Verb Tenses in English

In English, verb tenses indicate the time of an action or state in relation to the present or other specific time. Verb tenses are formed by using different auxiliary verbs or verb forms in combination with the base form of a verb.

English Verb Tenses

There are three main verb tenses in English: present, past and future. The present, past and future tenses are divided into four aspects: the simple, progressive, perfect and perfect progressive.

There are 12 major verb tenses that English learners should know.

English has only two ways of forming a tense from the verb alone: the past and the present. For example, we drove and we drive.

To form other verb tenses, you have to add a form of have, be or will in front of the verb. These are called helping, or auxiliary verbs.

Verb Tenses List

Simple present tense

The simple present tense, also known as the present simple, is used to describe actions or states that are true in the present or that happen on a regular basis. It’s formed by using the base form of the verb (the infinitive without “to”) or by using the verb “to be” in the present tense with the subject.

Here are some examples of how the simple present tense is used:

  • I work at a bookstore. (indicating a regular action)
  • He plays football on the weekends. (indicating a regular action)
  • The sun rises in the east. (indicating a general truth)
  • She is a student. (indicating a state)
  • They walk to school together. (indicating a regular action)

It’s important to remember that for third-person singular subjects (he, she, it), the verb form changes. For most verbs, add -s (or -es) in the end and for some verbs, it changes as per the rule of irregular verbs.

  • He walks to work.
  • She walks to work.
  • It walks to work (not common usage)
  • He goes to the store.

The Simple present tense is also used in imperative sentences, which are sentences that give orders or commands.

  • Close the door, please.
  • Wait for me here.

The simple present tense is also used for scheduled events in the near future, which is often referred to as the “future with present meaning”

  • The train arrives at 8:00 PM.
  • The class begins at 9:00 AM.

In simple words, Simple present is used to express habitual actions, permanent states, and general truths and also for scheduled events and instructions.

Present Continuous Tense

The present continuous tense, also known as the present progressive, is used to describe actions that are happening now or at the moment of speaking. It is formed by using the auxiliary verb “to be” in the present tense (is/am/are) and the present participle (-ing form) of the main verb.

Here are some examples of how the present continuous tense is used:

  • I am reading a book. (indicating an action that is happening now)
  • He is playing football with his friends. (indicating an action that is happening now)
  • They are having dinner. (indicating an action that is happening now)
  • The baby is crying. (indicating an action that is happening now)
  • She is waiting for her friend. (indicating an action that is happening now)

It’s worth noting that present continuous also used to express the future plan with certain context like :

  • I’m meeting my friend later. (indicating a future plan that has been made)
  • They are going to the concert tonight. (indicating a future plan that has been made)

It’s also important to note that the present continuous can be used to indicate a temporary state or action, as well as the possibility of an event happening in the near future.

  • I am feeling tired today. (temporary state)
  • He is taking a nap. (temporary action)
  • It is getting dark, we should go home. (possibility of an event happening in the near future)

In simple words, The present continuous is used to express an action that is currently happening or an action that will happen in the near future.

Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect tense is used to describe actions or events that have happened at an unspecified time in the past, or actions that started in the past and continue to the present. It’s formed by using the auxiliary verb “have” (or “has” for the third-person singular) in the present tense and the past participle of the main verb.

Here are some examples of how the present perfect tense is used:

  • I have read that book before. (indicating an unspecified time in the past)
  • He has seen that movie three times. (indicating an unspecified time in the past)
  • They have been to Europe twice. (indicating an unspecified time in the past)
  • We have been friends for a long time. (indicating an action that started in the past and continues to the present)
  • She has finished her homework already. (indicating an unspecified time in the past)

It’s also worth noting that the present perfect is often used to indicate that an action has recently been completed, often with the adverb “just”.

  • He has just arrived at the party.
  • I have just finished my breakfast.

It’s also common to use the present perfect with “ever” and “never” for asking about experiences:

  • Have you ever been to Paris?
  • I have never ridden a bicycle.

Present Perfect Continuous Tense

The present perfect continuous tense is used to describe an action that began in the past and is still continuing in the present. It’s formed by using the auxiliary verb “have” (or “has” for the third-person singular) in the present perfect tense, the auxiliary verb “been” and the present participle (-ing form) of the main verb.

Here are some examples of how the present perfect continuous tense is used:

  • I have been reading this book for three hours. (indicating an action that began in the past and is still continuing)
  • She has been working on this project for weeks. (indicating an action that began in the past and is still continuing)
  • They have been practicing for the big game. (indicating an action that began in the past and is still continuing)
  • We have been waiting here for an hour. (indicating an action that began in the past and is still continuing)

The Present perfect Continuous can also be used to describe an action that started in the recent past and is still continuing, with the word “recently”

  • He has been feeling tired recently.
  • She has been studying hard for her exams.

