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The Trick to Understanding English Verb Tenses

As I mentioned on the previous lesson, English verb tenses can be made very complicated, but they really don't have to be.

You just need to understand 2 basic things. These 2 key things can make your life a lot easier

On this lesson we will discuss them in detail.

So what are these 2 things?

Here goes:

Time + Aspect

Every verb in the English language gives us information about two important factors:

1) Time

2) Aspect

information about two important factors: 1) Time 2) Aspect Time Now, understanding time is easy, right?

Time

Now, understanding time is easy, right?

When does it happen?

An hour ago? Yesterday? Tomorrow? Right now? This week? By 2054?

What is the time of the action?

In English we basically have 3 possibilities:

The past, the present and the future.

Each of the following sentences shows different time:

"I ate an apple yesterday." (Time = past)

"You eat apples." (Time = present)

"She will eat an apple." (Time = future)

So we discussed "time," but what is an aspect?

So we discussed "time," but what is an aspect ? Aspect Okay, this is the tricky

Aspect

Okay, this is the tricky one. Probably the reason why it so tricky is that many other languages simply don't have it! So when you start learning this in English, it can seem very confusing.

So what's an ASPECT?

An aspect is a point of view, a way to look at something.

In grammar, an aspect is a way to change the verb in order to show additional information about it.

This additional information tells us whether the action is complete or ongoing (in progress).

For example:

In the sentence "I eat an apple," the verb "to eat" has a simple form.

Meaning, it only shows us the time of the action. It doesn't give us any additional information.

Compare it with the following sentence:

"I am eating an apple."

Now, here the verb form "am eating" does not only show us the time of the action, but it also gives us an additional piece of information. It tells us that the action is currently in progress, it is not finished yet.

In other words, it emphasizes the fact that the action is continuing as we speak.

Compare it with the following sentence:

"I have eaten an apple."

Here the verb form "have eaten" does not only show us the time of the action, but it also gives us an additional piece of information. It tells us that the action is already complete, it is no longer in progress.

In other words, it emphasizes the fact that the action is finished.

Take a look at the following table:

 

Verb Form

       

Action

(=Tense)

Sentence

Time

Aspect

Meaning

to eat

eat

I eat an apple.

Present

Simple

It simply tells the time. It doesn't emphasize anything.

to eat

am eating

I am eating an apple.

Present

Progressive

It gives the time AND emphasizes the fact that the action is in progress.

   

I have

   

It gives the time AND emphasizes the fact that the action is finished.

to eat

have

eaten

eaten an

apple.

Present

Perfect

So you see, these 3 sentences have:

The same ACTION (eating)

The same TIME (the present)

But different ASPECTS, meaning different things we want to emphasize.

So we get 3 different TENSES!

These tenses are:

Simple Present

Present Progressive

Present Perfect

Note that for each tense we change the basic verb in a different way:

eat

am eating

have eaten

This example was for the present, but obviously it's the same with the past and the future.

Take a look at the following table:

Aspect/Time

Past

Present

Future

Simple

Simple Past

Simple Present

Simple Future

Progressive

Past Progressive

Present Progressive

Future Progressive

Perfect

Past Perfect

Present Perfect

Future Perfect

In the above table TIME and ASPECT combine to create the different English tenses.

In the above table TIME and ASPECT combine to create the different English tenses. So How

So How Do You Use This Information?

Let's say you want to say what you are going to do tomorrow. You do not want to emphasize any particular aspect. How do you say it?

"I will talk with my boss tomorrow." (Simple Future)

TIME: Future, ASPECT: Simple

Now, if you want to emphasize the fact that in 10 AM tomorrow you are going to be in the middle of a conversation with your boss (so nobody should disturb you), then you say:

"Tomorrow at 10 AM I will be talking with my boss." (Future Progressive)

TIME: Future, ASPECT: Progressive

And if you want to say, that by 10:30 AM, your conversation with your boss will be finished (and you are free to take care of other matters), you say:

"Tomorrow at 10:30 AM I will have talked with my boss."

TIME: Future, ASPECT: Perfect

What Are the 2 Most Important Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before You Say or Write a Sentence?

These 2 questions are important because they will help you decide which tense you should use.

So

These questions are:

1) What is the time of the action?

2) What aspect of the action do I want to emphasize?

Let's start with the first one.

1) What Is the Time of the Action?

There are basically 3 possible answers to this question:

Past, present or future.

