Learn about English Tenses

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Basic knowledge of tenses is required for English Speaking.One should focus on fluency in initial stage and without being affected of grammatical mistakes.With the basic knowledge of tenses, grammar during speaking will automatically improve after some time.

What is Tense?

Read the following sentences:

  1. She sings the song for me.
  2. She sang the song.
  3. She will sing the song tomorrow.

In sentence 1, the verb sing refers the Present time.
In sentence 2, the verb sang refers the past time.
In sentence 3, the verb ‘will sing’ refers the future time.
Thus a Verb may refer
(1) to present time
(2) to past time
(3) to future time
A verb that refers to present time is said to be in the Present tense; as,
She sings. 
A verb that refers to past time is said to be in the Past tense; as,
She sang.
A verb that refers to future time is said to be in the Future tense; as,
She will sing.
Thus there are three main Tenses:
The Present, the Past, the Future
The Tense of a Verb shows the time of an action or event.

Simple Present Tense

The Simple Present is used: –

  • To express general truths or universal truths
    Examples:
    Plants grow in soil.
    Sun rises in east.
    Milk is white.
    Failure are pillars of success.
  • To express habitual action;
    I get up every day at 5 am.
    I drink milk every morning.
  • To express planned future event;
    When does tea stall reopen.
    The next flight is at 9 am tomorrow.
    He gets married next year
  • To express ownership;
    He owns a Mercedes.
    I hold a powerful post.
  • To express historical events/facts;
    India becomes free in 1947.
    Jawahar lal Nehru dies in 1964.
  • To express quotations;

Abrahm Lincoln says, “Democracy is the government of the people, for the people and by the people.”

  • To express the commentary of live matches;
  • To express Newspaper Headlines;
  • To begin Imperative sentences;
    Obey the rules of law.
    Help the poor.
    Always speak truth
  • Simple Present is used for following verbs instead of Present continuous;
    Verbs of Perception: smell, see, notice, hear etc.
    Verbs of Possession: belong, contain, own, possess, consists of etc.
    Verbs of Appearing: seem, look etc.
    Verbs of Emotion: refuse, hate, hope, wish, like etc.
  • Verbs of Thinking: agree, suppose, forget, imagine, remember etc.
    Examples:
    She is looking happy. (Wrong)
    She looks happy. (Correct)
    My daughter is liking mangoes. (wrong)
    My daughter likes mangoes. (Correct)
    I am thinking he is not honest. (Wrong)
    I think he is not honest. (correct)
  • Imperative sentences start from Do not
    Example:
    Do not make a noise.

Structure of Affirmative sentences
Subject+Verb(base form or with es) + Object
Examples:
Angelina reads book.
Kim plays at beach.
Priyanka speaks truth.

Structure of Interrogative sentences
Do/Does+Subject+Verb(Firstform)+Object/compliment
Examples:
Do you watch news daily?
Does he attend classes regularly?

Structure of Negative sentences
Subject+do/does+not +Verb(First Form) + Object/Compliment
Example:
He does not take alcohol.

Present Continuous Tense

Present continuous tense is used:

  • For an action going on at the time of speaking:
    The girls are playing badminton.
  • For a temporary action:
    I am reading a novel. (but I am not reading at this moment)
    Delhi is facing electricity problem these days.
  • For an action that has already been arranged to take place in the near future:
    I am going to the cinema tonight
  • To express actions in progress, but not necessarily at the time of speaking.
    I am writing a novel these days.

Affirmative structure:
Subject+is/am/are+(Verb first form+ing)+object/compliment
I am singing a song.

Interrogative Sentence structure:
is/am/are +Subject +(Verb first form+ ing)+object/compliment
Am I singing a song?

Negative Sentence structure
Subject+is/am/are+not+(Verb first form+ing)+object/compliment
I am not singing a song?

Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect is used to indicate a link between the present and the past.

It used in following situations:

  1. An action or situation that was started in the past and continues in the present,
    I have lived in Bikaner since 1986.
    She has worked in the bank for five years.
  1. An action that was completed in the very recent past, expressed by ‘just’.
    I have just finished my road trip.
  1. A repeated action in an unspecified period between the past and now. We have visited Delhi several times.
  2. To express news of recent events
    Rupee has fallen against dollar.

Affirmative sentence structure:
Subject +has/have + Past participle of verb
I have travelled.
Negative sentence structure:
Subject +has/have not + Past participle of verb
I have not travelled
Interrogative sentence structure:
Has/have + Subject +Past participle of verb
Have I travelled?

Present Perfect Continuous Tense

It is used to express a continued or on-going action that started in past and is continued till now. In this tense, start time of action will always be given like – for a few days, for few months, for few years, since Monday, etc.

If start time of action is not given in the sentence, then it does not come under Present Perfect Continuous Tense. ‘Start time of action’ is the main factor which differentiates between Present Continuous Tense and Present Perfect Continuous Tense.

Use of for and since is there in this tense.
Use of for: “for” is used before uncertain time.
Use of Since: “Since” is used for certain time.
She has been listening songs for 2 hours.
She has been living in United States of America Since 1998.

Affirmative sentence Structure:
Subject +has been/have been +(Verb 1st form +ing)+Since/for +time reference
She has been living in USA for five years.

Interrogative sentence structure:
has/Have +Subject+ been +(Verb 1st form +ing)+Since/for +time reference
Has she been living in USA for five years?

