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Verb Tenses

In English, verb tenses can be divided in three main groups: present


tenses, past tenses and future.

1 – There are four present tenses:

a) Simple Present infinitive form, without “to”. Note: add an


“s” in the 3th person singular.

We use the Simple Present to express:

• Simple facts or truths; Ex: John owns a new bike.

• Natural or scientific laws; Ex: The earth moves round the


sun.

• Something that persists in time; Ex: I live in England.

• Habitual or repeated actions related to adverbs or adverbial


expressions;

Ex: I come to this club twice a week.

b) Present Continuous Verb “to be” in the Simple Present +


main verb in the Present Participle

We use the Present Continuous to:

• express continuity; Ex: I am speaking English much better


now.

• express something that is happening in the moment of


speaking; Ex: She is reading a book (at this moment).

• talk about plans in a near future; Ex: She is arriving in


London next Saturday.

• express a change. Ex: The weather is getting better.

c) Present Perfect Verb “to have” in the Simple Present +


main verb in the Past Participle
Although this is a tense widely used in English, it does not refer to a
specific time, but to something happened in a near past. So, it can’t be
used with words like: “yesterday”, “two weeks ago”, etc.

We use the Present Perfect:

• to express an action that occurred in an indefinite time; Ex: I


have been ill.

• with the prepositions “for” and “since”; Ex: I haven’t seen


her since last month.

• with “just” to express an action that has just happened; Ex:


He has just written the letter.

• with the following adverbs and adverbial expressions:


recently, lately, up to now, ever, never, already, yet, it’s the first time,
this morning, this week, this month;

Ex: Have you cleaned your room yet?

• in sentences beginning by “when”, “as soon as” and “until”.


Ex: Come meet me in the club when you have finished your test.

d) Present Perfect Continuous Verb “to have” in the Simple


Present + been + main verb in the Present Participle.

We use the Present Perfect Continuous:

• with adverbs that are preceded by “all”: all this month, all
this time, etc.

Ex: He has been working all day.

• with verbs that express an action that lasts in time. Ex: I


have been living here since last year.

2 – There are four past tenses:

a) Simple Past -ed for regular verbs.

We use the Simple Past:


• to talk about actions or situations that occour in a well defined
time in the past.

Ex: You arrived here at 9 o’clock.

• to talk about habitual actions repeated in the past.

Ex: I came to this club twice last week.

• with adverbs or adverbial expressions related to the past like: at


5’clock, yesterday, last Saturday, a few minutes ago, long ago, etc.

b) Past Continuous Verb “to be” in the Simple Past + main


verb in the Present Participle

Ex: The weather was getting better, but now is raining again.

Affirmative Question Negative

I was working Was I working? I was not working

You were working Were you You were not


working? working

We use the Past Continuous to express continuity and a prolonged action


in the past and simultaneous actions.

Note: Some verbs are not used in progressive forms:

• Mental and emotional states: believe, doubt, image, know,


love, prefer, understand, want, wish, etc.

• Use of the senses: appear, hear, see, seem, smell, sound, taste,
etc.

• Communicating and causing reactions: agree, deny, impress,


promise, satisfy, etc.

• Other: be, own, need, deserve, belong, fit, matter, involve, etc.

c) Past Perfect Verb “to have” in the Simple Past + main


verb in the Past Participle
We use the Past Perfect to express an action that occurred before
another that also happen in the past.

Ex: When I arrived at the station, the train had


already started.

d) Past Perfect Continuous Verb “to have” in the Simple


Past + been + main verb in the Present Participle.

The Past Perfect Continuous is used in a similar way to the Past


Perfect. It expresses continuity of an action in the past.

Ex: He had been working all day and so he was tired.

3 – There are different ways to talk about the future:

a) Will future Will + bare infinitive of the main verb

When we are simply giving information about the future, or predicting


future events wich are not already decided or obviously on the way, we
usually use Will + infinitive.

Ex: I think Liverpool will win.

We also use this form to express our intentions and attitudes towards
other people: they are common in offers, requests, threats, promisses
and announcements of decisions.

Ex: I will hit you if you do that again.

b) Present Tenses

When we talk about future events which have already been planned or
decided, or which we can see are on the way, we often use Present
Tenses.

• We use Present Continuous to talk about personal arrangements


and fixed plans, especially when the time and place have been
decided.

Ex: We are seeing Larry on Saturday.


• We also use the Simple Present to talk about events which are part
of a timetable or something similar.

Ex: What time does the bus arrive in Seattle?

c) Be going to + infinitive

Going to often emphasizes the idea of intention, of a decision that has


already been made.

Ex: I’m going to stop him reading my letters if it’s the last thing I
do.

Another use of the going to structure is to predict the future on the


basis of present evidence – to say that a future action or event is on the
way, or starting to happen.

Ex: Look at the sky. It’s going to rain.

d) Future Continuous Will + be + -ing form of the main verb

We can use the future continuous to say that something will be in


progress at a particular moment in the future.

Ex: This time tomorrow I’ll be lying on the beach.

e) Future Perfect will have + Past Participle

We can use the future perfect to say that something will have been
done, completed or achieved by a certain time in the future.

Ex: By next Christmas we will have been here for eight years.