Past, Present or Future ?
The use of different tenses can be confusing and difficult for any student at any level. That’s why we have made a summery of different English tenses, describe when and how to use them and show some examples.
|Present Simple||1. Habits, routines,
in combination with
adverbs of frequency:
always, never etc.
– / ? Use auxiliary do
|– I often get the 6 o’clock train.
– She works from home.
– Do you speak French ?
|2. Permanent situations,
truths or believed to be true.
|– My brother is an engineer.
– It rains a lot in Ireland.
– Is she from America ?
|3. For states, senses and feelings,
when we use stative verbs such
as: believe, like, want, taste etc.
|– I don’t like ice-cream.|
|4. Timetabled events in the future.||– The match starts at 4 o’clock.|
|5. Commentaries.||– Smith passes to Ronaldo.|
|Present Continuous||1. To talk about things happening now.||To be + infinitive + ing||– He is making some coffee.|
|2. Talking about temporary states in progress or limited duration.||– We are looking for writers.|
|3. Repeated actions over a temporary situation.||– Classes are starting at 5 pm this week.|
|4. Changes and developing situations.||– The climate is getting warmer.|
|Past Simple||A finished action that took place in the past, mostly connected with an expression of time.||Regular: infinitive + ed
Irregular: went, bought etc.
– / ? Use auxiliary did
|– I saw Kate yesterday.|
|Past Continuous||1. Something in progress over a certain past period.||Was, were + infinitive + ing||– We were making too much noise.|
|2. Two events simultaneously in progress. While, when.||– I was working while you were having fun.|
|3. An action happened in the middle of another action. In combination with Past Simple.||– I was packing one of the boxes when my phone rang.|
|Present Perfect||1. Something that happened in the past and has a connection to the present.||Have, has + past participle (regular infinitive + ed, irreg.: been, broken etc.)||– It has been a long night and I’m tired now.|
|2. To talk about a period of time continuing up to the present.||– For over 50 years , Stirling Cars has developed classic sports cars.|
|3. To talk about life experiences.||– Have you ever seen Paris ?
– She has had several interesting jobs.
|Present Perfect Continuous||Used for an action that was in progress for a certain period of time and is somehow related to this moment.||Have / has + been+ infinitive+ -ing||– The children have been making a cake.
– I’ve been filling in this form all evening.
|Past Perfect||Is often used with the Past Simple contrasting two times, one that happened before the other.||Had + past participle (reg. infinitive + ed, irreg. : written, broken, seen ect.)||– I had written 3 books before I turned 40.
– Susie had already left for work when John called.
|Past Perfect Continuous||1. For a past event that was in progress up to a certain point.||Had + been + infinitive + -ing||– I had been working for hours before he turned up.|
|2. To emphasize the duration.||– She’d been waiting at the airport for 5 hours.|
|Will + infinitive||1. Making predictions||Will + infinitive||– This time next week I’ll be in Ibiza.|
|2. To make decisions at the moment of speaking||– I’ll have a look.
– I’ll open the window
|3. Promises||– I’ll pay you back on Friday.|
|4. Offers||– I’ll help you with that.|
|Going to + infinitive||1. To talk about a plan or intention when the decision has already been made.||To be + going to + infinitive||– I’m going to visit Spain next year.|
|2. To make a more definite prediction based on evidence.||– It’s going to rain. ( you can see the clouds )|
|Future Continuous||To talk about an action in progress at a certain time in the future.||Will + be + infinitive + ing||– This time tomorrow I will be skiing.|
|Future Perfect||To talk about something that will already have happened before e certain time in the future.||Will + have + past participle||– I’ll have painted 3 doors by this time tomorrow.|
|Future Perfect Continuous||An action in progress but not completed before a certain time in the future.||Will + have + been + infinitive + – ing||– I’ll have been writing for 4 hours by lunchtime.|
- “Teaching English Grammar” by Jim Scrivener, Mac Millan
- “How English Works” by Micheal Swan and Catherine Walter, Oxford University Press
- “Practical English Usage” by Micheal Swan, Oxford University Press
- “Business Result” by Michael Duckworth and Rebecca Turner, Oxford University Press
- “Market Leader” by Davis Cotton, David Falvey, Simon Kent, FT Publishing