In English, there are three basic tenses: present, past, and future. Each has a perfect form indicating completed action; each has a progressive form indicating ongoing action; and each has a perfect progressive form indicating ongoing action that will be completed at some definite time. Here is a list of examples of these tenses and their definitions:
|Simple Forms||Progressive Forms||Perfect Forms||Perfect Progressive Forms|
|Present||take/s||am/is/are taking||have/has taken||have/has been taking|
|Past||took||was/were taking||had taken||had been taking|
|Future||will/shall take||will be taking||will have taken||will have been taking|
Present tense expresses an unchanging, repeated, or reoccurring action or situation that exists only now. It can also represent a widespread truth.
|The mountains are tall and white.||Unchanging action|
|Every year, the school council elects new members.||Recurring action|
|Pb is the chemical symbol for lead.||Widespread truth|
Past tense expresses an action or situation that was started and finished in the past. Most past tense verbs end in -ed. The irregular verbs have special past tense forms which must be memorized.
|W.W.II ended in 1945.||Regular -ed past|
|Ernest Hemmingway wrote “The Old Man and the Sea.”||Irregular form|
Future tense expresses an action or situation that will occur in the future. This tense is formed by using will/shall with the simple form of the verb.
o The speaker of the House will finish her term in May of 1988.
The future tense can also be expressed by using am, is, or are with going to.
o The surgeon is going to perform the first bypass in Minnesota.
We can also use the present tense form with an adverb or adverbial phrase to show future time.
o The president speaks tomorrow. (Tomorrow is a future time adverb)
Present Progressive Tense
Present progressive tense describes an ongoing action that is happening at the same time the statement is written. This tense is formed by using am/is/are with the verb form ending in -ing.
o The sociologist is examining the effects of racial discrimination on society.
Past Progressive Tense
Past progressive tense describes a past action which was happening when another action occurred. This tense is formed by using was/were with the verb form ending in -ing.
o The explorer was explaining the latest discovery in Egypt when protest began on the streets.
Future Progressive Tense
Future progressive tense describes an ongoing or continuous action that will take place in the future. This tense is formed by using will be or shall be with the verb form ending in -ing.
o Dr. Jones will be presenting ongoing research on sexist language next week.
Present Perfect Tense
Present perfect tense describes an action that happened at an indefinite time in the past or that began in the past and continues in the present. This tense is formed by using has/have with the past participle of the verb. Most past participles end in -ed. Irregular verbs have special past participles that must be memorized.
|The researchers have traveled to many countries in order to collect more significant data.||At an indefinite time|
|Women have voted in presidential elections since 1921.||Continues in the present|
Past Perfect Tense
Past perfect tense describes an action that took place in the past before another past action. This tense is formed by using had with the past participle of the verb.
o By the time the troops arrived, the war had ended.
Future Perfect Tense
Future perfect tense describes an action that will occur in the future before some other action. This tense is formed by using will have with the past participle of the verb.
o By the time the troops arrive, the combat group will have spent several weeks waiting.
Perfect Progressive Forms
Present Perfect Progressive
Present perfect progressive tense describes an action that began in the past, continues in the present, and may continue into the future. This tense is formed by using has/have been and the present participle of the verb (the verb form ending in -ing).
o The CEO has been considering a transfer to the state of Texas where profits would be larger.
Past Perfect Progressive
Past perfect progressive tense describes a past, ongoing action that was completed before some other past action. This tense is formed by using had been and the present perfect of the verb (the verb form ending in -ing).
o Before the budget cuts, the students had been participating in many extracurricular activities.
Future Perfect Progressive
Future perfect progressive tense describes a future, ongoing action that will occur before some specified future time. This tense is formed by using will have been and the present participle of the verb (the verb form ending in -ing).
o By the year 2020, linguists will have been studying and defining the Indo-European language family for more than 200 years.
Adapted from: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/grammar/tenses.html