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What Is Verb Tense?

(with Examples)
The tense of a verb is determined by when the action took place. The three tenses are:
The Past Tense
The Present Tense
The Future Tense

Examples of Tenses
Here are some examples of verbs in different tenses:
I walked to work.
(The verb walked is in the past tense.)
I walk to work.
(The verb walk is in the present tense.)
I will walk to work.
(The verb will walk is in the future tense.)
Remember, verbs do not just express actions. They can also express a state of being. For
example:
I was happy.
(The verb was is in the past tense.)
I am happy.
(The verb am is in the present tense.)
I will be happy.
(The verb will be is in the future tense.)

Examples of Verbs in Different Tenses


Here are some more examples of verbs in the past, present, and future tenses:
The hardest that I have laughed at a movie was probably Team America. I laughed 'til
I thought I was going to throw up. (Ron White)
(The shaded verbs are in the past tense.)
You laugh at me because I'm different. I laugh at you because you are all the same.
(Jonathan Davis)
(The shaded verbs are in the present tense.)

Nobody will laugh long who deals much with opium; even its pleasures are of a grave and
solemn complexion. (Thomas de Quincey)
(The shaded verbs are in the future tense.)
You will notice that some of the verbs in the past tense example about Team America are made
up of more than one word (have laughed, was going). We need these different versions of the
tenses because the tenses are further categorized depending on whether the action (or state of
being) they describe is in progress or completed. For example, the different versions of the
verb to laugh are:
Past Tense: laughed, was/were laughing, had laughed, had been laughing
Present Tense: laugh, am/is/are laughing, has/have laughed, has/have been laughing
Future Tense: will laugh, will be laughing, will have laughed, will have been laughing

The Full List of Tenses


The table below shows the full list of the tenses:

The 4 Past Tenses Example


simple past tense I went
past progressive tense I was going
past perfect tense I had gone
past perfect progressive tense I had been going
The 4 Present Tenses Example
simple present tense I go
present progressive tense I am going
present perfect tense I have gone
present perfect progressive tense I have been going
The 4 Future Tenses Example
simple future tense I will go
future progressive tense I will be going
future perfect tense I will have gone
future perfect progressive tense I will have been going

SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE


The simple present tense is one of several forms of present tense in English. It is used to describe habits, unchanging
situations, general truths, and fixed arrangements. The simple present tense is simple to form. Just use the base form
of the verb: (I take, you take, we take, they take) The 3rd person singular takes an -s at the end. (he takes, she takes)

THE SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE IS USED:


To express habits, general truths, repeated actions or unchanging situations, emotions and wishes:
I smoke (habit); I work in London (unchanging situation); London is a large city (general truth)
To give instructions or directions:
You walk for two hundred meters, then you turn left.
To express fixed arrangements, present or future:
Your exam starts at 09.00
To express future time, after some conjunctions: after, when, before, as soon as, until:
He'll give it to you when you come next Saturday.

Be careful! The simple present is not used to express actions happening now.

EXAMPLES
For habits
He drinks tea at breakfast.
She only eats fish.
They watch television regularly.
For repeated actions or events
We catch the bus every morning.
It rains every afternoon in the hot season.
They drive to Monaco every summer.
For general truths
Water freezes at zero degrees.
The Earth revolves around the Sun.
Her mother is Peruvian.

For instructions or directions


Open the packet and pour the contents into hot water.
You take the No.6 bus to Watney and then the No.10 to Bedford.
For fixed arrangements
His mother arrives tomorrow.
Our holiday starts on the 26th March
With future constructions
She'll see you before she leaves.
We'll give it to her when she arrives.

FORMING THE SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE: TO THINK


Affirmative Interrogative Negative

I think Do I think? I do not think

You think Do you think? You do not think

He thinks Does he think? He does not think

She thinks Does she think? She does not think

It thinks Does it think? It does not think

We think Do we think? We do not think.

They think Do they think? They do not think.

