Verb Tenses Explained, With Examples (2024)

Verb tenses are changes or additions to verbs to show when the action took place: in the past, present, or future. The phrase verb tense is also used for grammatical aspects, which add more details about the duration or time an action takes. When you combine the four grammatical aspects with the past, present and future, you end up with twelve main verb tenses in English.

Verb tenses are essential for speaking English correctly, but with all the different forms and functions, they can get confusing. In this guide, we give a quick overview of the English tenses, including when to use them and how to make them, and give plenty of verb tense examples.

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What is a verb tense?

Verb tenses show when an action took place, as well as how long it occurred. The main verb tenses are the past, present, and future.

There are also additional aspects that give extra details, such as the length of time the action occurred, which actions happened first, or whether a past action has an impact on the present. These grammatical aspects are the simple tense, perfect tense, continuous tense, and perfect continuous tense.

Verb tenses list: How many tenses are there in English?

The standard tense in English is the present tense, which is usually just the root form of the verb. The past and future tenses often require changes or additions to the root form, such as the suffixed for the past tense and the modal verb will for the future.

However, for each of the past, present, and future tenses, there are four different aspects that add additional details. For example, the continuous tense shows that an action is ongoing. It can be used in the present (she is sleeping), past (she was sleeping), or future (she will be sleeping).

Past, present, and future tenses

The past, present, and future are the central divisions of time in English. The present represents actions happening now, while the past represents actions that happened earlier, and the future describes actions that will happen later.

Simple tense

The simple tense is a grammatical aspect that refers to the normal forms of the past, present, and future tenses—nothing fancy! Unlike the other aspects, it doesn’t add any new information. True to its name, simple tenses are the easiest to form and have the fewest rules.

Perfect tense

The definition of the perfect tense is a little more complicated. It’s used for actions that relate to other points in time, either completed or ongoing.

For example, in the sentence I have played soccer since I was a child, the perfect tense indicates that the action occurred continuously in the past and still happens in the present. By contrast, in the sentence I played soccer when I was a child, the simple past tense indicates that the action occurred only in the past, and has no relation to the present.

The perfect tenses use a conjugation of the auxiliary verb have with the past participle of the main verb.

Continuous tense

We use the continuous tenses (also known as the progressive tenses) for ongoing actions or actions that happen a while before completion. For example, They are studying all night means the studying lasts many hours before it’s finished.

Please note that you usually do not use the continuous tense with stative verbs like want, love, have, and need.

The continuous tenses use a conjugation of the auxiliary verb be along with the main verb’s present participle, or –ing form.

Perfect continuous tense

When you combine the perfect and continuous tenses, you get the perfect continuous tense. It’s typically used just like the perfect tense, except it describes ongoing actions that happen over a period of time.

The construction of the perfect continuous tense uses a conjugation of the auxiliary verb have, the auxiliary verb been (the past participle of be), and the present participle of the main verb.

English tenses examples: verb tenses chart

PastPresentFuture
SimpleI helped my neighbor yesterday.I help my neighbor every day.I will help my neighbor tomorrow.
PerfectI had helped my neighbor clean his attic before I fixed his car.I have helped my neighbor too much this week.I will have helped my neighbor a hundred times by the end of the month.
ContinuousI was helping my neighbor when he brought me iced tea.I am helping my neighbor while he fixes up his house.I will be helping my neighbor next month when he moves.
Perfect continuousI had been helping my neighbor for a year before he finally thanked me.I have been helping my neighbor since I moved in.I will have been helping my neighbor for a year next month.

Past tenses

Simple past

We use the simple past to show actions completed in the past, with no extra emphasis.

For regular verbs, you form the simple past tense by adding the suffix –ed to the end of the verb (or just –d if the past tense verb already ends in an e).

Be careful of irregular past tense verbs, however. These don’t follow the normal rules and use their own unique forms for the past tense. For example, the past tense of the irregular verb go is went.

Regular verbs: I picked up the glass, but it dropped from my hand.

Irregular verbs: This morning I went to the store, but I forgot the milk.

