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Tenses in English: An Overview

Tenses in English: An Overview

Past Tense

  • Past simple tense

    Used to describe actions or events that happened at a specific point in the past.

  • Examples;
    • I walked to the store. (Meaning: I traveled to the store on foot in the past.)
    • She called me last night. (Meaning: She contacted me by phone at some point in the past.)
    • We visited the museum on the weekend. (Meaning: We went to the museum at some point in the past.)
    • They finished their homework before bed. (Meaning: They completed their homework at some point in the past.)
    • He ate dinner at 6:00. (Meaning: He had his evening meal at 6:00 at some point in the past.)
  • Past continuous tense

    Used to describe ongoing actions that were interrupted by a shorter action in the past.

  • Examples;
    • I was walking to the store when I saw a bird. (This sentence describes an action that was ongoing and interrupted by a shorter action.)
    • She was studying for her exams when her phone rang. (This sentence describes an action that was ongoing and interrupted by a shorter action.)
    • We were having dinner when the power went out. (This sentence describes an action that was ongoing and interrupted by a shorter action.)
    • They were playing soccer in the park when it started raining. (This sentence describes an action that was ongoing and interrupted by a shorter action.)
    • I was finishing my homework when my computer crashed. (This sentence describes an action that was ongoing and interrupted by a shorter action.)
  • Past perfect tense

    Used to describe actions that were completed before a certain point in the past.

  • Examples;
    • I had finished my homework before I went to bed. (In this sentence, the action of finishing the homework (had finished) happened before the action of going to bed (went), and both actions are completed in the past.)
    • She had already eaten lunch by the time I arrived at her house. (In this sentence, the action of eating lunch (had eaten) was completed before the action of arriving at the house (arrived), and both actions happened in the past.)
    • We had visited the museum several times before we decided to become members. (In this sentence, the action of visiting the museum (had visited) happened multiple times before the action of deciding to become members (decided), and both actions are completed in the past.)
    • He had finished his work for the day by the time I called him. (In this sentence, the action of finishing work (had finished) was completed before the action of calling him (called), and both actions happened in the past)
    • They had been planning their vacation for months before they finally booked the trip. (In this sentence, the action of planning the vacation (had been planning) started in the past and continued until the action of booking the trip (booked), which also happened in the past.)
  • Past perfect continuous tense

    Used to describe ongoing actions that started in the past and continued up until a specific point in the past.

  • Examples;
    • I had been studying for my exams all week before I took the test. (I had been continuously studying for a week before I took the test.)
    • She had been running every morning before she injured her leg. (She had been continuously running every morning before she injured her leg.)
    • We had been working on the project for months before we finally completed it. (We had been continuously working on the project for months before we finally completed it.)
    • They had been planning their vacation for years before they finally took the trip. (They had been continuously planning their vacation for years before they finally took the trip.)
    • He had been practicing the piano for hours before he finally played the piece perfectly. (He had been continuously practicing the piano for hours before he finally played the piece perfectly.)

Present Tense

  • Present simple tense

    Used to describe actions or events that happen regularly or habitually.

  • Examples;
    • I eat lunch at noon every day. This sentence describes a habit or routine action that occurs regularly.
    • She speaks Spanish fluently. This sentence describes a skill or ability that the person has.
    • He lives in New York City. This sentence describes where the person currently resides.
    • The sun rises in the east. This sentence describes a general truth or fact.
    • The cat sits on the windowsill. This sentence describes an action that the cat is currently doing.
  • Present continuous tense

    Used to describe ongoing actions that are happening right now.

  • Examples;
    • I am eating lunch right now. (The action of eating lunch is ongoing at the present moment.)
    • She is studying for her exams. (The action of studying for exams is ongoing at the present moment.)
    • We are going to the movies tonight. (The action of going to the movies is happening at some point in the near future.)
    • They are playing soccer in the park. (The action of playing soccer is ongoing at the present moment.)
    • It is raining outside. (The action of raining is ongoing at the present moment.)
  • Present perfect tense

    Used to describe actions that started in the past and continue up until the present.