Like present perfect, present perfect continuous is also used to emphasize the duration of an action rather than the completion of the action. For example,

  • He has been playing video games for hours, so he will be tired. (the duration of the video game playing)
  • She has been studying for the whole night, so she will be exhausted. (the duration of the studying)

It’s also worth noting that the present perfect continuous is less common than the present perfect and present continuous tense.

Simple Past Tense

The simple past tense is used to describe actions or states that were completed or true in the past. It’s formed by using the second form of the verb (or the past tense form) for regular verbs and irregular verbs, respectively.

Here are some examples of how the simple past tense is used:

  • I walked to school yesterday. (indicating a completed action in the past)
  • He played football on the weekends. (indicating a completed action in the past)
  • She was a student. (indicating a state that was true in the past)
  • They went to the concert last night. (indicating a completed action in the past)
  • The sun rose in the east this morning. (indicating a completed action in the past)

It’s worth noting that the simple past is often used in combination with time expressions such as yesterday, last night, ago etc. to indicate that the action or event took place in the past

  • He called me yesterday.
  • She left an hour ago.

The Simple Past Tense is also used in stories, to narrate the events that have happened.

  • Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a castle. She was very kind and loved by all her people. One day, a prince came to the kingdom and fell in love with her. They got married and lived happily ever after.

In simple words, The Simple Past Tense is used to describe actions or events that have been completed in the past or a state that was true in the past, usually in the combination with the time expressions.

Past Continuous Tense

The past continuous tense, also known as the past progressive, is used to describe an action that was in progress at a specific time in the past. It’s formed by using the auxiliary verb “to be” in the past tense (was/were) and the present participle (-ing form) of the main verb.

Here are some examples of how the past continuous tense is used:

  • I was reading a book at 8 o’clock last night. (indicating an action that was in progress at a specific time in the past)
  • He was playing football with his friends at 5 o’clock this afternoon. (indicating an action that was in progress at a specific time in the past)
  • She was having dinner when I called her. (indicating an action that was in progress at a specific time in the past)
  • They were watching a movie when the power went out. (indicating an action that was in progress at a specific time in the past)
  • I was studying for my exam when my friends came over. (indicating an action that was in progress at a specific time in the past)

It’s often used in combination with the Simple Past Tense, to indicate that two actions were taking place simultaneously, in the past.

  • They were dancing when the clock struck 12.
  • I was walking home when it started to rain.

The past continuous tense is also used to indicate the background of a story and adding vivid detail to a narrative.

  • As the storm raged on, the ship was tossing and turning on the rough sea.
  • The phone was ringing as she walked into the room.

Past Perfect Tense

The past perfect tense is used to describe an action that was completed before another action or event in the past. It’s formed by using the auxiliary verb “had” in the past tense and the past participle of the main verb.

Here are some examples of how the past perfect tense is used:

  • By the time I arrived, the party had already started. (indicating an action that was completed before another action in the past)
  • I had finished my homework before I went out to play. (indicating an action that was completed before another action in the past)
  • They had been married for 5 years when they had their first child. (indicating an action that was completed before another action in the past)
  • He had lost his keys, so he couldn’t open the door. (indicating an action that was completed before another action in the past)
  • I had been living in the city for a year when I met my wife. (indicating an action that was completed before another action in the past)

It’s also common to use the Past Perfect with words such as “already” or “yet” to indicate completed actions before a certain time or point.

  • She had already eaten by the time we arrived.
  • They had not yet finished the project when I left.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

The past perfect continuous tense is used to describe an action that was in progress for a certain period of time before another action or event in the past. It’s formed by using the auxiliary verb “had” in the past perfect tense, the auxiliary verb “been” and the present participle (-ing form) of the main verb.

Here are some examples of how the past perfect continuous tense is used:

  • By the time the train arrived, I had been waiting for an hour. (indicating an action that was in progress for a certain period of time before another event in the past)
  • He had been studying for three hours when he decided to take a break. (indicating an action that was in progress for a certain period of time before another event in the past)
  • She had been working on her project for weeks when she finally finished it. (indicating an action that was in progress for a certain period of time before another event in the past)
  • They had been traveling for a month when they arrived back home. (indicating an action that was in progress for a certain period of time before another event in the past)

Future Simple

The future simple tense, also known as the future indefinite, is used to describe an action or event that will happen in the future. It’s formed by using the auxiliary verb “will” or “shall” before the base form (infinitive without “to”) of the main verb.

