Starting to feel tense in thinking about the English Tenses? This is why I should probably stick to teaching and not be a comedian. Jokes aside, tenses are an essential part of the English language. They allow speakers to clarify the timing of when an action is happening. In this article, we will briefly go over each English tense and how it is used. But first, what are tenses?
What are Tenses?
Essentially a tense will indicate the timing of an action. There are three basic tenses in English: The Present, The Past, and The Future. Along with tenses, you will notice they it will be attached to the verb tense. There are 4 kinds of verb tenses that will be associated with the tenses.
|Simple||It expresses a simple fact.
Example: I study English…
Meaning: In general, I study. I’m saying a statement. It’s a fact.
|Progressive||It expresses something that takes place during a limited period of time.
Example: I am studying English.
Meaning: I’m studying English in this moment.
|Perfect||It expresses something that occurred in the past, but is linked to another point in the future.
Example: I had studied English.
Meaning: I had studied English in the past and up until the present moment.
|Perfect Progressive||Expresses something that began in the past, but continues into the future.
Example: I have been studying English.
Meaning: I had started studying English in the past, up until the present moment. This emphasizes the duration of the past action.
These aspects affect how the verb is conjugated, as well as which auxiliary words are used in the sentence (if any). With each tense, you will learn how to conjugate verbs (changing verb forms).
Don’t worry if this seems too complicated or overwhelming please remember that many native English speakers struggle with this, too. There’s some good news though, some verb tenses are more common than others. We’ll start with those. As you continue learning English, you can dive into more complex forms to express more specific ideas. In this article, I’ll be covering only the simple aspect of each tense. If you want to get more in-depth practice, I highly recommend checking out the Takelessons Live ESL Group Classes. Click here for a free trial.
1. Present Tense
EXAMPLE: I cook.
The present tense is used to refer to something that is happening now, in the present. It can also be used to describe something that occurs on a regular basis and to express facts and statements.
To form the simple present, you simply take the infinitive form of the verb
EX: To cook
Then remove the word “to” to create the base infinitive.
Let’s take a look at this table to see how the verb “To Cook” is conjugated.
|Person||Present Tense Verb (“To Cook”)|
|He / She / It||Cooks.|
NOTE: The third person requires the -s at the end.
Of course, you can make these sentences longer and more specific by adding time words/phrases. These are words that indicate exactly when the action is taking place.
Common Time Words & Phrases for Simple Present Tense
|Today||She cooks today.|
|Every day||I cook every day.|
|Often||They cook often.|
|Sometimes||Sometimes, you cook.|
|At ___||We cook at night.|
2. Past Tense
The past tense is used to refer to something that happened previously, in the past.
To form the simple past for regular verbs, you’ll need to take the infinitive form of the verb (in this case, “to cook”) take away the word “to,” and add -ed to the end of the root verb:
|Person||Past Tense Verb (“To Listen”)|
|He / She / It||cooked|
As you will notice, all subjects take on the same verb form, even the third person singular. Their conjugation is identical. Now, let’s go ahead and add some time words that refer to the past.
|Yesterday||We cooked yesterday.|
|Earlier||I cooked earlier.|
|A few hours ago||They cooked a few hours ago.|
|Last week||You cooked last week.|
|Last weekend||He cooked last weekend.|
3. Future Tense
You will cook.
The future tense is used to refer to future actions or, in some cases, probable future actions.
To form the simple future, take the infinitive form of the verb, remove the word “to,” and add the word “will” in front of the root verb. The auxiliary verb “will” indicates a future event.
As you will notice, “will” does not take have a special conjugation. The same form is used for all verbs.
|Person||Future Tense Verb (“To Work”)|
|You [singular]||will cook.|
|He / She / It||will cook.|
|You [plural]||will cook.|
Let’s try adding time words that will indicate the future.
|Tomorrow||I will cook tomorrow.|
|Soon||They will cook soon.|
|Next week||You will cook next week.|
|In a few hours||We will cook in a few hours.|
|Wedding ( a future event)||She will cook for the wedding.|
Now that we looked at the rules for regular verbs, let’s take a look at those lovely irregular verbs.
