Tenses in English Grammar

What is Tense or Verb Tense?

Tenses allow us to talk about time, to place an action or state of being in the past, present, or future. They also allow us to talk about intentions, what would, could, or should be done.
To convey the intentions and the time of an action or state of being, accurately and clearly, learning to use the right verb tense is very important.

Kinds of Tenses
Present Tense Past Tense Future Tense
 -Simple Present  -Simple Past  -Simple Future
 -Present Continuous  -Past Continuous  -Future Continuous
 -Present Perfect  -Past Perfect  -Future Perfect
 -Present Prefect Continuous  -Past Prefect Continuous  -Future Prefect Continuous


Tense Rules Affirmative / Negative / Questions
Simple present Subject+1st Verb +Object John speaks
1st Verb+ s/es (He, She, It, Names, Singular noun) John does not speak.
1st Verb (I, We, They, You, Plural Noun) Does John speak?
You speak
He speaks
I speak
They speak
We speak
Present Continuous Subject +is/am/are+1st Verb+ing+Object John is speaking.
Is – (He, She, It, any Name, Singular noun) John is not speaking?
Am – I Is John speaking?
Are – (We, They, You, Plural Noun)
He is reading.
She is talking.
I am singing.
You are eating.
Present Perfect Subject +Has/Have+3rd Verb+ Object John has spoken.
Has – (He ,She ,it ,any Name ,Singular noun) John has not spoken.
Have – (I, We, They, You, Plural Noun) Has John spoken?
He has spoken.
You have spoken.
They have spoken.
We have spoken.
I have spoken.
Present Perfect Continuous Subject + have/has+been+1st verb+ Ing+ Object John has been speaking.
Has – (He, She ,It ,any Name, Singular noun) John has not been speaking.
Have – (I, We, They, You, Plural Noun) Has John been speaking?
He has been speaking.
You have been speaking.
I have been speaking.
They have been speaking.
We have been speaking.
Simple Past Subject+2nd Verb +Object John spoke.
He spoke. John did not speak.
I spoke. Did John speak?
You spoke.
They spoke.
We spoke.
Past Continuous Subject +was/were+1st Verb+ ing+ Object John was speaking.
Was – (I, He, She, It, any Name, Singular noun) John was not speaking?
Were – (We, They, You, Plural Noun) Was John speaking?
He was speaking
You were speaking
I was speaking
They were speaking
We were speaking
Past Perfect Subject+ Had+3rd Verb+ Object John had spoken.
He had spoken John had not spoken.
You had spoken Had John spoken?
I had spoken
They had spoken
We had spoken
Past Perfect Continuous Subject+ had+been+1st verb+ ing+ Object John had been speaking.
He had been speaking John had not been speaking.
You had been speaking Had John been speaking?
I had been speaking
They had been speaking
We had been speaking
Simple Future Subject +will /shall+1st Verb+ Object John will speak.
He will speak John will not speak.
You will speak Will John speak?
I shall/will speak
They will speak
We shall/will speak
Future Continuous Subject+ will/shall+be+1st Verb+ ing+ Object John will be speaking.
He will be speaking John will not be speaking.
You will be speaking Will John be speaking?
I shall/will be speaking
They will be speaking
We shall/will be speaking
Future Perfect Subject+ will/shall+ have +3rd Verb + Object John will have spoken.
He will have spoken. John will not have spoken.
You will have spoken. Will John be spoken?
I shall/will have spoken.
They will have spoken.
We shall/will have spoken.
Future Perfect Continuous Subject+ will +have+ been+1st verb +ing+ Object John will have been speaking.
He will have been speaking. John will not have been speaking.
You will have been speaking. Will John have been speaking?
I shall/will have been speaking.
They will have been speaking.
Wewill have been speaking.

Tenses in detail:

  1. Present Tenses > 1.1 Simple Present Tense:

Simple present tenses are generally used to – express a habitual action, express general truths, In some exclamatory sentences, To express a future event. Examples:

He goes for a walk every morning. (habit)
I get up everyday at 4 am. (habit)
The neighbor’s dog keeps barking. (habit)
Fortune favours the brave. (truth)
Sugar is sweet. (truth)
The sun rises in the east. (truth)
Here comes the rain! (exclamation)
Here you go! (exclamation)
The match starts at 11 o’clock. (fixed future event)
When does the club reopen? (fixed future event)
The train leaves at sharp 10. (fixed future event)

1.2. Present Continuous Tense:
Present Continuous is used for-
a. an action going on at the time of speaking.
b. an action which may not be actually happening at the time of speaking
c. an action that has already been arranged to take place in the near future

She is singing (now).
The boys are playing hockey.
I am reading a new ‘Chetan Bhagat’s’ novel. (but I am not reading at this moment).
I am going to the church tomorrow
My dad is arriving tomorrow.

1.3. Present Perfect Tense:

Present Perfect is used to:
-Indicate completed activities. – He has just left the office.
-express past actions whose time is not given and is indefinite. – I have never known him to be angry.
-describe past events when we think of their effect rather the action. I have cut my finger (and now it bleeding).
-denote an action beginning at some time in the past and continuing up to the present (We have lived here for eight months).

1.4. Present Perfect Continuous Tense

Present Perfect Continuous is used for an action which began at some time in the past and is still going on;
They have been building the bridge for several months.
He has been sleeping for five hours (and still sleeping).
They have been playing since 3 o’clock.

2. Past Tenses > 2.1 Simple Past Tense:

Simple Past is used to indicate an action completed in the past.
The sheep arrived yesterday.
I received my salary a week ago.
She left the college last month.

The Simple Past is also used for past habits:
He studied many hours everyday.
She always wore an scarf.

2.2. Past Continuous Tense:
Past Continuous is used to denote an action going on at some time in the past.

The light went out while I was watching the TV.
We were listening to the FM all night.
It was getting colder.
When I saw him, he was playing piano.

2.3. Past Perfect Tense:
Past Perfect is mainly used in such situations, when two actions happened in the past and it may be necessary to show which action happened earlier than
the other. The Simple Past is used in one clause and the Past Perfect in the other.

When I reached the station the train had started.
I had done my home work when Hari came to see me.
I had written the letter before he reached.

2.4. Past Perfect Continuous Tense:
Past Perfect Continuous is used for an action that started before a certain point in the past and continued up to that time.

At that time he had been writing a movie script for three months.
When the new principle joined the school in 1999, Mr John had already been teaching there for five years.

3. Future Tenses > 3.1 Simple Future Tense:

Simple Future Tense is used to tell about things which we cannot control. It expresses the future as fact.
I shall be twenty next Month.
It will be Christmas in a week.
We will know our exam results in next two days.

We also use this tense to talk about what we believe will happen in the future. For example:
I think Australia will win the match today.
I’m sure you will get good grades in your exam.

3.2. Future Continuous Tense:
It talks about actions which will be in progress at a time in the future.
I suppose it will be raining when the match starts.
This time tomorrow I will be with my family in Toronto.
We also use this tense to talk about actions in the future which are already planned or which are expected to happen in the normal course of things.
I will be staying here till the sun rises.
He will be meeting us next month.
The electrician will be coming soon.

3.3 Future Perfect Tense
The Future Perfect Tense is used to talk about actions that will be completed by a certain future time.
I shall have written my book by then.
He will have left before you go to meet him.
By the end of this week I will have worked here for 10 years.

3.4 Future Perfect Continuous Tense
The Future Perfect Continuous tense is used for actions which will be in progress over a period of time that will end in future.
By next Christmas we shall have been living here for four years.
I will have been working for twenty years next July.

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