Here are some examples of how the future simple tense is used:

  • I will go to the concert tomorrow. (indicating an action that will happen in the future)
  • He will play football on the weekends. (indicating an action that will happen in the future)
  • She will be a student next year. (indicating a future state)
  • They will visit us next month. (indicating an action that will happen in the future)
  • The sun will rise in the east tomorrow. (indicating an event that will happen in the future)

It’s also worth noting that “shall” is used as an auxiliary verb mainly in formal and old-fashioned language in British English but it’s rarely used in American English, instead, “will” is commonly used in both spoken and written.

It’s also common to use the Future Simple with words such as “going to” to indicate a future plan or an action that is scheduled to take place soon.

  • He is going to take an exam tomorrow.
  • I am going to visit my family next week.

Future Continuous

The future continuous tense, also known as the future progressive, is used to describe an action that will be in progress at a specific point in the future. It is formed by using the auxiliary verb “will” or “shall” in the simple future, the auxiliary verb “be” in the present form and the present participle (-ing form) of the main verb.

Here are some examples of how the future continuous tense is used:

  • I will be reading a book at 8 o’clock tonight. (indicating an action that will be in progress at a specific point in the future)
  • He will be playing football with his friends at 5 o’clock this afternoon. (indicating an action that will be in progress at a specific point in the future)
  • She will be having dinner when you call her. (indicating an action that will be in progress at a specific point in the future)
  • They will be watching a movie when the power goes out. (indicating an action that will be in progress at a specific point in the future)
  • I will be studying for my exam when my friends come over. (indicating an action that will be in progress at a specific point in the future)

It’s also common to use the future continuous in combination with other future tenses to indicate that one action will be in progress when another action occurs.

  • He will be sleeping when you arrive.
  • They will be traveling when the new year starts.

It’s also used for making assumptions about the present, indicating a temporary state in future.

  • He’ll be tired when he gets home.
  • She’ll be hungry, Let’s order some food.

Future Perfect

The future perfect tense is used to describe an action that will have been completed at a specific point in the future. It’s formed by using the auxiliary verb “will” in the simple future, the auxiliary verb “have” in the present form and the past participle of the main verb.

Here are some examples of how the future perfect tense is used:

  • By the time I arrive, the party will have already started. (indicating an action that will have been completed at a specific point in the future)
  • I will have finished my homework before I go out to play. (indicating an action that will have been completed at a specific point in the future)
  • They will have been married for 5 years when they have their first child. (indicating an action that will have been completed at a specific point in the future)
  • He will have lost his keys, so he won’t be able to open the door. (indicating an action that will have been completed at a specific point in the future)
  • I will have been living in the city for a year when I meet my wife. (indicating an action that will have been completed at a specific point in the future)

Future Perfect Continuous

The future perfect continuous tense is used to describe an action that will have been ongoing for a certain period of time at a specific point in the future. It’s formed by using the auxiliary verb “will” in the simple future, the auxiliary verb “have” in the present form, the auxiliary verb “been” and the present participle (-ing form) of the main verb.

Here are some examples of how the future perfect continuous tense is used:

  • By the time the train arrives, I will have been waiting for an hour. (indicating an action that will have been ongoing for a certain period of time at a specific point in the future)
  • He will have been studying for three hours when he decides to take a break. (indicating an action that will have been ongoing for a certain period of time at a specific point in the future)
  • She will have been working on her project for weeks when she finally finishes it. (indicating an action that will have been ongoing for a certain period of time at a specific point in the future)
  • They will have been traveling for a month when they arrive back home. (indicating an action that will have been ongoing for a certain period of time at a specific point in the future)

It’s also often used in combination with other future tenses, to indicate that an action will be ongoing for a certain period of time when another action occurs.

  • By the time he realizes what is happening, the damage will have been done for quite some time.
  • When the clock strikes 12, they will have been dancing for hours.

English Verb Tenses | Images

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Marina Deza
Marina Deza
5 years ago

That is so wonderfull..

SArumugam
SArumugam
5 years ago

I am a begginer

Aruxandei Letitia
Aruxandei Letitia
3 years ago

Congratulations!

Adelina Belinska
Adelina Belinska
2 years ago

Great!!!! Congratulations!!!

Shruti Jaiswal
Shruti Jaiswal
2 years ago

Hi

T.E. D
T.E. D
2 years ago

Great job!

kannan
kannan
1 year ago

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david
david
1 year ago

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derya
derya
1 year ago

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Melissa CRAWFORD
Melissa CRAWFORD
10 months ago

Fantastic Work, thank you.

Mariam
Mariam
3 months ago

Beautifully Explained Welldone

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