Verb Tenses: How to use them with examples.

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Tenses: Types, meaning and examples

Verbs come in three tenses: past, present, and future, They are further subdivided into 12 categories.

What are the 12 Tenses in English and why are they important?

Verb tenses in English are broadly divided into the past, present, and future. In English grammar, tenses are used to indicate when an action happened and if it is still going on or finished. The tense of a verb is used to refer to time while communicating in English.

There are 12 tenses in the English language. Namely:

  1. Simple present
  2. Present continuous
  3. Present perfect
  4. Present perfect continuous
  5. Simple past
  6. Past continuous
  7. Past perfect
  8. Past perfect continuous
  9. Simple future
  10. Future continuous
  11. Future perfect
  12. Future perfect continuous

The 12 Tenses of English Grammar

The Present Tenses

The Present tenses are used to describe what is happening in the present and in everyday situations. There are four present tense forms: Simple present, Present continuous, Present perfect, and the Present perfect continuous tense. Let’s learn more about them.

1. Simple Present Tense

The Present Simple Tense is used to describe an action that happens in the present and for events that happen regularly. The Simple Present Tense uses the root form of the verb or adds an “s” or “es” to it. 

Examples of how the Simple Present Tense is formed are:

  • Messi plays football really well.
  • I sing when I take a shower.
  • Katy goes to work daily.

2. Present Continuous Tense

The Present Continuous Tense is used to describe an action that is happening currently and for events that happen frequently. The Present Continuous Tense is formed by using “to be (am/is/are)” and adding “ing” to the verb.

Note: Verbs ending with “ing” are in Present Participle form. 

Examples of how the Present Continuous Tense is formed are:

  • Roger is waiting for the train to arrive.
  • They are hoping to catch the next flight. 
  • I am studying in high school. 

3. Present Perfect Tense

The Present Perfect Tense is used to describe an action that began in the past and continued till the present, and for events that occurred sometime in the past.  The Present Perfect Tense is formed by using “have/has” and adding “ed” or “d” to the root form of the verb. 

Note: Verbs ending with “ed” or “d” are in Past Participle form. 

Examples of how the Present Perfect Tense is formed are:

  • The maid has finished cleaning all the rooms. 
  • They have wanted to buy a house for a long time. 
  • Ruth has played basketball before. 

4. Present Perfect Continuous Tense

The Present Perfect Continuous Tense is used to describe an action that began in the past and is ongoing currently. The Present Perfect Continuous Tense is formed by using “has been/have been” with the Present Participle of the verb. 

Examples of how the Present Perfect Continuous is formed are:

  • Riko has been practicing to take part in the marathon next month.
  • We have been driving all night. 
  • She has been saving to travel abroad recently. 

The Past Tenses

The Past tenses are used to describe what happened in the past. The four forms of Past tense are Simple past, Past continuous, Past perfect, and the Past perfect continuous tense. 

5. Simple Past Tense

The Simple Past Tense is used to describe an action that occurred or was completed in the past. The Simple Past Tense is formed by adding “ed” or “d” to the root form of regular verbs. 

Note: Irregular verbs like “cost” and “hurt” remain the same in Simple Past Tense. Other irregular verbs: Buy -> Bought, Come -> Came, Eat -> Ate

Examples of how the Simple Past Tense is formed are:

  • Daphne smiled as she crossed the finish line.
  • We ate at a fast-food chain last weekend. 
  • He hurt his hand while playing baseball last week. 

6. Past Continuous Tense

The Past Continuous Tense is used to describe an action that was ongoing at some point in the past or that got interrupted.  The Past Continuous Tense is formed by using the past tense of “to be (was/were)” with the Present Participle of the verb. 

Examples of how the Past Continuous Tense is formed are:

  • Mom was cooking most of the time during the holidays.
  • They were laughing uncontrollably until the movie ended. 
  • Yesterday night, I was studying for my test. 

7. Past Perfect Tense

The Past Perfect Tense is used to describe an action that was completed before a specific moment in the past. The Past Perfect Tense is formed by using “had” with the past participle of the verb. 

Examples of how the Past Perfect Tense is formed are:

  • He had finished eating when his friends arrived.
  • Kate had booked an appointment before she left the house.  
  • If Tim had studied during the weekend, he would have found the exam easy.  

8. Past Perfect Continuous Tense

The Past Perfect Continuous Tense is used to describe an action that began in the past and continued up to a certain point in the past. The Past Perfect Continuous is formed by using “had been” with the present participle of the verb.

Examples of how the Past Perfect Continuous Tense is formed are:

  • Kevin had been living with his brother for a year before he bought his own house. 
  • The students had been sitting quietly in the library before the argument began.
  • We had been using candles to study when the lights came back on. 