Examples of PAST time expressions:

Yesterday

When we were young

Last week

Before World War II

A month ago

Last Sunday

In 2001

When I was a child

In the 20th century

A few days ago

Examples of PRESENT time expressions:

Now

This summer

Today

At the moment

This week

As we speak

This month

Currently

These days

Right now

Examples of FUTURE time expressions:

Tomorrow

In an hour

Next Week

Tonight

Next month

This evening

Next year

When I graduate

In 2035

Before they arrive

2) What Aspect of the Action Do I Want to Emphasize?

This basically means:

do you want to emphasize the fact that the action is in progress (ongoing)?

Or the fact that the action is complete (finished)?

Or maybe you don't want to emphasize anything?

It is up to you to decide.

Let's look at a real life example:

Lisa is at the bank. She waits for service. She waits and waits and waits, but nothing happens. Now, after all this waiting she wants to complain about it.

What time should she use? PRESENT, because it's happening NOW.

She wants to emphasize the fact that this action is now in progress, it still continues, so she uses the PROGRESSIVE aspect.

(PROGRESSIVE means "continuing")

So Lisa says: "I am still waiting! What is going on?"

says: "I am still waiting ! What is going on?" Another real life example: Lisa talks

Another real life example:

Lisa talks with some friends. They ask her about her life. She wants to tell them that she left her job a week ago.

What time should she use? PAST, because it happened a week ago.

She just wants to mention what she did. She doesn't want to emphasize any particular aspect, so she uses the SIMPLE past form of the verb.

Lisa says: "I left my job a week ago."

Everyday English

These two rules are applied by English speakers all the time. Obviously,

they don't pause every time they want to say something naturally, without thinking about it.

It is done

In everyday English you usually see the following:

Regular actions in the present are expressed using the Simple Present tense:

She likes to swim. They meet every day. He never fails.

Actions that are happening right now, or at the current time period are expressed using the Present Progressive tense:

I am eating a sandwich.

He is preparing for his exam.

She is not working today.

Things that happened in the past are expressed using the Simple Past tense.

She started school in 1991.

They bought the house a year ago.

We wanted to go to the party last night.

Actions that were in progress over a period of time in the past are expressed using the Past Progressive tense:

I was washing the dishes all evening.

She was sleeping all night.

They were working when the power went off.

Things from the past that affect the present are expressed using the Present Perfect tense:

I have lost my wallet. Now what am I going to do?

She has watched that movie. She doesn't want to watch it again.

You have studied for this exam, so you should do fine.

Things that will happen in the future (not plans), predictions, promises, intentions, etc. are expressed using the Simple Future tense ("will"):

I will be 21 next week.

I will help you.

She will not tell you.

Things that you plan to do in the future, or predictions, are expressed using the Simple Future tense ("going to"):

I am going to start a business.

He is going to talk with his father about this.

They are not going to listen.

Important note:

This is a partial list of the most common tenses usage.

Don't worry if you don't remember all of it. This is just a short overview.

We will go over all these tenses in detail in the following lessons!

go over all these tenses in detail in the following lessons! So now, after all of

So now, after all of this information, let's do some exercises!

Click the links below to start practicing:

Lesson 03, Exercise 01

Lesson 03, Exercise 02

On the next lesson we will dive right into learning 3 of the most common tenses of the English language.

On this lesson we will learn 3 of the most common tenses in English:

we will learn 3 of the most common tenses in English: The Simple Tenses The simple

The Simple Tenses

The simple tense is a form of a verb that simply shows when the action takes place.

Simple Past is a form of the verb that shows the action took place in the past.

For example: Lisa danced yesterday.

Simple Present is a form of the verb that shows the action takes place in the present.

For example: Lisa dances every day.

Simple Future is a form of the verb that shows the action will take place in the future.

For example: Lisa will dance tomorrow.

Okay, so now we start the real work! :)

A) Do the following steps, one after the other:

1. Read the general explanation about the Simple Present tense

2. Read the rules for positive sentences, negative sentences and questions

3. Read the list of examples

4. Do the exercises

B) Do the following steps, one after the other:

1. Read the general explanation about the Simple Past tense

2. Read the rules for positive sentences, negative sentences and questions

3. Read the list of examples

4. Do the exercises

C) Do the following steps, one after the other:

1. Read the general explanation about the Simple Future tense

2. Read the rules for positive sentences, negative sentences and questions

3. Read the list of examples

4. Do the exercises

Come back when you are done

Come back when you are done Are you done? Great! Then let's continue. On the next

Are you done? Great!

Then let's continue.

On the next lesson we will learn 3 more very common English tenses.

On this lesson we will learn 3 very common tenses in English:

this lesson we will learn 3 very common tenses in English: The Progressive Tenses PROGRESSIVE means

The Progressive Tenses

PROGRESSIVE means "continuing."