  • Examples;
    • I have finished my homework. (This means that the speaker completed their homework at some point before the present moment.)
    • She has seen that movie three times. (This means that the speaker has watched the movie on three separate occasions at some point before the present moment.)
    • We have visited Paris twice. (This means that the speaker and whoever else is included in “we” have gone to Paris on two separate occasions at some point before the present moment.)
    • They have lived in this city for 10 years. (This means that the speaker’s subjects have been living in the city for a continuous period of time that started 10 years ago and continues up until the present moment.)
    • I have been waiting for you for an hour. (This means that the speaker has been in a state of waiting for the person they are addressing for a continuous period of time that started one hour ago and continues up until the present moment.)
  • Present perfect continuous tense

    Used to describe ongoing actions that started in the past and continue up until the present.

  • Examples;
    • I have been studying for my exams all week. (This means that you started studying for your exams at some point in the past and have continued doing so until now.)
    • She has been working on her project for hours. (This means that she started working on her project at some point in the past and has continued doing so until now.)
    • We have been waiting for the bus for a long time. (This means that you started waiting for the bus at some point in the past and have continued doing so until now.)
    • They have been practicing their instruments every day. (This means that they started practicing their instruments at some point in the past and have continued doing so until now.)
    • I have been feeling sick for a few days. (This means that you started feeling sick at some point in the past and have continued feeling sick until now.)

Future Tense

  • Future simple tense

    Used to describe actions or events that will happen in the future.

  • Examples;
    • I will go to the store later. (I have plans to go to the store at a future time.)
    • She will finish her exams next week. (She has plans to complete her exams at a specific time in the future.)
    • We will visit the museum on the weekend. (We have plans to visit the museum at a specific time in the future.)
    • They will go to bed early tonight. (They have plans to go to bed at an earlier time than usual tonight.)
    • The train will arrive at noon. (The train is scheduled to arrive at a specific time in the future.)
  • Future continuous tense

    Used to describe ongoing actions that will be happening at a specific time in the future.

  • Examples;
    • I will be studying for my exams all day tomorrow. (I have made plans to study for my exams continuously throughout the entire day tomorrow.)
    • She will be working at the office until 5:00 PM. (She has made plans to work continuously until a specific time in the future.)
    • We will be having dinner at the new restaurant downtown. (We have made plans to have dinner continuously at a specific location in the future.)
    • They will be traveling to Paris next month. (They have made plans to travel continuously to a specific location in the future.)
    • I will be writing my paper for most of the afternoon. (I have made plans to write my paper continuously for a specific amount of time in the future.)
  • Future perfect tense

    Used to describe actions that will be completed at a specific time in the future.

  • Examples;
    • I will have finished my homework by the time my parents get home. (The action of finishing my homework will be completed before my parents get home.)
    • She will have graduated from college by the end of the year. (The action of graduating from college will be completed by the end of the year.)
    • They will have saved enough money to buy a house by the time they get married. (The action of saving enough money to buy a house will be completed by the time they get married.)
    • We will have finished the project before the deadline. (The action of finishing the project will be completed before the deadline.)
    • He will have completed his training by the time he starts his new job. (The action of completing his training will be completed before he starts his new job.)
  • Future perfect continuous tense

    Used to describe ongoing actions that will have started in the past and continued up until a specific time in the future.

  • Examples;
    • I will have been living in this city for five years by the time I turn 30. (This means that the speaker has been living in the city for five years and will continue to do so until they turn 30.)
    • She will have been working at the company for a decade by the time she gets promoted. (This means that the speaker has been working at the company for a decade and will continue to do so until they get promoted.)
    • We will have been traveling for six months by the time we reach our final destination. (This means that the speaker has been traveling for six months and will continue to do so until they reach their final destination.)
    • They will have been studying for their exams for hours by the time they finish tonight. (This means that the speaker has been studying for their exams for hours and will continue to do so until they finish tonight.)
    • I will have been waiting for the bus for over an hour by the time it arrives. (This means that the speaker has been waiting for the bus for over an hour and will continue to do so until it arrives.)

Last update: January 11, 2023
Created: January 11, 2023