The Future Tenses

The Future tenses are used to describe what is going to happen in the future.  The four forms of Future tense are Simple Future, Future continuous, Future perfect, and Future perfect continuous tense.

9. Simple Future Tense

The Simple Future Tense is used to describe an action that hasn’t happened yet. The Simple Future Tense is formed by using “will” with the root of the verb. 

Examples of how the Simple Future Tense is formed are:

  • It looks like it will stop raining soon.
  • Mark will stay in a dorm when he joins college. 
  • The kids will need help to complete the test on time. 

10. Future Continuous Tense

The Future Continuous Tense is used to describe an action that will start and continue for a certain period of time in the future. The Future Continuous Tense is formed by using “will be” with the present participle of the verb. 

Examples of how the Future Continuous Tense is formed are:

  • Susan will be traveling to Southeast Asia in the winter.
  • Our team will be taking part in the tournament next week.
  • I will be waiting for you at the airport when your plane lands. 

11. Future Perfect Tense

The Future Perfect Tense is used to describe an action that will finish at a specific time in the future. The Future Perfect Tense is formed by using “will have” with the past participle of the verb.

Examples of how the Future Perfect Tense is formed are:

  • The store will have closed by the time our train reaches the station.
  • She will have finished her exam by 3 PM.
  • We will have prepared everything for the party by Saturday.  

12. Future Perfect Continuous Tense

The Future Perfect Continuous Tense is used to describe an action that begins and continues up to a specific time in the future. The Future Perfect Continuous Tense is formed by using “will have been” with the present participle of the verb.

Examples of how the Future Perfect Continuous is formed are:

  • By the end of this month, I will have been waiting to get my visa for seven weeks.
  • In April, I will have been attending guitar classes for a year.
  • By eight o’clock, we will have been driving for 12 hours straight. 

Tips to Remember English Tenses and Practice Them

The Tenses in English can be difficult to remember for a non-native speaker as it takes time to get used to them. But there are methods a learner can use to pick them up faster.

1. Focus on one particular tense at a time

To learn English Tenses properly it is necessary to learn the rules for each type of tense. Rushing through all the rules at once will not help you. 

Begin slowly and choose the Simple Tenses to start with. Write down as many sentences as you can using the Simple past, Simple present, and Simple future, and ask someone who is fluent to check them.

Only after you are confident that you know the Simple Tenses well, move on to the next batch. We have divided this blog into Present, Past, and Future tenses so you can select one and begin.

2. Use Online Exercises and Teaching Apps

You just need to type in “English tenses exercises” on Google and you would find many resources with exercises for you to try. Most of them provide the answers for the tests on their sites, too. 

Another option would be to find a paid or free app that you could use to practice. Among the popular apps, Duolingo, ELSA, and Mondly offer enough exercises for a user without having to subscribe. 

Apps that focus on conversations such as Eigooo would require a subscription which gives the user 24/7 support. 

3. Become familiar with English media

Movies, TV shows, podcasts, and songs are effective sources for a learner to be introduced to everyday uses of the tenses. This method not only shows you when to use certain tenses but also helps you with pronouncing words correctly. 

 A Review of the 12 Tenses in English

Here is a simplified list of the 12 tenses explained in this post. You can use it as a quick reference when you are in doubt.

  • Simple Present Tense: Actions that happen in the present or regularly.
    Verb or Verb + s/es
  • Simple Past Tense: Actions that occurred or were completed in the past.
    Verb + ed/d
  • Simple Future Tense: Actions that haven’t happened yet.
    Will + verb
  • Present Continuous Tense: Actions that are happening currently or frequently.
    Am/Is/Are + verb-ing
  • Past Continuous Tense: Actions that were ongoing in the past or interrupted.
    Was/Were + verb-ing
  • Future Continuous Tense: Actions that will continue for a specific time in the future.
    Will be + verb-ing
  • Present Perfect Tense: Actions that began in the past and continued to the present.
    Have/has + verb-ed/d
  • Past Perfect Tense: Actions that were completed before a specific time in the past.
    Had + verb-ed/d
  • Future Perfect Tense: Actions that will end at a specific time in the future.
    Will have + verb-ed/d
  • Present Perfect Continuous Tense: Actions that began in the past and are ongoing currently.
    Has been/Have been + verb-ing
  • Past Perfect Continuous Tense: Actions that began and continued to a specific time in the past. 
    Had been + verb-ing
  • Future Perfect Continuous Tense: Actions that begin and continue up to a specific time in the future.
    Will have been + verb-ing  

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