The progressive tense is a form of a verb that shows the action is in progress. Or in other words, it continues.

Past Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action was in progress at some time in the past.

For example: Lisa was dancing yesterday at 8 o'clock.

Present Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action is in progress in the present.

For example: Lisa is dancing right now.

Future Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action will be in progress at some time in the future.

For example: Lisa will be dancing tomorrow at 8 o'clock.

Okay, so now we start the real work! :)

A) Do the following steps, one after the other:

1. Read the general explanation about the Present Progressive tense

2. Read the rules for positive sentences, negative sentences and questions

3. Read the list of examples

4. Do the exercises

B) Do the following steps, one after the other:

1. Read the general explanation about the Past Progressive tense

2. Read the rules for positive sentences, negative sentences and questions

3. Read the list of examples

4. Do the exercises

C) Do the following steps, one after the other:

1. Read the general explanation about the Future Progressive tense

2. Read the rules for positive sentences, negative sentences and questions

3. Read the list of examples

4. Do the exercises

Come back when you are done

Come back when you are done Are you done? Great! Then let's continue. On the next

Are you done? Great!

Then let's continue.

On the next lesson we will learn another common English tense, and 2 more tenses which are not so common

On this lesson we will learn a common English tenses, and 2 more tenses which are not so common:

tenses , and 2 more tenses which are not so common : The Perfect Tenses PERFECT

The Perfect Tenses

PERFECT means "complete, finished".

The perfect tense is a form of a verb that shows the action is complete. It does not mean the action is "perfect" (100%). It means the action is finished.

Past Perfect is a form of the verb that shows the action was complete before some time in the past.

For example: Lisa had danced before she came.

Present Perfect is a form of the verb that shows the action was complete before the present.

For example: Lisa has already danced.

This is a common English tense.

Future Perfect is a form of the verb that shows the action will be complete before some time in the future.

For example: Lisa will have danced tomorrow by 9 o'clock.

Okay, so now we start the real work! :)

A) Do the following steps, one after the other:

1. Read the general explanation about the Present Perfect tense

2. Read the rules for positive sentences, negative sentences and questions

3. Read the list of examples

4. Do the exercises

B) Do the following steps, one after the other:

1. Read the general explanation about the Past Perfect tense

2. Read the rules for positive sentences, negative sentences and questions

3. Read the list of examples

4. Do the exercises

C) Do the following steps, one after the other:

1.

Read the general explanation about the Future Perfect tense

2. Read the rules for positive sentences, negative sentences and questions

3. Read the list of examples

4. Do the exercises

Come back when you are done

of examples 4. Do the exercises Come back when you are done Are you done? Great!

Are you done? Great!

Then let's continue.

On the next lesson we will learn how an action can be both ongoing and complete, at the same time!

On this lesson we will learn how an action can be both ongoing and complete, at the same time!

lesson we will learn how an action can be both ongoing and complete , at the

The Perfect Progressive Tenses

Yes! A verb can be both PERFECT and PROGRESSIVE!

"How can it be?!" you ask

Well, here is the explanation:

When the verb is in its PROGRESSIVE from it expresses an ongoing action. For example, "I am eating" means the action of eating is in progress.

When the verb is in its PERFECT form it expresses a complete action. For example, "I have eaten" means the action of eating is finished.

What do you get when you combine the two?

You get an action that was in progress, and now it is finished!

For example, "I have been eating." In this sentence the verb is in the Present Perfect Progressive. And it means that I started to eat in the past, and finished by now.

If I want to say that I started to eat 2 hours ago, and I was eating until now, I would say:

"I have been eating for 2 hours."

OR

"I have been eating since 4 o'clock."

OR

"I have been eating since I got here."

And so on.

So the Perfect Progressive tense is a form of the verb that shows the action started, continued, and was complete until some point of time.

Past Perfect Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action started in the past and continued until some point in the past.

For example: Lisa had been dancing for 2 hours before she was tired.

Present Perfect Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action started

in the past and continued until the present.

For example: Lisa has been dancing for 3 hours without stopping!

Future Perfect Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action will continue until some point in the future.

For example: By tomorrow morning, Lisa will have been dancing for 12 hours!

Okay, so now we start the real work! :)

A) Do the following steps, one after the other:

1. Read the general explanation about the Present Perfect Progressive tense

2. Read the rules for positive sentences, negative sentences and questions

3. Read the list of examples

4. Do the exercises

B) Do the following steps, one after the other:

1. Read the general explanation about the Past Perfect Progressive tense

2. Read the rules for positive sentences, negative sentences and questions

3. Read the list of examples

4. Do the exercises

C) Do the following steps, one after the other:

2.

