12 tenses in English grammar that English learners should effectively learn
Grammar is the main unit of each language. Grammar defines the structures and the system of a language. In simple words, it is the way different words are used to form sentences. English grammar is vast and includes multiple structures and rules.
Tenses in English grammar are the one of the major parts of English grammar. Students who study English, no matter if they are learning English as their mother language or second language, mostly struggle with tenses in English.
In this article, we completely declare the 12 tenses in English grammar with examples. Reading the mentioned explanations and examples of tenses in English grammar definitely boosts your grammar skills.
Improving grammar skills and learning different tenses in English empowers other English skills such as speaking and writing. Therefore, it is important to study the tenses in English in order to master the language.
- 1 The tenses in English grammar
- 2 Present tenses in English
- 3 Past tenses in English
- 4 Future tenses in English:
The tenses in English grammar
To begin with, learning the tenses in English helps the learners (especially those who are learning English as their second language) to form correct sentences and communicate much easier in English.
Although, many English students face difficulties when learning the tenses in English grammar. That is, the tenses in English may be confusing or hard to remember. Therefore, the learners must pay a lot of attention when learning tenses in English.
They can easily learn the tenses in English by taking notes that include simple definitions and examples. Continuously reading and practicing the notes would help them to overcome the difficulties of learning tenses in English grammar.
The tenses in English declare the time an action happened. The different tenses in English are shown by their associated verb form. There are 12 types of tenses in English but it is easier to divide them as mentioned below.
Generally, there are three main tenses in English; which are: present, past and future. These three types of tenses in English can take four main aspects; which are: simple, perfect, continuous and perfect continuous.
Present tenses in English are: Present simple, continuous, perfect and perfect continuous
Past tenses in English are: Past simple, continuous, perfect and perfect continuous
Future tenses in English: Future simple, continuous, perfect, and perfect continuous
Now that the definition of tenses in English is established, further on the 12 different tenses in English are explained in details with examples.
In this article, we start out by explaining the simple structures at first so it is easier to keep up with the various tenses in English.
Present tenses in English
The present simple tense is the most basic and elementary tense of the 12 tenses in English. We use present simple tense in two cases.
First of all, we use simple present tense to indicate a fact or something that is accurate and factual. In brief, we use simple present to state a true fact. Look at the examples below:
- The weather is cold.
- She speaks different languages.
- It rains a lot in fall.
Another use of the simple present tense is to convey habits or everyday activities. The activities can happen every day, every week or every year.
- They walk to school every day.
- I smoke.
- I work in Chicago
The sentences above state situations that either happen repeatedly (go to the clinic) or are a habit (smoke). Unchanging situations such as working or living (work in Chicago) are also expressed in simple present tense.
Depending on the subject, the form of the simple present tense is either the root form or “‑s” or “‑es” added to the end of the verb.
The formula of this tense of the present tenses in English is as below:
subject + main verb + object
Present continuous (progressive):
This tense of the present tenses in English present continuous expresses an action that is in progress at the moment of speaking.
– My mom is sleeping. I can’t wake her up.
– I am doing laundry.
– She is reading the comic book you got her.
Moreover, present continuous declares a temporary action.
- I am living in a garage.
- I am moving the furniture for now.
We also use present continuousto talk about future plans or arrangements.
- I am going to travel with my friends.
- I am selling my car at the end of the week.
The present continuous formula is:
Subject+ am/is/are + root of the verb + ing
The next form of the present tenses in English is the present perfect. Present perfect is used to talk about situations that started in the past but still continue up to now. Or in other words, the action began in the past but has present consequences.
- I have written a new chapter already.
- She has worked here since June.
- They have been eating for two hours.
Generally, we use since and for in present perfect tense. They have different meanings when used in the present perfect tense sentences.
Since is used when the time of the action that happened in the past is specified. For example, “He has owned a new closet since February”
In contrast, for is used to show the length of time. Such as, “We have not received a letter for two months.”
Another use of present perfect tense is to talk about actions that have or have not happened before. We use it to refer to an action that we have experienced. Although, the time is unclear.
Look at the examples:
- I have passed my driving test.
- They have bought a house.
- He has eaten an octopus.
As it can be observed, no specified time is stated and the focus of these sentence is on the action that has been done. Generally, we use adverbs such as ever, never, still, already, and yet in the present perfect tense.
The present perfect formula is simple as mentioned below:
Subject+ have/has + past participle + object
Past participle formed from regular verbs are created by adding -ed to the base form. Example as the past participle of dance is danced. Past participles formed from irregular verbs may end in different letters. Examples include caught, bled, been, and seen.
Present perfect continuous:
The last form of the present tenses in English that we mention is present perfect continuous. This tense expresses an action that began in the past and still continues in the present.
This tense of the present tenses in English, declares duration of an activity. Keep in mind that we can not use non-progressive verbs such as “know” with this tense. That is, this tense is used to only describe actions that began in the past and are still in progress at the moment of speaking.
- It has been raining all week. I can’t believe it.
- They have been standing in line for three hours.
- He has been wearing those glasses since the first grade.
The present perfect continuous formula is:
Subject + have + been + root verb + ing + object
In some cases, we are able to use both present perfect and present perfect continuous to express situations that happen regularly or usually.
The examples below are both correct.
-She has worn that T-shirt all day.
-She has been wearing that T-shirt all day.
Past tenses in English
The past tenses in English are used to talk about actions that happened in the past. One shared feature of the past tenses in English is that they are all used to explain a past state of activity or a past state of being.