Past perfect

[had] + [past participle]

What if you’re talking about two different actions in the past and want to show that one happened before the other? The past perfect, also known as the pluperfect, shows that one past action happened earlier than another one.

She had arrived at the office before she realized it was Sunday.

I ran to my car when I noticed my wife had left already.

Past continuous

[was/were] + [present participle]

Use the past continuous to show an ongoing action in the past, especially if the action was interrupted by another action. It’s also used for habitual actions that occurred in the past but not in the present. It’s usually used with adverbs like always or adverb phrases like all the time.

My dog was whimpering in his sleep when the TV woke him up.

As kids, my friends and I were always getting into trouble.

Past perfect continuous

[had] + [been] + [present participle]

The past perfect continuous tense is used just like the past perfect tense, except it describes ongoing actions that happened in the past instead of a one-time occurance. It’s often used with the words when, until, and before to connect it to another past action.

Before he got his first job as a writer, he had been working as a proofreader.

I had been living on my friend’s couch for a year until they kicked me out.

Present tenses

Simple present

The simple present is the most basic of the English tenses. It’s used for individual actions or habitual actions in the present.

Often the simple present is just the root verb with no changes or additions. The main exception to this is when the subject is third person and singular. In this case you add the suffix –s. If the verb ends in o, ch, sh, th, ss, gh, or z, you add –es. If the verb ends in a consonant and y (and the subject is third-person singular), drop the y and add –ies.

Today I feel like a million bucks!

My brother carries the groceries while my sister stays on the couch.

Present perfect

[have/has] + [past participle]

Although it’s quite common, the present perfect is one of the most difficult English verb tenses. It is used to describe a few different types of actions, including:

  • an ongoing action started in the past that is not yet completed
  • the same action completed multiple times in the past and likely to be completed again
  • an action completed very recently (usually with just or now)
  • an uncompleted action that is expected to be finished (in the negative)

Additionally, the present perfect can be used to emphasize the significance of a completed action, especially one that happened over time.

We have tricked him every April Fool’s Day since we were kids.

My niece has grown so much this year!

Present continuous

[am/is/are] + [present participle]

Use the present continuous to show an action happening right now or in the near future.

I am reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the fifth time!

We are eating pizza tonight.

Present perfect continuous

[have/has] + [been] + [present participle]

The present perfect continuous shows an ongoing action in the present that was started in the past. It is often used to emphasize the length of time.

We have been waiting for over an hour!

The team has been practicing nonstop for the tournament.

Future tenses

Simple future

Use the simple future for actions that have not happened yet but will later. To form the simple future, just place the modal verb will before the root form of the main verb. (Note that if the action will happen in the near future, you can use the present continuous instead.)

She will be president one day.

I will not go to the wedding without a date!

Future perfect

[will] + [have] + [past participle]

The future perfect shows an action that will be completed in the future by a specified time. Because it depends on another time, the future perfect is often used with words like by, before, at, or when.

By the time you read this, I will have already left.

She will have eaten lunch before her sister even wakes up.

Future continuous

[will] + [be] + [present participle]

Use the future continuous tense for future actions happening over a period of time, especially when a specific time is mentioned. The future continuous tense also shows more certainty and likelihood than the simple future.

By this time tomorrow, I will be drinking margaritas on the beach.

We will be attending a meeting from noon until 3 p.m.

Future perfect continuous

[will] + [have] + [been] + [present participle]

The future perfect continuous depicts future ongoing actions that continue up until a certain point. Like the future perfect and future continuous, it’s used with a specified time.

In ten minutes, my parents will have been waiting in traffic for four hours.

I will have been eating healthy for a whole year by September.

Verb tense FAQs

What are verb tenses?

Verb tenses are changes or additions to verbs to show when the action took place: in the past, present, or future. The phrase verb tense is also used for grammatical aspects, which show how long an action occurs.

What are the different types of verb tenses?

The three main verb tenses are the past, present, and future, but there are also four grammatical aspects: simple, continuous, perfect, and perfect continuous. When you combine the three time periods with the four aspects, you get twelve unique verb tenses.