Negative sentence structure:
Subject +has not been/have not been +(Verb 1st form +ing)+ Since/for +time reference
She has not been living in USA for five years.

Simple Past Tense

It is used to express an action that is just completed or just happened. Time of action is not specified but it makes a sense that action is just completed.
Important Uses of simple past tense:

  1. Use with “when” and “While”
    While he slept I played cricket.
    When I lived in Delhi, I generally travelled by bus.
  1. Use with “till”, “until”, “as soon as” and “before”
    As soon as I finished the novel, my girlfriend arrived.
    I waited her till it got dark.
  1. Use with “wish”
    I wish I were a Queen.

Affirmative sentence Structure:
Subject +Verb 2nd form+ Object
She loved
Interrogative sentence structure:
Did +Subject+ Verb 1st form+ Object
Did she love?
Negative sentence structure:
Subject +did not + Verb 1st  form+ Object
She did not love.

Past Continuous Tense

It is used to express an on-going nature or continued action till a certain time in past. It is used to talk about a continuing action at a particular time in the past.
If starting time of the action is given and actions remain continued, the Past Continuous Tense becomes Past Perfect Continuous Tense.

Affirmative Sentence structure:
Subject + Was/Were + Verb (Ist form) + ing + Object + (.)
I was playing cricket.

Negative Sentence Structure:
Subject + Was not/Were not + Verb (Ist form) + ing + Object + (.)
I was not playing cricket.

Past Perfect Tense

The Past Perfect Tense refers to something that occurred in the past, before another action in the past.
He had jumped into the water before she told him how cold it was.
It is also used to express unfulfilled wish
If I had requested him, he could have helped me.

Affirmative sentence Structure:

  1. Subject +had +past participle form of verb+ object, before, sub+ verb past simple form+ object
    She had loved me before we broke up.
  1. After+ Subject +had +past participle form of verb+ object, Subject + Verb past simple form + object
    After I had taken my breakfast, I went to school.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Past Perfect Continuous Tense is used to express a continued or on going action that started in past and is continued until sometime in past. There will always a time reference like – for a few days, for few months, for 2 years, since Wednesday, since 2015, since January etc. If there is no time reference, then it is not a Past perfect continuous tense. Without time reference, it is Past Continuous Tense.

Affirmative Sentence structure:
Subject + had + been + Verb (Ist form) + ing + Object + For/Since + Time + Remaining + (.)
He had been playing cricket since 1989.

Negative Sentence structure:
Subject + had + Not + been + Verb (Ist form) + ing + Object + For/Since + Time + Remaining + (.)
He had not been playing cricket since 1989.

Simple Future Tense

It is used to express an action which has not occurred/happened yet and will occur/happen after sometime in future.

  1. To express Natural/habitual actions in the future
    Summer will come in June.
  1. To express offer/Invitation and Suggestion:
    Shall I sing a song for you?
  1. To express Imagination
    I think he will be the next president of USA.
  1. Sometimes simple future tense will be express by using “going to” and “be+to”.
    I am going to propose her tomorrow.
    She is to reach home by evening.

Affirmative Sentence structure:
Subject +will/shall +verb first form + object

Interrogative Sentence structure:
Will/shall +Subject +verb first form + object

Negative Sentence Structure
Subject +will not/shall not +verb first form + object

Future Continuous Tense

It is used to express an ongoing or continued action in future.

Time reference may come in it. If starting time of action is given in the sentence and the action is on-going/continued, then it becomes Future Perfect Continuous Tense.

  1. To express imaginations
    She will be dancing.
  1. To express temporary actions/Future plans:
    She will be waiting for me.

Affirmative Sentence Structure:
Subject + Will/Shall + Be + Verb (Ist form) + Ing + Object + (.)

Negative Sentence Structure:
Subject + Will/Shall + Not + Be + Verb (Ist form) + Ing + Object + (.)

Future Perfect Tense

It is used to express an action which will happen/occur in future and will be completed by a certain time of future or by the end/completion of some action in future.

  1. To express actions to be completed by a certain time
    You will have got your result before the month begins.
  1. To express assumptions:
    You will have heard the name of Bill Clinton.

Affirmative Sentence Structure:
Subject + Will/Shall + Have + Verb (3rd form) + Object + (.)

Negative Sentence Structure:
Subject + Will/Shall + Not + Have + Verb (3rd form) + Object + (.)

Future Perfect Tense
It is used to express an action which will happen/occur in future and will be completed by a certain time of future or by the end/completion of some action in future.

  1. To express actions to be completed by a certain time
    You will have got your result before the month begins.
  1. To express assumptions:
    You will have heard the name of Bill Clinton.

Affirmative Sentence Structure:
Subject + Will/Shall + Have + Verb (3rd form) + Object + (.)

Negative Sentence Structure:
Subject + Will/Shall + Not + Have + Verb (3rd form) + Object + (.)

Future Perfect Continuous Tense

Future Perfect Continuous Tense is used to express a continued or ongoing action that will commence at a fix time or in future and will continue for some time in future. There will always be a continued time reference like – for a few days, for ten months, for 2 years, since Wednesday, since 2011, since January etc.
The girl will have been playing badminton since morning

Affirmative Sentence Structure:
Subject + Will/Shall + Have been + Verb (Ist form) + Ing + Object + For/Since + Time + Remaining + (.)

Negative Sentence Structure:
Subject + Will/Shall + Not + Have been + Verb (Ist form) + Ing + Object + For/Since + Time + Remaining + (.)
Download Android Application for learning English tenses:
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