Irregular verbs are verbs that don’t conjugate the same way as regular verbs, which means you’ll have to remember separate conjugation rules for them.
In the section below, I’ll introduce you to some of the common irregular verbs: “to be,” “to do,” and “to have.” Let’s take a look!
My ESL teacher is tired.
|Person||Present Tense Verb (“To Be”)||Example Sentence|
|I||Am||I am tired.|
|You [singular]||Are||You are tired.|
|He / She / It||Is||He is tired.|
|We||Are||We are tired.|
|You [plural]||Are||You are tired.|
|They||Are||They are tired.|
My ESL teacher was tired.
|Person||Past Tense Verb (“To Be”)||Example Sentence|
|I||Was||I was tired.|
|You [singular]||Were||You were tired.|
|He / She / It||Was||She was tired.|
|We||Were||We were tired.|
|You [plural]||Were||You were tired.|
|They||Were||They were tired.|
My ESL teacher will be tired.
|Person||Future Tense Verb (“To Be”)||Example Sentence|
|I||Will be||I will be tired.|
|You [singular]||Will be||You will be tired.|
|He / She / It||Will be||He/She/It will be tired.|
|We||Will be||We will be tired.|
|You [plural]||Will be||You will be tired.|
|They||Will be||They will be tired.|
I do study.
|Person||Present Tense Verb (“To Do”)||Example Sentence|
|I||Do||I do study.|
|You [singular]||Do||You do study.|
|He / She / It||Does||She does study.|
|We||Do||We do study.|
|You [plural]||Do||You do study.|
|They||Do||They do study.|
I did a good job.
|Person||Past Tense Verb (“To Do”)||Example Sentence|
|I||Did||I did study.|
|You [singular]||Did||You did study.|
|He / She / It||Did||He did study.|
|We||Did||We did study.|
|You [plural]||Did||You did study.|
|They||Did||They did study.|
I will do a good job.
|Person||Future Tense Verb (“To Do”)||Example Sentence|
|I||Will do||I will do a good job studying.|
|You [singular]||Will do||You will do a good job studying .|
|He / She / It||Will do||She will do a good job studying.|
|We||Will do||We will do a good job studying .|
|You [plural]||Will do||You will do a good job studying.|
|They||Will do||They will do a good job studying.|
We have a dog.
|Person||Present Tense Verb (“To Have”)||Example Sentence|
|I||Have||I have a dog.|
|You [singular]||Have||You have a dog.|
|He / She / It||Has||He has a dog.|
|We||Have||We have a dog.|
|You [plural]||Have||You have a dog.|
|They||Have||They have a dog.|
We had a dog.
|Person||Past Tense Verb (“To Have”)||Example Sentence|
|I||Had||I had a dog.|
|You [singular]||Had||You hada dog.|
|He / She / It||Had||She had a dog.|
|We||Had||We had adog.|
|You [plural]||Had||You had a dog.|
|They||Had||They had a dog.|
We will have a dog.
|Person||Future Tense Verb (“To Have”)||Example Sentence|
|I||Will have||I will have dog.|
|You [singular]||Will have||You will have dog.|
|He / She / It||Will have||He will have dog.|
|We||Will have||We will have dog.|
|You [plural]||Will have||You will have dog.|
|They||Will have||They will have dog.|
Let’s go ahead and give what you read a try. There is nothing better than practicing what you have learned, right?
Here are three regular verbs that need to be conjugated according to the tense. See if you can do answer them. The answers will be at the end of this article.
|“To Walk” (Present Tense)|
|He / She / It|
|“To Sing” (Past Tense)|
|He / She / It|
|“To Play” (Future Tense)|
|He / She / It|
How did you do?
With enough study time, dedication, and practice, you’ll be able to master all the English tenses and their conjugations.
I hope this English tenses lesson has been helpful for you! How do you feel about English tenses at this point? At TakeLessons Live, it’s our goal to help you learn in the most fun and effective way possible through our group classes. I hope to see you there soon!
|“To Walk” (Present Tense)|
|He / She / It||walks|
|“To Play” (Past Tense)|
|He / She / It||played|
|“To Bake” (Future Tense)|
|You [singular]||will bake|
|He / She / It||will bake|
|You [plural]||will bake|
How did you do?