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Verb Tense

Aug 30, 2022
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Read the following sentences:  

  1. The sun rises in the east. 
  2. I am playing football. 
  3. I have watched a film. 
  4. She has been living here for the past four years. 
  5. We cooked last night. 
  6. Mark was peeling the onion. 
  7. They had left before her arrival. 
  8. At that time, I had been writing a book for three months. 
  9. I shall come with you. 
  10. She will be going to the guest house in the evening. 
  11. She will have finished her homework by then. 
  12. We will have been living here for 15 years next December. 

In each of the sentences given above, the forms in which these verbs appear differ vastly from each other. These differences are because of the presence of a grammatical element called the tenses. And verbs are the only part of speech that can take tenses. 

Note that all the twelve sentences given exhibit twelve different verb forms. This is to say that in English, there are twelve verb tense forms. 

Sentences 1 to 4 refer to the present time, and are therefore said to be in the present tense.  

Sentences 5 to 8 refer to the past time, and are therefore said to be in the past tense

As we know, there are only two tenses in English: the present tense and the past tense. According to modern grammarians, the future tense does not exist. Because, the future is not expressed by changes that are made to the form of the verb like in the present tense and the past tense. All we are left with is a perception of a time in the future.  

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Now, of the sentences given above, sentences 9 to 12 refer to the future time, and for convenience, let us consider that they come under the future tense. 

This shows that each of the tenses: the present tense, the past tense, and the future tense, can be further classified into four different forms, called the verb tenses. 

Verb tenses are the forms that verbs take while forming sentences. Each sentence given above make use of different verb tenses.  

The verb tenses in English are: 

  • Simple Present Tense 
  • Present Continuous Tense 
  • Present Perfect Tense 
  • Present Perfect Continuous Tense 
  • Simple Past Tense 
  • Past Continuous Tense 
  • Past Perfect Tense 
  • Past Perfect Continuous Tense 
  • Simple Future Tense 
  • Future Continuous Tense 
  • Future Perfect Tense 
  • Future Perfect Continuous Tense 

Now, let us look at their uses. 

Simple Present Tense: 

The simple present tense is used to: 

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1. Express general truths, like: 

  • The sun rises in the east. 
  • Cow gives us milk. 

2. It expresses habitual actions, like: 

  • I wake up at 5am every day. 
  • He drinks coffee every morning. 

3. The simple present tense is also sometimes used to describe events that have future implications. It can indicate a future event that is part of a fixed schedule, like: 

  • The match starts at 9pm. 
  • The train leaves at 8am. 
  • The shop reopens on Monday. 

Now let us look at the structure of a sentence that is written in the simple present tense. Take the example of: 

I play football. 

While breaking this sentence down, we get the following structure: 

Subject (S) + Base form of the verb(V1) + Remaining Part (RP) 

More examples: 

  • Fortune favors the brave. 
  • Matthew reads a lot. 
  • I write novels. 

Present Continuous Tense: 

The present continuous tense is used: 

1. To indicate an action that is going on at the time of speaking, like: 

  • He is praying. 
  • They are playing football. 
  • I am reading a book. 

2. To indicate a temporary action that may not be actually happening at the time of speaking, like: 

  • I am reading Emma (but I am not reading it right now, at the moment). 
  • She is working on a story nowadays. 

3. Present continuous tense is also sometimes used to describe events that have future implications. It can indicate a future event that is arranged to take place in the near future, like: 

  • I am going to the beach in the evening. 
  • The shop is re-opening on Friday. 

Now, let us look at the structure of a sentence that is written in the present continuous tense. Take the example of: 

I am playing football. 

While breaking this sentence down, we get the following structure: 

Subject (S) + is/are/am + -ing form of the verb + Remaining Part (RP) 

More examples: 

  • We are planning a trip this week. 
  • Harry is sleeping
  • I am eating food. 

Present Perfect Tense: 

The present perfect tense is used to: 

1. Indicate an action that was completed in the immediate past (more often with just), example: 

  • I have just returned. 
  • She has reached safely. 

2. To indicate actions taken place in the past whose time is not given and is not definite, like: 

  • I have seen Brad Pitt. 
  • Tim has read Gulliver’s Travels

Now let us look at the structure of a sentence that is written in the present perfect tense. Take the example of: 

I have played football. 

While breaking this sentence down, we get the following structure: 

Subject (S) + has/have +Past Participle form of the verb(V3) + Remaining Part (RP) 

More examples: 

  • I have sent him a message. 
  • She has received  the letter. 
  • They have dropped their plans. 

Present Perfect Continuous Tense: 

The present perfect continuous tense is used to indicate an action that has begun at some point in the past and is still continuing, like: 

  • He has been working here for three years. 
  • They have been playing as a team for a couple of years now. 

Now let us look at the structure of a sentence that is written in the present perfect continuous tense. Take the example of: 

I have been playing football. 

While breaking this sentence down, we get the following structure: 

Subject (S) + has/have + been + -ing form of the verb + Remaining Part (RP) 

More examples: 

  • We have been living here for the past seven years. 
  • I have been taking care of him for a while. 