What are some examples of the different verb tenses?

The simple tenses show actions happening at different times, while the perfect tenses show completed actions that relate to different time periods. The continuous tenses are for ongoing actions that take a while to complete. The perfect continuous tenses combine the perfect and continuous tenses to describe ongoing actions that happen over a period of time.

Verb Tenses Explained, With Examples (2024)

FAQs

Verb Tenses Explained, With Examples? ›

What are verb tenses? Verb tenses are changes or additions to verbs to show when the action took place: in the past, present, or future. The phrase verb tense is also used for grammatical aspects, which show how long an action occurs.

What are tenses explain each tense with examples? ›

Examples of tenses in English
TensePresentPast
SimpleHe rides a bikeHe rode a bike
ContinuousHe is riding a bikeHe was riding a bike
PerfectHe has ridden a bikeHe had ridden a bike
Perfect continuousHe has been riding a bike since the morningHe had been riding a bike since 8 am

What are verb tenses explained easily? ›

What are verb tenses? Verb tenses are changes or additions to verbs to show when the action took place: in the past, present, or future. The phrase verb tense is also used for grammatical aspects, which show how long an action occurs.

What are some examples of tense verbs? ›

Summary of English Verb Tenses
  • Simple present: She writes every day.
  • Present progressive: She is writing right now.
  • Simple past: She wrote last night.
  • Past progressive: She was writing when he called.
  • Simple future: She will write tomorrow.
  • Future progressive: She will be writing when you arrive.

What are the 3 tenses of the verb and its meaning? ›

The three main verb tenses in English are past, present, and future. Past: The action has finished or just recently finished. Present: The action is happening now, or the action happens every day. Future: The action has not happened yet or will be happening in the future.

What are the 12 tenses with 5 examples? ›

Tenses
PastPresent
SimplePlayed (verb+ed)Plays (verb+s)
Perfecthad played (had+past participle)has/have played (has/have+past participle)
Continuouswas/were playing(was/were+verb+ing)is/am/are playing(is/am/are+verb+ing)
Perfect Continuoushad been playing (had been+verb+ing)has/have been playing(has/have been+verb+ing)

How do you explain verb tenses to kids? ›

Explain that verb tense tells us when an action takes place. The past tense tells what has already happened, the present tense tells us what is happening, and the future tense tells what will happen.

How do you teach tenses easy? ›

How to Teach Tenses?
  1. Use the tense grid. Introducing tenses to students can be tough. ...
  2. Teach a single time frame at a time. It is essential to slow down during transitions. ...
  3. Practice a time frame before moving on to the next. ...
  4. Distinguish between the simple, continuous, and perfect. ...
  5. Take time with the tricky tenses. ...
  6. Revision.
May 23, 2022

How do you explain verb tenses to students? ›

How to Teach Verbs According to their Time Frames
  1. About Verb Tense in English. ...
  2. Introduce students to the system. ...
  3. Focus on one time frame at a time. ...
  4. Focus on only one tense at a time but show it in relation to other tenses in that frame. ...
  5. Practice. ...
  6. Teach Young Learners About Verb Tenses. ...
  7. Review.

What are the rules of tenses? ›

Tenses Rules Chart
TensesTenses Rule
Past Continuous tenseSubject + was + V1 + ing + Object (Singular) Subject + were + V1 + ing + Object (Plural)
Past perfect continuous tenseSubject + had been + V1 + ing + Object
Present Simple tenseSubject + V1 + s/es + Object (Singular) Subject + V1 + Object (Plural)
9 more rows

How many tenses are there with examples? ›

There are three main verb tenses in English: present, past and future. Let's look at the different verb tenses in a bit more detail to enhance your English language skills.

How do you identify tenses? ›

Here's a really simple guide to help you remember which is which!
  1. It's happening right now. ...
  2. It's happening right now – and continuing. ...
  3. It was happening in the past – and is still happening now. ...
  4. It happened in the past. ...
  5. It was happening – then it got interrupted! ...
  6. It's going to happen in the future.