Read the rules for positive sentences, negative sentences and questions

3. Read the list of examples

4. Do the exercises

Come back when you are done

of examples 4. Do the exercises Come back when you are done Are you done? Great!

Are you done? Great!

Then let's continue.

On the next lesson we will make a review of the English tenses, in preparation to the final test in end of this special course!

Welcome to lesson number 8 of this special course!

In this lesson we will make a review of the English tenses, in preparation to the final test in end of this special course.

lesson we will make a review of the English tenses, in preparation to the final test

Verb Tenses Review

Simple Tenses

Simple tense is a form of a verb that simply shows when the action takes place.

Simple Past is a form of the verb that shows the action took place in the past.

For example: Lisa danced yesterday.

Simple Present is a form of the verb that shows the action takes place in the present. For example: Lisa dances every day.

Simple Future is a form of the verb that shows the action will take place in the future.

For example: Lisa will dance tomorrow.

Click here for a review exercise of the all the simple tenses combined.

Progressive Tenses

PROGRESSIVE means "continuing".

Progressive tense is a form of a verb that shows the action is in progress. Or in other words, that it continues.

Past Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action was in progress at some time in the past.

For example: Lisa was dancing yesterday at 8 o'clock.

Present Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action is in progress in the present. For example: Lisa is dancing right now.

Future Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action will be in progress at some time in the future.

For example: Lisa will be dancing tomorrow at 8 o'clock.

Click here for a review exercise of the all the progressive tenses combined.

Perfect Tenses

PERFECT means "complete, finished".

Perfect tense is a form of a verb that shows the action is complete. It does not mean the action is "perfect" (100%). It means the action is finished.

Past Perfect is a form of the verb that shows the action was complete before some time in the past.

For example: Lisa had danced before she came.

Present Perfect is a form of the verb that shows the action was complete before the present. For example: Lisa has already danced.

Future Perfect is a form of the verb that shows the action will be complete before some time in the future.

For example: Lisa will have danced tomorrow by 9 o'clock.

Click here for a review exercise of the all the perfect tenses combined.

Perfect Progressive Tenses

The Perfect Progressive tense is a form of the verb that shows the action started, continued, and was complete until some point.

Past Perfect Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action started in the past and continued until some point in the past.

For example: Lisa had been dancing for 2 hours before she was tired.

Present Perfect Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action started in the past and continued until the present. For example: Lisa has been dancing for 3 hours without stopping!

Future Perfect Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action will continue until some point in the future.

For example: By tomorrow morning, Lisa will have been dancing for 12 hours!

Click here for a review exercise of the all the perfect progressive tenses combined.

Come back when you are done

Come back when you are done Are you done? Great! Then let's continue. On the next
Come back when you are done Are you done? Great! Then let's continue. On the next

Are you done? Great!

Then let's continue.

On the next lesson we will advance another step forward with the ALL TENSES COMBINED exercise.

We will also answer some important frequently asked questions about the English verb tenses.

This is the last step before the final test of the course.

On the final test of the course you will have to use the English verb tenses in action, and you will receive your score accordingly.

Welcome to lesson number 9 of this special course!

In this lesson we will advance another step forward with the ALL TENSES COMBINED final test.

We will also answer some important frequently asked questions about the English verb tenses.

This is the last lesson before the final test of the course.

On the final test you will have to use the English verb tenses in action, and you will receive your score accordingly.

But before we do the test, let's get really ready for it!

before we do the test, let's get really ready for it! First, let's start with answering

First, let's start with answering some frequently asked questions:

What is the difference between the Simple Past tense and the Present Perfect tense?

What is the difference between the Simple Past tense and the Past Progressive tense?

What is the difference between the Simple Past tense and the Past Perfect tense?

What is the difference between the Past Progressive tense and the Past Perfect Progressive tense?

What is the difference between the Simple Present tense and the Present Progressive tense?

What is the difference between the present tense and the Present Perfect tense?

What is the difference between the Simple Past tense and the Present Perfect tense?

We use the Simple Past when we simply want to say that something happened in the past.

We use the Present Perfect when we want to emphasize the result of a past action.

Examples:

"Lisa washed the dishes yesterday." In this sentence I simply want to tell you what happened in the past.

"Lisa has washed the dishes, so you don't need to do it." In this sentence I want to emphasize the result: the dishes are clean.

For full details and examples visit the Simple Past or Present Perfect? page.

What is the difference between the Simple Past tense and the Past Progressive tense?

We use the Simple Past when we simply want to say that something happened in the past.