Simple Past Tense: 

The simple past tense is used: 

1. To indicate an action that was completed in the past like: 

  • He left yesterday. 
  • We cooked last night. 

2. It can also indicate past habits like: 

  • We always argued with each other back then. 
  • She always carried a water bottle in her bag. 

Now let us look at the structure of a sentence that is written in the simple past tense. Take the example of: 

I played football. 

This sentence also has the same structure as sentence 5 in the explore part. That is: 

Subject (S) + Past Participle form of the verb (V3) + Remaining Part (RP) 

More examples: 

  • I met David yesterday. 
  • He woke up at 7AM today. 

Past Continuous Tense: 

The past continuous tense is used to indicate an action that was going on at some point in the past. Here, the time of the action may or may not be indicated, like: 

  • I was cleaning my house in the evening. 
  • We were listening to music all night. 

Now let us look at the structure of a sentence that is written in the past continuous tense. Take the example of: 

I was playing football. 

This sentence also has the same structure as sentence 6 in the explore part. That is: 

Subject (S) + was/were + -ing form of the verb + Remaining Part (RP) 

More examples: 

  • I was watching TV in the afternoon. 
  • They were arguing with me for no reason. 

Past Perfect Tense: 

If two actions took place in the past, one action might have necessarily preceded the other action. The past perfect tense is used to indicate the action that took place first. To indicate the action that took place later, the simple past tense is used, like: 

  • When I reached the station, the train had already left. 
  • I had finished the homework before Richard came to meet me. 

Now let us look at the structure of a sentence that is written in the past perfect tense. Take the example of: 

I had played football. 

This sentence also has the same structure as sentence 7 in the explore part. That is: 

Subject (S) + had + + Past Participle form of the verb (V3) + Remaining Part (RP) 

More examples: 

  • She had sent me the books before I asked for them. 
  • We had started out before it rained. 

Past Perfect Continuous Tense: 

The past perfect continuous tense is used to indicate an action that began before a particular point in the past and continued up to that time in the past, for example: 

  • At that moment, I had been working there for two years. 

Now let us look at the structure of a sentence that is written in the past perfect continuous tense. Take the example of: 

I had been playing football. 

This sentence also has the same structure as sentence 8 in the explore part. That is: 

Subject (S) + had + been + -ing form of the verb + Remaining Part (RP) 

More examples: 

  • At that time, I had been writing an essay for a week. 
  • I had been taking care of the company for at least two months before my father came back. 

Simple Future Tense: 

The simple future tense is used: 

1. To describe actions that we think or believe will happen in the future like: 

  • I’m sure Joshua will get the highest marks. 
  • I think the Los Angeles Lakers will win the trophy. 

2. To talk about things that we cannot control. This tense expresses the future as a fact, like: 

  • We will know our exam results on Friday. 
  • I shall be twenty five in December. 
  • The elections will take place by the end of July. 

Now let us look at the structure of a sentence that is written in the simple future tense. Take the example of: 

I will play football. 

While breaking this sentence down, we get the following structure: 

Subject(S) + will/shall  + Base form of the verb(V1) + Remaining Part (RP) 

More examples: 

  • I shall go on a trek soon. 
  • The tickets will be available from Monday. 

Future Continuous Tense: 

The future continuous tense is: 

1. Used to talk about actions which will be in progress at a time in future like: 

  • I will be playing video games in the evening. 
  • My father will be cooking at night. 

2. Used to talk about actions which are already planned or which are expected to happen in the future like: 

  • The shop will be opening next week. 
  • The postman will be coming in an hour. 

Now let us look at the structure of a sentence that is written in the future continuous tense. Take the example of: 

I will be playing football. 

While breaking this sentence down, we get the following structure: 

Subject(S) + will/shall  + be +ing form of the verb + Remaining Part (RP) 

More examples: 

  • We will be going to Canada next month. 
  • The President will be addressing the nation in a while. 
  • Joseph will be organizing Sunday’s event. 

Future Perfect Tense: 

The future perfect tense is used to talk about actions that will be completed by a certain time in the future like: 

  • I shall have done my homework by then. 
  • Harry will have left for school before you go to see him. 

Now let us look at the structure of a sentence that is written in the future perfect tense. Take the example of: 

I will have played football. 

While breaking this sentence down, we get the following structure: 

Subject(S) + will/shall  + have + Past participle form of the verb(V3) + Remaining Part (RP) 

More examples: 

  • I shall have published my novel by that time. 
  • You will have passed out from college by May. 

Future Perfect Continuous Tense: 

The future perfect continuous tense is used to describe actions which will be in progress over a period of time that is bound to end in the future like: 

  • By this May, I shall have been staying here for fourteen years. 
  • I will have been teaching in this school for seven years next month. 

Now let us look at the structure of a sentence that is written in the future perfect continuous tense. Take the example of: 

I will have been playing football. 

While breaking this sentence down, we get the following structure: 

Subject(S) + will/shall  + have  been + ing form of the verb + Remaining Part (RP) 

More examples: 

  • By next week, I will have been writing this novel for two months. 
  • They will have been working for us for six years next December. 

PS: Unlike the other tenses, this tense is not very commonly used in English. 

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