What are 10 examples of past tense? ›

So, if any sentence depicts an action that has already happened at a specific time, then the verb is in the past tense.
  • Lisa went to the supermarket yesterday.
  • Sam cooked a tasty dinner yesterday.
  • My brother saw a movie yesterday.
  • Last year, I travelled to France.
  • I washed the dishes.
  • My mother bought a dress for me.

What are the 3 main verb tenses? ›

There are three main verb tenses in English: present, past and future. Let's look at the different verb tenses in a bit more detail to enhance your English language skills.

What are the 4 basic tenses? ›

There are three main verb tenses: past, present, and future. In English, each of these tenses can take four main aspects: simple, perfect, continuous (also known as progressive), and perfect continuous.

What are the 12 basic tense? ›

There are 12 Basic English Tenses ; Present simple Tense, Present Continuous Tense, Present Perfect Tense, Present Perfect Continuous Tense, Past Simple Tense, Past Continuous Tense, Past Perfect Tense, Past Perfect Continuous Tense, Future Simple Tense, Future Continuous, Future Perfect Tense, Future Perfect ...

What are the 5 basic tenses? ›

In general, Tenses can be divided 5 basics tenses : Simple Present Tense, Simple Past Tense, Simple Future Tense, Present Continuous Tense, and Present Perfect Tense.

How do you teach verb tenses in a fun way? ›

8 Fun Tenses Games & Activities for Kids
  1. Making questions. There are chances that your child has difficulty forming questions in different tenses. ...
  2. Quiz. ...
  3. Sing it out loud. ...
  4. Name the tenses. ...
  5. Match-up LEGO bricks. ...
  6. Tell a story from a picture. ...
  7. Let the characters teach. ...
  8. Listen and say.
Dec 11, 2021

How can I improve my verb tenses? ›

5 Tips for Writing in Different Verb Tenses
  1. Know your genre. ...
  2. Choose a tense that serves your narrative. ...
  3. Keep tenses consistent. ...
  4. Play with time shifts. ...
  5. Switch tenses in the editing process.
Sep 6, 2021

Which method is best for teaching tenses? ›

by using deductive and inductive methods in teaching tenses to improve their writing. Deductivemethod means teaching learners rules and then giving them opportunities to apply them through practice. The role of the teacher is to present the rules and organize the practice.

Which tenses should I learn first? ›

Past Simple or Future Simple may be easier for you to learn first. A good way to start is also with Present Simple and the verb Be.

Why are tenses so hard to learn? ›

Learning when to use different English verb tenses is notoriously difficult for English language students. The reason English verb tenses are so tricky is that they carry a lot of information about when and how something happened. It's more complicated than just past, present, and future!

What is the most commonly used tense in spoken English? ›

Spoken English is mostly in the present tense (68.9%), but fiction is mostly past tense (57.6%). Specialized texts overwhelmingly use the present tense (87.1%). This makes a lot of sense. In fiction, we generally tell stories that take place before: first this happened, then that happened, then that happened.

What is a sentence for tense? ›

We sat quietly for a few tense moments. It was a tense meeting. My calf muscles are really tense. Verb She tensed as he walked toward her.

What are the top 10 most used verbs? ›

The ten most heavily used verbs in the English language are be, have, do, say, make, go, take, come, see, and get.

What are the 8 main verbs? ›

Types of verbs
  • Action Verbs.
  • Transitive Verbs.
  • Intransitive Verbs.
  • Stative Verbs.
  • Linking Verbs.
  • Auxiliary Verbs.
  • Regular Verbs.
  • Irregular Verbs.

Which tense is used the most? ›

The Present - Simple Present Tense is the most commonly used tense in the English language, and you will most often use it to talk about your habits, actions you perform regularly, or just general facts. When you're talking about an action that is happening as you speak, always use the Present Continuous Tense.

