The concept of time can be split into:
Present Tense : What you are currently doing.
- I eat, I am eating
Past Tense : What you did some time back.
- I ate, I was eating
Future Tense : What you will do later.
- I will eat, I will be eating
In the English language, tenses play an important role in sentence formation. The tense of a verb shows the time of an event or action. There are four types of tenses. Simple, Perfect, Continuous and Present Perfect Continuous and each of these has a present, past and future form.
In Simple Present, the action is simply mentioned and there is nothing being said about its completeness.
- I eat.
- I sleep.
- I play.
PRESENT CONTINUOUS TENSE
In Present Continuous, the action is on-going/ still going on and hence continuous.
- I am eating.
- I am sleeping.
- I am playing.
PRESENT PERFECT TENSE
In Present Perfect, the action is complete or has ended and hence termed Perfect.
- I have eaten.
- I have slept.
- I have played.
PRESENT PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE
In Present Perfect Continuous, the action has been taking place for some time and is still ongoing.
- I have been eating.
- I have been sleeping.
- I have been playing.
SIMPLE PAST TENSE
In Simple Past, the action is simply mentioned and understood to have taken place in the past.
- I ate.
- I slept.
- I played.
PAST CONTINUOUS TENSE
In Past Continuous, the action was ongoing till a certain time in the past.
- I was eating.
- I was sleeping.
- I was playing.
PAST PERFECT TENSE
Past Perfect is used to express something that happened before another action in the past.
- I had eaten.
- I had slept.
- I had played.
PAST PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE
Past Perfect Continuous is used to express something that started in the past and continued until another time in the past.
- I had been eating.
- I had been sleeping.
- I had been playing.
SIMPLE FUTURE TENSE
Simple Future is used when we plan or make a decision to do something. Nothing is said about the time in the future.
- I will eat.
- I will sleep.
- I will play.
FUTURE CONTINUOUS TENSE
The future continuous tense is used to express action at a particular moment in the future. However, the action will not have finished at the moment.
- I will be eating at 9 a.m.
- I will be sleeping when you arrive.
- I will be playing at 5 p.m.
FUTURE PERFECT TENSE
Future Perfect expresses action that will occur in the future before another action in the future.
- I will have eaten before 10 a.m.
- I will have slept before you arrive.
- I will have played before 6 p.m.
FUTURE PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE
Future Perfect Continuous is used to talk about an on-going action before some point in the future.
- I will have been sleeping for two hours when you arrive.
- I will have been playing for an hour when it is 5 p.m.
Many English learners worry too much about tense. If you stopped 100 native English speakers in the street and asked them about tense, one of them might give you an intelligent answer if you were lucky. The other 99 would know little about terms like “past perfect” or “present continuous”. And they would know nothing about aspect, voice or mood. But they can all speak fluent English and communicate effectively. Of course, for ESL it helps to know about tenses, but don’t become obsessed with them. Be like those native speakers! Speak naturally!
The links below are to lessons for each of the 12 basic tenses. In each lesson we look at two aspects of the tense:
- Structure: How do we make the tense?
- Use: When and why do we use the tense?
- Some lessons look at additional aspects, and most of them finish with a quiz to check your understanding.
I do do, I do
Present Continuous Tense
I am doing, I am doing tomorrow
Present Perfect Tense
I have done
Present Perfect Continuous Tense
I have been doing
I did do, I did
Past Continuous Tense
I was doing
Past Perfect Tense
I had done
Past Perfect Continuous Tense
I had been doing
I will do
Future Continuous Tense
I will be doing
Future Perfect Tense
I will have done
Future Perfect Continuous Tense
I will have been doing