeing Anthony later (We are planning to meet)
3. PRESENT PERFECT TENSE
Subject + has/have + V3 (Past Participle Form) + Object
1. I have eaten breakfast.
2. John has written his exams.
Functions of the Present perfect
The Present Perfect is used to indicate a link between the present and the past. The time of the action is before now but not specified, and we are often more interested in the result than in the action itself.
BE CAREFUL! There may be a verb tense in your language with a similar form, but the meaning is probably NOT the same.
The Present Perfect is used to describe
- An action or situation that started in the past and continues in the present. I have lived in Bristol since 1984 (= and I still do.)
- An action performed during a period that has not yet finished. She has been to the cinema twice this week (= and the week isn’t over yet.)
- A repeated action in an unspecified period between the past and now. We have visitedPortugal several times.
- An action that was completed in the very recent past, expressed by ‘just’. I have just finished my work.
- An action when the time is not important. He has read ‘War and Peace’. (= the result of his reading is important)
Note: When we want to give or ask details about when, where, who, we use the simple past. Read more about choosing between the present perfect and the simple past tenses.
Actions started in the past and continuing in the present
§ They haven’t lived here for years.
§ She has worked in the bank for five years.
§ We have had the same car for ten years.
§ Have you played the piano since you were a child?
When the time period referred to has not finished
- I have worked hard this week.
- It has rained a lot this year.
- We haven’t seen her today.
Actions repeated in an unspecified period between the past and now.
- They have seen that film six times
- It has happened several times already.
- She has visited them frequently.
- We have eaten at that restaurant many times.
Actions completed in the very recent past (+just)
- Have you just finished work?
- I have just eaten.
- We have just seen her.
- Has he just left?
When the precise time of the action is not important or not known
- Someone has eaten my soup!
- Have you seen ‘Gone with the Wind’?
- She’s studied Japanese, Russian, and English.
4. PRESENT PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE
Subject + has/have + been + Verb (ing) (Present Participle) + Object
1. She has been studying for three hours.
2. I have been working in this organization since 2010.
Functions of the present perfect continuous
§ The present perfect continuous refers to an unspecified time between ‘before now’ and ‘now’.
§ The speaker is thinking about something that started but perhaps did not finish in that period of time.
§ He/she is interested in the process as well as the result, and this process may still be going on, or may have just finished.
§ Actions that started in the past and continue in the present
She has been waiting for you all day (= and she’s still waiting now).
I’ve been working on this report since eight o’clock this morning (= and I still haven’t finished it).
They have been travelling since last October (= and they’re not home yet).
§ Actions that have just finished, but we are interested in the results
She has been cooking since last night (= and the food on the table looks delicious).
It’s been raining (= and the streets are still wet).
Someone’s been eating my chips (= half of them have gone).
Verbs without continuous forms
With verbs not normally used in the continuous form, use the simple present perfect.
§ I’ve wanted to visit China for years.
§ She’s known Robert since she was a child.
§ I’ve hated that music since I first heard it.
§ I’ve heard a lot about you recently.
§ We’ve understood everything.
§ We’ve heard this morning.
USAGE OF SINCE & FOR
Look at the following examples:
§ We lived there for five years.
§ He has been away since Tuesday.
We often use for and since when talking about time.
§ for + period: a “period” is a duration of time – five minutes, two weeks, six years. For means “from the beginning of the period to the end of the period”.
§ since + point: a “point” is a precise moment in time – 9 o’clock, 1st January, Monday. Since means “from a point in the past until now”.
from start to end
from then to now
|for 20 minutes|
for three days
for 6 months
for 4 years
for 2 centuries
for a long time
since I left school
since the beginning of time
|all tenses||perfect tenses|
For can be used with all tenses. Here are a few examples:
- They study for two hours every day.
- They are studying for three hours today.
- He has lived in Bangkok for a long time.
We do not use for with “all day”, “all the time”:
- I was there all day. (not for all day)
Since is normally used with perfect tenses:
§ He has been here since 9am.
§ He has been working since he arrived.
§ I had lived in New York since my childhood.
We also use since in the structure “It is [period] since”:
§ It was a year since I had seen her.
§ How long is it since you got married?
B. THE PAST TENSE
1. SIMPLE PAST TENSE
Subject + V2 (Past Form) + Object
1. We went for a movie yesterday.
2. John read a book last week.
Functions of the Simple Past Tense
The simple past is used to talk about a completed action in a time before now. Duration is not important. The time of the action can be in the recent past or the distant past.