NOTES ON THE SIMPLE PRESENT, THIRD PERSON


SINGULAR
In the third person singular the verb always ends in -s:
he wants, she needs, he gives, she thinks.
Negative and question forms use DOES (= the third person of the auxiliary 'DO') + the infinitive of the verb.
He wants ice cream. Does he want strawberry? He does not want vanilla.
Verbs ending in -y : the third person changes the -y to -ies:
fly --> flies, cry --> cries
Exception: if there is a vowel before the -y:
play --> plays, pray --> prays
Add -es to verbs ending in:-ss, -x, -sh, -ch:
he passes, she catches, he fixes, it pushes

EXAMPLES
He goes to school every morning.
She understands English.
It mixes the sand and the water.
He tries very hard.
She enjoys playing the piano.

SIMPLE PAST TENSE


DEFINITION OF THE SIMPLE PAST TENSE
The simple past tense, sometimes called the preterite, is used to talk about a completed action in a time before now.
The simple past is the basic form of past tense in English. The time of the action can be in the recent past or the distant
past and action duration is not important.

EXAMPLES
John Cabot sailed to America in 1498.
My father died last year.
He lived in Fiji in 1976.
We crossed the Channel yesterday.

You always use the simple past when you say when something happened, so it is associated with certain past time
expressions

frequency: often, sometimes, always


I sometimes walked home at lunchtime.
I often brought my lunch to school.
a definite point in time: last week, when I was a child, yesterday, six weeks ago
We saw a good film last week.
Yesterday, I arrived in Geneva.
She finished her work atseven o'clock
I went to the theatre last night
an indefinite point in time: the other day, ages ago, a long time ago People lived in caves a long time ago.
She played the piano when she was a child.

Note: the word ago is a useful way of expressing the distance into the past. It is placed after the period of time: a week
ago, three years ago, a minute ago.

Be Careful: The simple past in English may look like a tense in your own language, but the meaning may be different.
FORMING THE SIMPLE PAST TENSE
PATTERNS OF SIMPLE PAST TENSE FOR REGULAR VERBS

Affirmative

Subject + verb + ed

I skipped.

Negative

Subject + did not + infinitive without to

They didn't go.

Interrogative

Did + subject + infinitive without to

Did she arrive?

Interrogative negative

Did not + subject + infinitive without to

Didn't you play?

TO WALK

Affirmative Negative Interrogative

I walked I didn't walk Did I walk?


Affirmative Negative Interrogative

You walked You didn't walk Did you walk?

He walked He didn't walk Did he walk?

We walked We didn't walk Did we walk?

They walked They didn't walk Did they walk?

SIMPLE PAST TENSE OF TO BE, TO HAVE, TO DO

Subject Verb

Be Have D

I was had d

You were had d

He/She/It was had d

We were had d

You were had d

They were had d

NOTES ON AFFIRMATIVE, NEGATIVE, & INTERROGATIVE


FORMS
AFFIRMATIVE
The affirmative of the simple past tense is simple.
I was in Japan last year
She had a headache yesterday.
We did our homework last night.

NEGATIVE AND INTERROGATIVE


For the negative and interrogative simple past form of "do" as an ordinary verb, use the auxiliary "do", e.g. We didn't
do our homework last night.
The negative of "have" in the simple past is usually formed using the auxiliary "do", but sometimes by simply adding not or
the contraction "n't".

The interrogative form of "have" in the simple past normally uses the auxiliary "do".

EXAMPLES
They weren't in Rio last summer.
We didn't have any money.
We didn't have time to visit the Eiffel Tower.
We didn't do our exercises this morning.
Were they in Iceland last January?
Did you have a bicycle when you were young?
Did you do much climbing in Switzerland?

Note: For the negative and interrogative form of all verbs in the simple past, always use the auxiliary 'did''.

SIMPLE PAST, IRREGULAR VERBS


Some verbs are irregular in the simple past. Here are the most common ones.

TO GO

He went to a club last night.


Did he go to the cinema last night?
He didn't go to bed early last night.

TO GIVE

We gave her a doll for her birthday.


They didn't give John their new address.
Did Barry give you my passport?

TO COME

My parents came to visit me last July.


We didn't come because it was raining.
Did he come to your party last week?

