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.

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