We use the Past Progressive when we want to show that an action was in progress at a certain time in the past.

Examples:

"Lisa washed the dishes yesterday." In this sentence I simply want to tell you what happened in the past.

"Lisa was washing the dishes when the phone rang." In this sentence I want to show that the action of washing was in progress when the phone rang.

OR

"Lisa was washing the dishes all morning." In this sentence I want to show that the

action of washing was continuing the entire morning.

What is the difference between the Simple Past tense and the Past Perfect tense?

We use the Simple Past when we simply want to say that something happened in the past.

We use the Past Perfect when we want to show that an action happened before something else in the past.

It would usually be like this:

1) The earlier action is in Past Perfect.

2) The later action is in Simple Past.

Examples:

"We had fixed John's car before he arrived." 1) First: We fixed John's car. 2) Later: He arrived.

"He was worried because he had lost his wallet." 1) First: He lost his wallet. 2) Later: He was worried.

"She said she had given away the book." 1) First: She gave away the book. 2) Later: She told us about it.

What is the difference between the Past Progressive tense and the Past Perfect Progressive tense?

We use the Past Progressive when we want to show that an action was in progress at a certain time in the past.

We use the Past Perfect Progressive when we want to show that an action continued until a certain time in the past.

Examples:

"Lisa was washing the dishes when the phone rang." In this sentence I want to emphasize

that the action of washing was in progress when the phone rang. The phone interrupted the dish washing.

"Lisa had been washing the dishes for quite some time when the phone rang." In this sentence I want to emphasize that the action of washing continued until the phone rang. The dish washing continued for a period of time before the phone rang.

Some more Examples:

"Lisa was hungry because she was fasting." Meaning: Lisa was hungry, because at that exact moment she was fasting. The Past Progressive tense emphasizes the fact that she was fasting exactly then.

"Lisa was hungry because she had been fasting." Meaning: Lisa started to fast, fasted for some time, and then became hungry. It could be that she was still fasting at that moment, or that she had just finished. The Past Perfect Progressive tense emphasizes the fact that the action of fasting continued for some time.

What is the difference between the Simple Present tense and the Present Progressive tense?

We use the Simple Present when we simply want to say that something happens in the present.

We usually use this tense for repeated actions, habits and facts.

We use the Present Progressive when we want to emphasize the fact that an action is in progress in the present.

We usually use this tense for actions that are happening right now, or these days.

Examples:

"Lisa washes the dishes every day." Meaning: This is a regular action.

"Lisa is washing the dishes right now." Meaning: This action is happening now.

"Usually John washes the dishes, but this week Lisa is washing the dishes instead." Meaning: The regular situation is that John washes the dishes. This week, temporarily, Lisa is doing it. It doesn't necessarily mean that she is washing the dishes right now!

What is the difference between the present tense and the Present Perfect tense?

The present tense is used to express actions that happen in the present.

Examples:

Lisa works in an office.

George is working very hard.

Jane likes to travel.

The Present Perfect tense is used to express actions that were completed by (before) the present, or that affect the present, but they were done in the past.

The only reason this tense is called the "Present Perfect" is because the discussed action is completed as of now. Meaning, it wasn't complete before, but now, in the present, it is complete.

Examples:

I have seen that movie.

We have met Bill.

She has quit her job.

Now, after answering these frequently asked questions, let's practice!

Verb Tenses FINAL Review

In this lesson you only get to do a single exercise.

This exercise is actually a final review, and it includes ALL English verb

tenses. Yes, all 12 of them.

It is designed to test your use of tenses in REAL situations.

So you receive a literary short story, only that YOU need to fill in the gaps with the correct verb forms.

This short story is divided into two parts. You will be doing the first part in this lesson. And You will be doing the second, longer part, in lesson number 10, as you final course exam.

So

are you ready? Let's Start!

All tenses combined exercise

Your goal is to get 100%! :)

If you don't get 100%, go back to previous lessons and review. Then come back and get 100%.

(If something is unclear, you can always e-mail me.)

Come back when you are done

and review. Then come back and get 100%. (If something is unclear, you can always e-mail
Are you done? Great! Do you want to know what is going to happen to

Are you done? Great!

Do you want to know what is going to happen to Tony and Fuji the magician?

Then let's continue.

The next lesson is the last lesson of the course.

You are almost at the final test of the English Verb Tenses Made Simple Course!

On the next lesson we will test your knowledge of the English verb tenses, using the second part of the story "Tony the Detective and Fuji the Magician."

You will have to use the English verb tenses in action, and you will receive your score accordingly.

See you there :)