Grammar Basics: Tenses

In grammar, tense is a category that expresses time. Tenses generally express time relative to the moment of speaking. Tenses are usually manifested by the use of specific forms of verbs.

When you use a verb, you have to choose an appropriate tense. Tenses refer to the time when the action of the verb takes place.

Example:

He speaks is the present tense of the verb “to speak.”

He spoke is past tense.

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He has spoken is present perfect tense.

He had spoken is past perfect tense.

At times it is difficult to remember to where to use which form of tense. By keeping in mind a few rules, it will become easier for us to use tenses correctly.

Present Simple:

Action that is repeated, Habitual action.

Eg. I visit my uncle every Friday.

Facts that are believed to be true.

Eg. Cats hate mice.

Generalizations

Eg. The sun rises in the morning.

Scheduled events in the near future

Eg. The plane takes off at 10 o'clock tonight

Rule: Verb’s 1st form (for plural subject) / verb’s 1st form+ s/es (for singular subject)

Present Continuous:

Action that takes place now / at the moment

Eg. I am working on my computer

Near future

Eg. I am leaving tomorrow

Rule: is/am/are + verb’s first form +ing

Present Perfect:

To talk about experiences

Eg. I have been to Italy.

Past action that has the result in the present.

Eg. She has read that book.

Action which started in the past and continued up to now.

Eg. I have lived in this town for 12 years.

Rule: Has (Singular subject)/ Have (plural subject) + verb’s third form.

Present Perfect Continuous:

To show that something started in the past and has continued up until now.

Eg. He has been sleeping for the last 3 hours

To talk about an action that started in the past and stopped recently.

Eg. The grass is wet because it has been raining all day long.

To talk about an action that started in the past and is continuing now.

Eg. I have been watching TV for 2 hours / since you left.

Rule: Has(Singular subject)/ Have(plural subject) + been + verb’s ing form.

Past Simple:

Completed action in the past.

Eg. She left yesterday.

To talk about an action that started in the past and stopped recently.

Eg. She woke up, had a shower and left.

To talk about an action that started in the past and is continuing now.

Eg. If I had a million dollar, I would help the poor.

An action taking place in the middle of another action.

Eg. She was playing when the accident occurred.

Rule: Verb’s 2nd form

Past Continuous:

Actions happening at the same time in the past.

Eg. He was reading a newspaper while his wife was preparing dinner.

Interrupted action in the past.

Eg. She was reading a book when the light went off, had a shower and left.

Rule: Was (singular subject) / were (plural subject)+ verb’s 1st form +ing

Past Perfect:

Completed action before another action in the past.

Eg. She had left when I arrived.

Rule: Had + verb’s third form.

Past Perfect Continuous:

To show that something started in the past and continued up until another action stopped it.

Eg. They had been playing soccer when the accident occurred

To show that something started in the past and continued up until another time in the past.

Eg. I had been living in that town for ten years before I moved to New York.

We use the Past Perfect Continuous before another action in the past to show cause and effect.

Eg. I was so tired. I had been working for 6 hours.

Rule: Had + been + verb’s 1st form + ing.

Future Simple:

Instant decisions

Eg. I've left the door open; I'll close it.

We use the simple future , when we predict a future situation.

Eg. She'll pass the exam. She's hardworking.

We use the simple future with: "I (don't) think...", "I expect...", "I am sure...", "I wonder...", "probably".

Eg. It will probably rain tonight

Conditional sentence type one

Eg. If I have enough time, I'll watch the film.

Rule: Will/Shall + verb’s 1st form

Future Continuous:

Action that will be taking place at some time in the future.

Eg. When you arrive, I'll be sleeping.

Rule: Will/Shall + be + verb’s first form+ ing.

Future Perfect:

Completed action before another action in the past

Eg. By tomorrow, I will have finished the work.

Rule: Will/Shall + verb’s third form.

Future Perfect Continuous:
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It is used to show that an action will continue up until a particular event or time in the future.

Eg. She will have been working for over 8 hours by the time her children arrive.

Rule: Will/Shall + have + been + verb’s ing form.

Review the above article before practising questions based on Tenses.