PAST CONTINUOUS TENSE


FUNCTIONS OF THE PAST CONTINUOUS
The past continuous describes actions or events in a time before now, which began in the past and is still going on at
the time of speaking. In other words, it expresses an unfinished or incomplete action in the past.

It is used:

Often, to describe the background in a story written in the past tense, e.g. "The sun was shining and the
birds were singing as the elephant came out of the jungle. The other animals were relaxing in the shade of the
trees, but the elephant moved very quickly. She was looking for her baby, and she didn't notice the hunter
who was watching her through his binoculars. When the shot rang out, she was running towards the river..."
to describe an unfinished action that was interrupted by another event or action, e.g. "I was having a beautiful
dream when the alarm clock rang."
to express a change of mind: e.g. "I was going to spend the day at the beach but I've decided to get my
homework done instead."
with 'wonder', to make a very polite request: e.g. "I was wondering if you could baby-sit for me tonight."

EXAMPLES
They were waiting for the bus when the accident happened.
Caroline was skiing when she broke her leg.
When we arrived he was having a bath.
When the fire started I was watching television.

Note: with verbs not normally used in the continuous form, the simple past is used.

FORMING THE PAST CONTINUOUS


The past continuous of any verb is composed of two parts : the past tense of the verb "to be" (was/were), and the base of
the main verb +ing.

Subject was/were base + ing

They were watching

Affirmative

She was reading

Negative

She wasn't reading

Interrogative
Subject was/were base + ing

Was she reading?

Interrogative negative

Wasn't she reading?

TO PLAY, PAST CONTINUOUS

Affirmative Negative Interrogative

I was playing I was not playing Was I playing?

You were playing You were not playing Were you playing?

He was playing He wasn't playing Was he playing?

We were playing We weren't playing Were we playing?

They were playing They weren't playing Were they playing?

SIMPLE FUTURE TENSE


FUNCTIONS OF THE SIMPLE FUTURE TENSE
The simple future refers to a time later than now, and expresses facts or certainty. In this case there is no 'attitude'.

The simple future is used:

To predict a future event:


It will rain tomorrow.
With I or We, to express a spontaneous decision:
I'll pay for the tickets by credit card.
To express willingness: I'll do the washing-up.
He'll carry your bag for you.
In the negative form, to express unwillingness:
The baby won't eat his soup.
I won't leave until I've seen the manager!
With I in the interrogative form using "shall", to make an offer:
Shall I open the window?
With we in the interrogative form using "shall", to make a suggestion:
Shall we go to the cinema tonight?
With I in the interrogative form using "shall", to ask for advice or instructions:
What shall I tell the boss about this money?
With you, to give orders:
You will do exactly as I say.
With you in the interrogative form, to give an invitation:
Will you come to the dance with me?
Will you marry me?

Note:In modern English will is preferred to shall. Shall is mainly used with I and we to make an offer or suggestion, or to
ask for advice (see examples above). With the other persons (you, he, she, they) shall is only used in literary or poetic
situations, e.g. "With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, She shall have music wherever she goes."

FORMING THE SIMPLE FUTURE


The simple future tense is composed of two parts: will / shall + the infinitive without to

Subject will infinitive without to

Affirmative

I will go

I shall go

Negative

They will not see

They won't see

Interrogative

Will she ask?

Interrogative negative
Subject will infinitive without to

Won't they try?

CONTRACTIONS
I will = I'll
We will = we'll
You will = you'll
He will = he'll
She will = she'll
They will = they'll
Will not = won't

The form "it will" is not normally shortened.

TO SEE: SIMPLE FUTURE TENSE


Affirmative Negative Interrogative Interrogative Negative

I will see I won't see Will I see? Won't I see?

*I shall see *Shall I see?

You will see You won't see Will you see? Won't you see?

He will see He won't see Will he see? Won't he see?

We will see We won't see Will we see? Won't we see?

*We shall see *Shall we see?

They will see They won't see Will they see? Won't they see?

*Shall is dated, but it is still commonly used instead of "will" with the affirmative or interrogative forms of I and we in
certain cases (see above).