Grammar, Tenses

Tenses English Grammar

by VIDYANAND

/

What are Tenses?

Tense is something that tells us when the action expressed by the verb took place. There are three main divisions of tenses. 

  • Past Tense: The past tense is used to talk about actions which took place in the past.
  • Manjula studied in this school.
  • Gretel was cleaning her house.
  • Raman had perfected the art of hospitality.
  • Harsh had been touring the country this time last year.

Present Tense: The present tense is used to talk about actions which take place in the present.

  • Sarita lives with her parents.
  • Yamini is preparing dinner for her family.
  • have finished my work.
  • The company has been functioning well.

Future Tense: The future tense is used to talk about actions which will take place in the future.

  • Geeta will return the book.
  • shall be travelling to Munich.
  • Rajat will have completed his chores in some time.
  • Beena will have been working with us for ten years.

Present Tense

The present tense can be divided into four categories: 

  1. Simple
  2. Continuous
  3. Perfect
  4. Perfect continuous

Simple Present Tense

Examples of sentences in the simple present tense:

Habitual action

  • I exercise every day.
  • Mala visits her mother on Tuesdays.

Ability

  • Manish plays the flute. Rishi can drive cars.
  • We leave tonight.

Events of the near future

  • They move to their new apartment this week.
  • Mr Prasad is the CEO of this company.

Facts

  • Man is a social animal.

Non-factual beliefs

  • The pen is mightier than the sword.
  • I trust you more than I trust myself.

Present Continuous Tense

  • The present continuous tense is used to express actions which are currently in progress.
  • Progressive helping verbs (is, am, are) are used along with the „-ing‟ form of the verb.
Helping VerbsMain Verb (-ing form)
isworking
arepacking

Examples of sentences in the present continuous tense:

Progressive actionsThe children are camping by the riverside. Mother is writing a letter. 
Near futureHarsha is meeting my family tomorrow. The CEO is leaving tonight.

Present Perfect Tense

  • The present perfect tense is used to express an action which may have happened at a specific time before now.
  • Perfect helping verbs (has, have) are used with the past participle form of the verb.
Helping VerbsMain Verb (Past Participle)
hasfrozen
havemoved

The present perfect tense is never used when the time or date of the action is mentioned.

  • Frieda has visited us in 1999. Incorrect
  • Frieda visited us in 1999. Correct

Examples of sentences in the present perfect tense:

Recently completed action

  • Bob has released the birds from their cage.
  • The train has halted at the station.

When the time of completion is unspecified

  • This has happened before.
  • Jennifer has met you once.

A past action that is still in continuation

  • We have believed every word you said. 
  • Meera has always used the best cosmetics.
  • The despot has led the country to ruins.

Changes that have happened over time

  • Pooja has turned into a high-flying socialite.
  • Manoj has eaten the last biscuit on the plate.

When the consequences are more important than the action itself

  •  The rebels have ended the rule of the autocratic king.
  • I have learnt how to speak in Mandarin.

A past action whose benefits can be felt to this day

  • Ratna has set up an automatic burglar alarm. 

Present Perfect Continuous Tense

The present perfect continuous tense is used to express an action which may have happened in the past and has continued up to this very moment.

It is formed out of the addition of perfect helping verbs (has, have) to the participle form of

progressive helping verbs (been) and finally to the „-ing‟ form of the main verb.

Helping Verb (Perfect)Helping Verb (Participle)Main Verb (-ing)
hasbeenspeaking
havebeenplaying

Examples of sentences in the present perfect tense:

Actions of the past which continue to the present moment
Lionel has been writing his assignment since 6 o‟clock.
Meera has been waiting for you at the reception.  

Points to remember

The words „for‟ and „since‟ are used with the present perfect continuous tense to indicate the duration of the action.

Use „for‟ to talk about the duration of the action.

  • The Principal has been lecturing us for one hour.
  • It has been pouring for four hours.

Use „since‟ to indicate when the action began.

  • Ram Singh has been working in this company since 1980.
  • Both the men have been toiling in the field since morning.                                        

Past Tense

The past tense can be divided into four categories: 

  1. Simple
  2. Continuous
  3. Perfect
  4. Perfect continuous

Simple Past Tense

The simple past tense is used to express an action which was completed at one point of time in the past.