What are 10 examples of present tense? ›

Simple Present Tense Examples Used to Denote Habitual Actions
  • Raj eats bread and butter before going to school.
  • Emma watches cartoons every day.
  • Izzy drinks milk every night before going to bed.
  • Johnny goes to the gym daily.
  • We go to school daily.
  • Smita reads the newspaper every day.

What is present tense examples? ›

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

What are 10 examples of simple future tense? ›

The Simple Future Tense
  • I will meet him later (I'll ..)
  • You will come (you'll..)
  • It will rain tomorrow (it'll)
  • She will be late (she'll..)
  • He will help us later (he'll..)
  • We will get married in September (we'll)
  • They will cook dinner (they'll..)

How do you change verbs to past tense? ›

The past tense in English describes events that have already happened. How to form the past tense in English: take the present tense of the word and add the suffix "-ed"" . For example, to turn the verb "walk" into the past tense, add "-ed" and you get "walked."

What are the examples of present and past tense? ›

Simple present tense They order hamburgers for lunch every day. Simple past tense They ordered hamburgers for lunch yesterday. Simple present tense They own their home now. Simple past tense They owned their home last year.

What is the rule for past tense? ›

Typically, you would form the past tense as follows: Take the root form of the verb (the one you will find in our amazing dictionary) and add –ed to the end. If the verb ends in -e, you would just add a -d. For example, the simple past tense of look is looked, and the simple past tense of ignite is ignited.

What are the 4 types of present tense with examples? ›

There are four main types or forms of the present tense in the English language, namely,
  • Simple Present Tense.
  • Present Continuous Tense.
  • Present Perfect Tense.
  • Present Perfect Continuous Tense.

What are 12 tenses? ›

There are 12 Basic English Tenses ; Present simple Tense, Present Continuous Tense, Present Perfect Tense, Present Perfect Continuous Tense, Past Simple Tense, Past Continuous Tense, Past Perfect Tense, Past Perfect Continuous Tense, Future Simple Tense, Future Continuous, Future Perfect Tense, Future Perfect ...

What is a tense answer? ›

Tenses are used to express the time of an action or state of being in a language. As per the tense, verbs take different forms in a sentence to make it meaningful. There are different types of Tenses. The three major categories being the Present Tense, the Past Tense and Future Tense.

What are 20 examples of present tense? ›

20 Sentences in Simple Present Tense
  • I go to the President's House.
  • Sun rises in the East.
  • He takes a bath once a month.
  • She takes selfies.
  • They take the bribe.
  • We speak lie.
  • It rains every day in Assam.
  • You eat Pizza every weekend.

How do you teach tenses for beginners? ›

How to Teach Tenses?
  1. Use the tense grid. Introducing tenses to students can be tough. ...
  2. Teach a single time frame at a time. It is essential to slow down during transitions. ...
  3. Practice a time frame before moving on to the next. ...
  4. Distinguish between the simple, continuous, and perfect. ...
  5. Take time with the tricky tenses. ...
  6. Revision.
May 23, 2022

What is the rule for present tense? ›

We use the simple present tense when an action is happening right now, or when it happens regularly (or unceasingly, which is why it's sometimes called present indefinite). Depending on the person, the simple present tense is formed by using the root form or by adding s or es to the end.

How do you solve tenses exercises? ›

Grammar Practice Questions - Tenses
  1. Abdul ___________ to be a doctor. ( ...
  2. The Soup ________ good. ( ...
  3. He ______ TV most evening. ( ...
  4. He _______ out five minutes ago. ( ...
  5. When he lived in Hyderabad, he _______ to the cinema once a week. ( ...
  6. The baby _______ all morning. ( ...
  7. I _______ Rahim at the zoo. ( ...
  8. I ______ Kumar this week. (

How do you explain tense to a child? ›

What is tense? Tenses in English grammar are a verb-based concept used to indicate the time of an action. It refers to time by showing when an action happened - whether it occurred in the past, present, or future.

What is the tense in a sentence? ›

Verb tense refers to when the action in a sentence takes place—whether it happened in the past, is happening in the present, or will happen in the future. Most verbs take a past, present, or future tense.

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