- John Cabot sailed to America in 1498.
- My father died last year.
- He lived in Fiji in 1976.
- We crossed the Channel yesterday.
You always use the simple past when you say when something happened, so it is associated with certain past time expressions
- frequency: often, sometimes, always
I sometimes walked home at lunchtime.
I often brought my lunch to school.
- a definite point in time: last week, when I was a child, yesterday, six weeks ago
We saw a good film last week.
Yesterday, I arrived in Geneva.
She finished her work at seven o’clock
I went to the theatre last night
- an indefinite point in time: the other day, ages ago, a long time ago People lived in caves a long time ago.
- She played the piano when she was a child.
Note: the word ago is a useful way of expressing the distance into the past. It is placed after the period of time: a week ago, three years ago, a minute ago.
Simple past tense of to be, to have, to do
2. PAST CONTINUOUS OR PROGRESSIVE TENSE
Subject + was/were + Verb (ing) (Present Participle) + Object
1. We were playing football when it started to rain
2. I was working at 11 p.m. yesterday.
Functions of the Past continuous
§ The past continuous describes actions or events in a time before now, which began in the past and is still going on at the time of speaking.
§ In other words, it expresses an unfinished or incomplete action in the past.
It is used:
- Often, to describe the background in a story written in the past tense, e.g. “The sun was shining and the birds were singing as the elephant came out of the jungle. The other animals were relaxing in the shade of the trees, but the elephant moved very quickly. She was looking for her baby, and she didn’t notice the hunter who was watching her through his binoculars. When the shot rang out, she was running towards the river…”
- To describe an unfinished action that was interrupted by another event or action, e.g. “I was having a beautiful dream when the alarm clock rang.”
- To express a change of mind: e.g. “I was going to spend the day at the beach but I’ve decided to get my homework done instead.”
- With ‘wonder’, to make a very polite request: e.g. “I was wondering if you could baby-sit for me tonight.”
§ They were waiting for the bus when the accident happened.
§ Caroline was skiing when she broke her leg.
§ When we arrived he was having a bath.
§ When the fire started I was watching television.
Note: with verbs not normally used in the continuous form, the simple past is used.
3. PAST PERFECT TENSE
Subject + had + V3 (Past Participle) + Object
1. When we arrived, the train had left
2. He explained that he had closed the window because of the rain.
Functions of the past perfect
The past perfect refers to a time earlier than before now. It is used to make it clear that one event happened before another in the past. It does not matter which event is mentioned first – the tense makes it clear which one happened first.
In these examples, Event A is the event that happened first and Event B is the second or more recent event:
|Event A (Past Perfect)||Event B (Simple Past)|
|John had gone out||when I arrived in the office.|
|I had saved my document||before the computer crashed.|
Past perfect + just
‘Just’ is used with the past perfect to refer to an event that was only a short time earlier than before now, e.g.
§ The train had just left when I arrived at the station.
§ She had just left the room when the police arrived.
§ I had just put the washing out when it started to rain.
4. PAST PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE
Subject + had + been + Verb (ing) (Present Participle) + Object
1. I had been playing the guitar all morning.
2. The baby had been crying loud for milk.
Functions of the past perfect continuous
§ The past perfect continuous corresponds to the present perfect continuous, but with reference to a time earlier than ‘before now’.
§ As with the present perfect continuous, we are more interested in the process.
§ Had you been waiting long before the taxi arrived?
§ We had been trying to open the door for five minutes when Jane found her key.
§ It had been raining hard for several hours and the streets were very wet.
§ Her friends had been thinking of calling the police when she walked in.
This form is also used in reported speech. It is the equivalent of the past continuous and the present perfect continuous in direct speech:
§ Jane said, “I have been gardening all afternoon.” = Jane said she had been gardening all afternoon.
§ When the police questioned him, John said, “I was working late in the office that night.” = When the police questioned him, John told them he had been working late in the office that night.
C. THE FUTURE TENSE
1. SIMPLE FUTURE TENSE
Subject + will/shall +V1 (Base) + Object
1. John will go to college tomorrow.
2. We shall complete the assignment by next week.
Functions of the simple future tense
The simple future refers to a time later than now, and expresses facts or certainty. In this case there is no ‘attitude’.
The simple future is used:
§ To predict a future event:
It will rain tomorrow.