Completed actions  I appeared for the interview yesterday. Meera paid her bills.
Habitual actions of the past  Usha taught at a college nearby. The princes practiced archery by the river.
Past facts or generalizations  Queen Cleopatra was married to Julius Caesar. We lived only on bread and water.

Past Continuous Tense

  • The past continuous tense is used to express actions which were in progression at one point of time in the past.
  • It is formed when progressive helping verbs (was, were) are added to the „-ing‟ form of the main verb.
Helping VerbMain Verb (-ing)
washaving
werethinking
Continuing actions of the past  Gerald was painting on a huge canvas. Sangeeta was talking in her sleep.
To mention the action of longer  The bomb was ticking as they spoke.
duration while comparing two actionsLalith was sleeping when he heard the alarm bell.
To talk about a progressive actionThe mice were following the Pied Piper.  
in a narrativeThe queen was listening to the minstrel‟s songs.

Past Perfect Tense

  • The past perfect tense is used to express an action which may have happened at a specific time before another action began in the past.
  • The perfect helping verb „had‟ is used with the past participle form of the verb.
Helping VerbsMain Verb (Past Participle)
hadbegun
hadinsisted

The past perfect tense is never used when the time or date of the action is mentioned.

  • Kirk had graduated in 2007. Incorrect
  • Kirk graduated in 2007. Correct
Action completed in the past before  Mahesh had just finished his homework when Ram 
another action begancame calling.
To change from direct speech to  Gregory said, “I spend all my money.”
reported speechGregory stated that he had spent all his money.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

The past perfect continuous tense is used to express an action which may have started at a particular point of time in the past and may have ended at another point of time in the past.

It is formed out of the addition of the perfect helping verb had to the participle form of the progressive helping verb been and finally to the „-ing‟ form of the main verb.

Helping VerbHelping Verb (Participle)Main Verb (-ing)
hadbeensleeping
hadbeentalking

Examples of sentences in the past perfect continuous tense:

An action that may have started andKrishna had been talking to himself in a stupor. 
may have gone on for a while in the pastWilliam had been sleeping during the lecture.

Future Tense

The future tense can be divided into four categories: 

  1. Simple
  2. Continuous
  3. Perfect
  4. Perfect continuous

Simple Future

The simple future tense is formed by adding the modal auxiliaries „will‟, „would‟, „may‟, „shall‟ and „might‟ to the simple present tense of the main verb.

Modal  AuxiliaryMain Verb
willleave
wouldcome
maystay
shallbring
mightrain

Events of the future

  • The lunch will be ready in 10 minutes.
  • Dr Paranjpe will preside over the meeting.

Consequences of present actions

  • You will regret if you are hasty.
  • Children would get the wrong message.

Expressing promise or a plan

  • I will travel to Ireland someday.
  • Prince Dhruva will be the heir to the throne.

Future facts or habitual actions

  • Our child will study in this school.
  • Nagma will report the matter to me.

Future Continuous Tense

The future continuous tense is formed by adding the modal auxiliaries „will‟ or „would‟ and the

progressive helping verb „be‟ to the „-ing‟ form of the main verb.

Modal  AuxiliaryProgressive Helping VerbMain Verb
willbegoing
wouldbebreaking

Examples of sentences in the future continuous tense:

Future events which will be in continuationFuture events or plans
Rita will be traveling to Mumbai at this time tomorrow.
George would be listening to music at night.  
I will be studying in the National Institute of Technology.
Falguni and I will be accompanying Sheetal to her house.

Future Perfect Tense

The future continuous tense is formed by adding the modal auxiliaries „will‟ or „would‟ and the perfect helping verb „have’ to the participle form of the main verb.

Modal  AuxiliaryPerfect Helping VerbParticiple Form of Main Verb
willhaveeaten
wouldhavetaken
Future events which will be completed on or by a particular time
Manish will have cleaned the room by the time we return.
The authorities will have arrested him by daybreak.   

Future Perfect Continuous Tense

 The future perfect continuous tense is formed by the addition of the modal auxiliaries will or would; perfect helping verb have; the past participle form of progressive helping verbs (been); and the present participle (-ing) form of the main verb.

Modal  AuxiliaryPerfect Helping VerbHelping Verb (Past Participle)Main Verb (Present Participle)
willhavebeentalking
wouldhavebeensleeping

Examples of sentences in the future perfect continuous tense:

A cause for something in the future
Jatin will have left as he will have been waiting for two hours by then.
Anuja will have slept as she will have been awake for two hours.