TENSES

Tense is one of at least four qualities, along with mood, voice, and aspect, which utterances may express. Tenses represent a contrast of temporal references along the timeline of an utterance. All languages use the same tenses — present, past and future, however the expression of these tenses cannot always be translated directly from one language to another. While verbs in all languages have typical forms by which they are identified and indexed in dictionaries, usually the most common present tense or an infinitive, their use in methods for expressing tense varies among languages.

1. Present tense Use the Simple Present to express the idea that an action is repeated or usual. The action can be a habit, a hobby, a daily event, a scheduled event or something that often happens. It can also be something a person often forgets or usually does not do.

We use the simple present tense when:

* the action is general

* the action happens all the time, or habitually, in the past, present and future

* the action is not only happening now

* the statement is always true. Look at these examples:

* I live in New York.

* The Moon goes round the Earth.

* John drives a taxi.

* He does not drive a bus.

* We do not work at night.

* Do you play football?

2. Present continuous tense We often use the present continuous tense in English. It is very different from the simple present tense, both in structure and in use.

We use the present continuous tense to talk about:

* action happening now

* action in the future

The structure of the present continuous tense is: subject + auxiliary verb + main verb be base + ing Examples:

* You are learning English now.

* You are not swimming now.

* Are you sleeping?

* I am sitting.

* I am not standing.

* They are reading their books.

3. Simple past Use the Simple Past to express the idea that an action started and finished at a specific time in the past. Sometimes, the speaker may not actually mention the specific time, but they do have one specific time in mind.

To make the simple past tense, we use:

* past form only

* auxiliary did + base form

For examples:

– saw a movie yesterday.

– I didn’t see a play yesterday.

– Last year, I traveled to Japan.

– Did you have dinner last night?

– She washed her car.

4. Past continuous tense

Use the Past Continuous to indicate that a longer action in the past was interrupted. The interruption is usually a shorter action in the Simple Past. Remember this can be a real interruption or just an interruption in time. We use it to say what we were in the middle of doing at a particular moment in the past.

The structure of the past continuous tense is: subject + auxiliary verb BE + main verb was were base + ing

For examples:

– I was watching TV when she called.

– When the phone rang, she was writing a letter.

– While we were having the picnic, it started to rain.

– What were you doing when the earthquake started?

– I was listening to my iPod, so I didn’t hear the fire alarm.

– You were not listening to me when I told you to turn the oven off.

5. Present perfect tense

We use the Present Perfect to say that an action happened at an unspecified time before now. The exact time is not important. You can’t use the Present Perfect with specific time expressions such as: yesterday, one year ago, last week, when I was a child, when I lived in Japan, at that moment, that day, one day, etc. We CAN use the Present Perfect with unspecific expressions such as: ever, never, once, many times, several times, before, so far, already, yet, etc.

The structure of the present perfect tense is: subject + auxiliary verb + main verb have past participle

For examples:

– I have seen that movie twenty times.

– I think I have met him once before.

– There have been many earthquakes in California.

– People have traveled to the Moon.

– Have you read the book yet?

– Nobody has ever climbed that mountain.

6. Present perfect continuous tense

We use the Present Perfect Continuous to show that something started in the past and has continued up until now. “For five minutes,” “for two weeks,” and “since Tuesday” are all durations which can be used with the Present Perfect Continuous.

The structure of the present perfect continuous tense is: subject + auxiliary verb + auxiliary verb + main verb have has been base + ing

For examples:

– They have been talking for the last hour.

– She has been working at that company for three years.

– What have you been doing for the last 30 minutes?

– James has been teaching at the university since June.

– We have been waiting here for over two hours!

– Why has Nancy not been taking her medicine for the last three days?

7. Past perfect tense

The Past Perfect expresses the idea that something occurred before another action in the past. It can also show that something happened before a specific time in the past. It is quite an easy tense to understand and to use. This tense talks about the “past in the past”.

The structure of the past perfect tense is: subject + auxiliary verb HAVE + main verb conjugated in simple past tense past participle had V3

For examples:

– I had never seen such a beautiful beach before I went to Kauai.

– I did not have any money because I had lost my wallet.

– Tony knew Istanbul so well because he had visited the city several times.