As mentioned, there are 4 aspects of the tenses in English. The 4 past tenses in English are: Past simple, past perfect, past continuous, past perfect continuous. It is usually easier to start learning the tenses in English by learning the simple structures. Thus, we explain the past tenses in English in a comprehensive order below:
Simple past tense indicates an action, thought or even a feeling that happened at a certain time in the past. The past tense activities began and also ended in the past. However, the time of the action may be unspecified.
- I cried last night.
- I ate all the leftovers in the fridge.
- They asked for help.
As mentioned before, there are two forms of verbs in English; Which are: regular verbs and irregular verbs. The past form of the regular verbs is quite simple. We basically just add “-ed” to the simple form of the verb. Look at the example:
- I danced all day. (dance => danced)
Another form is just adding “-d” to the basic form of the verb. This is when the verb that is described, ends in “-e” itself. Example:
- She baked a cake today. (bake => baked)
In addition, some verbs remain the same and don’t change. As for example:
- He cut the papers in half. (cut => cut)
The past form of irregular verbs might be confusing because the base form of the verb completely changes. There are lists of the irregular verbs available both in study books and on the internet.
Learners can benefit from these lists and memorize the past forms of verbs in time. Also, continuous use of simple past tenses in English will help them to stick the form of the verbs in their mind.
Past continuous (progressive):
Next form of the past tenses in English is the past continuous form which indicates an action that was in progress in the past. Keep in mind that the action or the activity started at some point in the past, lasted for a time and then finished in the past. Some examples are mentioned below:
- They were sleeping in a tent when it began to snow.
- She was looking for her purse when the car left.
As you can see, an action was happening and was in progress when another action happened.
The past continuous form is created by two clauses joined by subordinating conjunctions such as when or while. We use simple past in the clause that declares the action that happened later. The action that was in progress is of course specified by the past progressive form which is:
Subject+ [was, were] + root verb+ ing
Moreover, to show actions that happened or were completed before a certain time in the past we use the past perfect tense.
- She has washed the dishes by the time her mother got home.
- He drove away before I could see him.
As it can be understood, present perfect tense talks about actions that were done before a specified time in the past. The past perfect formula is:
Subject+ had + past participle
Past perfect continuous:
The last tense to mention among the past tenses in English is the past perfect continuous. This tense is used when we want to highlight the duration of an action that was in progress before a certain time or before another activity in the past.
- They had been searching for their dog for two weeks now.
- She had been running since the morning.
As similar to present perfect, we can use since and for in the past perfect continuous tense as well. The examples mentioned show actions that were in progress for a time in the past. The past perfect continuous formula is:
Subject+ had+ been+ root verb+ ing
All in all, it is important to pay attention to the fact that all the past tenses in English mainly describe actions that began in the past and also ended in the past. It is easier to learn the past tenses in English by continuous practice.
Future tenses in English:
At last, just like the present and the past tenses in English, the future tenses in English are also divided into four categories. The four future tenses in English include the simple, continuous, perfect and perfect continuous form.
Basically, the future tenses in English describe actions or situations that have not happened yet but are expected to happen in the future.
Similarly, as the above-mentioned tenses in English, first we introduce the basic forms of the future tenses in English and then move onto the more difficult ones.
First tense of the future tenses in English is the simple future tense. The simple future tense is used to talk about conditions that have not happened yet but will happen at some point in the future. In brief, the situation or the action will begin and end in the future.
- She will move to Argentina tomorrow.
- Will you miss me when I’m gone?
The simple future tense structure is:
Will+ root verb
Another way to express simple future is:
am/is/are + going to + root verb
There is no major difference between these two formulas since they both are used to convey actions that will happen at some point in the future. The only difference is that be going to is used when the speaker is definite about what is going to happen. In other words, the situation or the action is planned and set. However, will is used to express decisions that are made by the speaker at the moment of speaking. In other words, no certain plans are made.
The future continuous tense states an action that will be in progress at some time in the future.
- She is going to be baking cake for the birthday party later today.
- What will you be having for lunch tomorrow?
The future continuous tense structure is:
Will+ be+ root verb+ ing
Be going to+ be+ root verb+ ing
Furthermore, another tense of the future tenses in English is future perfect. Future perfect is generally used to declare an action or condition that will happen before a certain time or another activity in the future.
Look at the examples mentioned below:
- I will have finished my studies before the year 2030.
- They will have moved to LA by the end of the month.
Mainly we use the adverb clause “by the time” to explain that an activity will be done before a certain time.
The future perfect tense structure is:
Will+ have+ past participle
Future perfect continuous:
Finally, the future perfect continuous is the last future tenses in English. This tense emphasizes the length of an action that will be in progress before a specific time or another activity in the future.
- They will have been fishing for two hours by the time we get there.
- At 2 am, I will have been listening to this music for two hours.
To form this tense of the future tenses in English, we use the structure below:
will + have + been + verb root + -ing
To sum up, the tenses in English are the basis of English grammar. The tenses in English express the time of actions. In this article, we mentioned the 12 tenses in English grammar with short and comprehensive explanations.
All in all, keep the main instructions of the tenses in English in mind to master this language. Try sticking the formula and the examples of the tenses in English in your mind to comprehend the use of the tenses in English grammar.
It is significant to make up sentences with each of the tenses in English in a notebook. This, alongside taking notes, will help you to no longer make any mistakes when using the tenses in English grammar.
It is really important that the English learners master the tenses in English if they desire to become proficient in English. Therefore, save this article to refer to from time to time and keep in mind that continues practice is the key!