Verb Tenses: Quick Summary
Verb tenses indicate when an action (or state) happens—either in the past, present, or future. But they can also reveal important information about whether the action is ongoing or completed. There are 12 verb tenses in English, formed by combining the past, present, and future tenses with the simple, progressive, perfect, or perfect progressive aspects.
What Are Verb Tenses?
Verb tenses are grammatical forms that indicate the time an action took place—either in the present, past, or future.
In addition to conveying time, verb tenses also include grammatical aspects that provide vital information about continuity or completion. These aspects—simple, progressive (also known as continuous), perfect, and perfect progressive—combined with the past, present, and future tenses, result in twelve primary verb tenses in English.
Here’s what the grammatical aspects represent:
Having a thorough understanding of verb tenses is vital to avoid errors and misunderstandings. Below, we’ll go over each verb tense, show you how to construct them, and provide examples of each.
Verb Tenses (With Examples)
The simple present tense indicates actions occurring now, those occurring habitually, and those that are always true. Usually, the simple present tense is just the base verb unless the subject is in the third person singular. In that case, you’d add “–s” or “–es” to the root.
I study every morning.
She studies every morning.
The past tense describes actions that occurred at a specific time prior and do not extend into the present. In other words, the action is completed. The past tense is usually formed by adding “–ed” to the base of the verb, unless it’s an irregular verb.
I studied yesterday.
The simple future tense describes actions that will happen in the future. To form this tense, use [will] + the base form of the verb.
I will study tomorrow morning.
Use the present progressive tense to indicate that an action is in progress or happening in the future. It is formed by using [am/is/are] + the present participle.
I am studying.
We are studying tomorrow.
What Is a Present Participle?
A present participle is a form of a verb that ends in “–ing” and is used to form progressive tenses, but can also be used as adjectives.
- I am singing.
- Look at that singing bird.
The past progressive tense is used to describe continuous actions in the past, especially if the action was interrupted by another. It is formed by using [was/were] + the present participle.
I was studying when you arrived.
The future progressive tense indicates an action that will be in progress in the future, especially when a specific time is mentioned. It is formed by using [will be] + the present participle.
I will be studying at 8 AM tomorrow.
The present perfect refers to actions that began in the past and were either completed at some unspecified time in the past or continued into the present. It is formed by using [have/has] with the past participle.
I have studied before.
The past perfect tense describes an action that happened before another past action or time. It is formed by using [had] + the past participle.
I had studied before I went to bed last night.
Use the future perfect tense to indicate that an action will be completed by a specified time in the future. It is formed by using [will have] + the past participle.
I will have studied the entire textbook by the time you arrive.
Present Perfect Progressive
The present perfect progressive indicates an ongoing action that began in the past and continued into the present. It is formed by using [have/has been] + the present participle.
I have been studying all morning.
Past Perfect Progressive
The past perfect progressive indicates continuing actions in the past that began before a specific time or before some other past action began. To form this tense, use [had been] + the present participle.
I had been studying for an hour before I left.
Future Perfect Progressive
Use the future perfect progressive to indicate continuing actions that will be completed by some specified time in the future. To construct this tense, use [will have been] + the present participle.
I will have been studying for two hours by the time you arrive.
Using the Correct Verb Tense
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