– Had Susan ever studied Thai before she moved to Thailand?

– She only understood the movie because she had read the book.

– Kristine had never been to an opera before last night.

8. Past perfect continuous tense

We use the Past Perfect Continuous to show that something started in the past and continued up until another time in the past. “For five minutes” and “for two weeks” are both durations which can be used with the Past Perfect Continuous. Notice that this is related to the Present Perfect Continuous; however, the duration does not continue until now, it stops before something else in the past.

The structure of the past perfect continuous tense is: subject+ auxiliary verb HAVE + auxiliary verb BE + main verb had been base + ing

For examples:

– They had been talking for over an hour before Tony arrived.

– She had been working at that company for three years when it went out of business.

– How long had you been waiting to get on the bus?

– Mike wanted to sit down because he had been standing all day at work.

– James had been teaching at the university for more than a year before he left for Asia.

9. Future tense

Simple Future has two different forms in English: “will” and “be going to.” Although the two forms can sometimes be used interchangeably, they often express two very different meanings. These different meanings might seem too abstract at first, but with time and practice, the differences will become clear. Both “will” and “be going to” refer to a specific time in the future.

The structure of the simple future tense is: * FORM Will (will + verb) * FORM Be Going To (am/is/are + going to + verb)

For examples:

– You will help him later.

– Will you help him later?

– You will not help him later.

– You are going to meet Jane tonight.

– Are you going to meet Jane tonight?

– You are not going to meet Jane tonight.

10. Future continuous tense

Use the Future Continuous to indicate that a longer action in the future will be interrupted by a shorter action in the future. Remember this can be a real interruption or just an interruption in time. Future Continuous has two different forms: “will be doing ” and “be going to be doing.” Unlike Simple Future forms, Future Continuous forms are usually interchangeable.

The structure of the future continuous tense is: * FORM Future Continuous with “Will” (will be + present participle) * FORM Future Continuous with “Be Going To ” (am/is/are + going to be + present participle)

For examples:

– You will be waiting for her when her plane arrives tonight.

– Will you be waiting for her when her plane arrives tonight?

– You will not be waiting for her when her plane arrives tonight.

– You are going to be waiting for her when her plane arrives tonight.

– Are you going to be waiting for her when her plane arrives tonight?

– You are not going to be waiting for her when her plane arrives tonight.

11. Future perfect tense

The Future Perfect expresses the idea that something will occur before another action in the future. It can also show that something will happen before a specific time in the future. Future Perfect has two different forms: “will have done” and “be going to have done.” Unlike Simple Future forms, Future Perfect forms are usually interchangeable. The future perfect tense is quite an easy tense to understand and use. The future perfect tense talks about the past in the future.

The structure of the future perfect tense is: * FORM Future Perfect with “Will” (will have + past participle) * FORM Future Perfect with “Be Going To” (am/is/are + going to have + past participle)

For examples:

– You will have perfected your English by the time you come back from the U.S.

– Will you have perfected your English by the time you come back from the U.S.?

– You will not have perfected your English by the time you come back from the U.S.

– You are going to have perfected your English by the time you come back from the U.S.

– Are you going to have perfected your English by the time you come back from the U.S.?

– You are not going to have perfected your English by the time you come back from the U.S.

12. Future perfect continuous tense

We use the Future Perfect Continuous to show that something will continue up until a particular event or time in the future. “For five minutes,” “for two weeks,” and “since Friday” are all durations which can be used with the Future Perfect Continuous. Future Perfect Continuous has two different forms: “will have been doing ” and “be going to have been doing.” Unlike Simple Future forms, Future Perfect Continuous forms are usually interchangeable.

The structure of the future perfect continuous tense is: * FORM Future Perfect Continuous with “Will” (will have been + present participle) * FORM Future Perfect Continuous with “Be Going To” (am/is/are + going to have been + present participle)

For examples:

– You will have been waiting for more than two hours when her plane finally arrives.

– Will you have been waiting for more than two hours when her plane finally arrives?

– You will not have been waiting for more than two hours when her plane finally arrives.

– You are going to have been waiting for more than two hours when her plane finally arrives.

– Are you going to have been waiting for more than two hours when her plane finally arrives?

– You are not going to have been waiting for more than two hours when her plane finally arrives.