§ With I or We, to express a spontaneous decision:
I’ll pay for the tickets by credit card.
§ To express willingness: I’ll do the washing-up.
He’ll carry your bag for you.
§ In the negative form, to express unwillingness:
The baby won’t eat his soup.
I won’t leave until I’ve seen the manager!
§ With I in the interrogative form using “shall”, to make an offer:
Shall I open the window?
§ With we in the interrogative form using “shall”, to make a suggestion:
Shall we go to the cinema tonight?
§ With I in the interrogative form using “shall”, to ask for advice or instructions:
What shall I tell the boss about this money?
§ With you, to give orders:
You will do exactly as I say.
§ With you in the interrogative form, to give an invitation:
Will you come to the dance with me?
Will you marry me?
USAGE OF SHALL & WILL
|1st usage(objective, simple statement of fact)|
|I||shall||I shall be in London tomorrow.||I’ll|
|you||will||You will see a large building on the left.||You’ll|
|he, she, it||will||He will be wearing blue.||He’ll|
|we||shall||We shall not be there when you arrive.||We shan’t|
|you||will||You will find his office on the 7th floor.||You’ll|
|they||will||They will arrive late.||They’ll|
|2nd usage (subjective, strong assertion, promise or command)|
|I||will||I will do everything possible to help.||I’ll|
|you||shall||You shall be sorry for this.||You’ll|
|he, she, it||shall||It shall be done.||It’ll|
|we||will||We will not interfere.||We won’t|
|you||shall||You shall do as you’re told.||You’ll|
|they||shall||They shall give one month’s notice.||They’ll|
2. FUTURE CONTINUOUS OR PROGRESSIVE TENSE
Subject + will/shall + be + Verb (ing) (Present Participle) + Object
1. I will be watching the new movie tomorrow.
2. They shall be completing their work by next week.
The future continuous refers to an unfinished action or event that will be in progress at a time later than now. The future continuous is used for quite a few different purposes.
1. The future continuous can be used to project ourselves into the future.
§ This time next week I will be sun-bathing in Bali.
§ By Christmas I will be skiing like a pro.
§ Just think, next Monday you will be working in your new job.
2. The future continuous can be used for predicting or guessing about future events.
§ He’ll be coming to the meeting, I expect.
§ I guess you’ll be feeling thirsty after working in the sun.
§ You’ll be missing the sunshine once you’re back in England.
3. In the interrogative form, the future continuous can be used to ask politely for information about the future.
§ Will you be bringing your friend to the pub tonight?
§ Will Jim be coming with us?
§ Will she be going to the party tonight?
§ Will I be sleeping in this room?
4. The future continuous can be used to refer to continuous events that we expect to happen in the future.
§ I’ll be seeing Jim at the conference next week.
§ When he is in Australia he will be staying with friends.
§ I’ll be eating with Jane this evening so I can tell her.
5. When combined with still, the future continuous refers to events that are already happening now and that we expect to continue some time into the future.
§ In an hour I’ll still be ironing my clothes.
§ Tomorrow he’ll still be suffering from his cold.
§ Next year will she still be wearing a size six?
§ Won’t stock prices still be falling in the morning?
§ Unfortunately, sea levels will still be rising in 20 years.
3. FUTURE PERFECT TENSE
Subject + will/shall + have + V3 (Past Participle) + Object
1. I will have walked 15 kms by this time tomorrow.
2. Clara will have completed her course by next June.
The future perfect tense refers to a completed action in the future. When we use this tense we are projecting ourselves forward into the future and looking back at an action that will be completed sometime later than now. It is most often used with a time expression.
§ I will have been here for six months on June 23rd.
§ By the time you read this I will have left.
§ You will have finished your report by this time next week.
§ Won’t they have arrived by 5:00?
§ Will you have eaten when I pick you up?
4. FUTURE PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE
Subject + will/shall + have +been + Verb (ing) (Present Participle) + Object
1. Next Saturday, I will have been working in this organization for 3 years.
2. I will have been studying English for 2 hours by the time you arrive here.
Like the future perfect simple, this form is used to project ourselves forward in time and to look back. It refers to events or actions in a time between now and some future time are unfinished. It is most often used with a time expression.
§ I will have been waiting here for three hours by six o’clock.
§ By 2001 I will have been living in London for sixteen years.
§ When I finish this course, I will have been learning English for twenty years.
§ Next year I will have been working here for four years.
§ When I come at 6:00, will you have been practicing long?