Tenses of Verbs

May 21, 2021

Definition: Earlier in this module you learned that verbs are action words. Verbs have multiple forms called tenses that tell us when an action occurs. In this lesson you’ll learn about the simple, progressive, and perfect tenses.

Simple Tenses

The present, past, and future tenses are called simple tenses.

Simple Tenses
PresentPastFuture
walk(s)walkedwill walk
Simple Present Tense

The term present tense is a little deceiving. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? The present tense is used for actions that are happening now, right?”—not exactly. Although it’s true that the present tense does have to do with current events, there are several specific ways in which it’s used, including:

  • Talking about actions that occur repeatedly
    These are actions that happen on a regular basis, such as habits or routines. They can have a specific or general time frame.I brush my teeth every morning and every night.
    Bret runs five miles every day.
    We visit my grandparents twice a year.
    Sometimes Sean and Jaimie go to the pool.
    Mom never lets us eat chocolate cake for breakfast.
  • Discussing current facts, basic truths, or widely accepted beliefsThe sky is blue, and the grass is green.
    Cats catch mice.
    Stealing is unethical.
  • Describing people or things
    Use the present tense to describe physical characteristics, personality traits, feelings, abilities, and likes and dislikes that are true in the present.Her brothers are both over six feet tall.
    He is the nicest person I know.
    feel sick today.
    My best friend plays minor league baseball.
    Many people love dogs, but many also love cats.
    This milk smells funny.
    Your new rose bush looks beautiful!

Note:When you want to talk about an action that is occurring at this very moment, you typically use the present progressive tense, which you’ll learn about later in this lesson.

You already learned how to form the present tense in Lesson 5, but let’s review. The base alone is used for most forms of the present tense, including the first person (I and we), second person (you), and third person plural (they). The only time the base changes is in the third person singular (hesheit). To form the third person singular, just add the letter -s to the end of the base.

Simple Past Tense

The past tense is more straightforward than the present tense—you only use it to talk about actions, events, or feelings that happened at an earlier point in time.

Olivia closed the door behind her.
We pushed through the crowd to get a better view of the stage.

Let’s also review how to form the past tense. Simply take the base form and add -ed. If the base ends in a silent e, just add -d, not -ed. Unlike the present tense, the past tense always uses the same form regardless of person or number. If you would like to see more examples, you can go back to Lesson 5.Note:The English language has quite a few irregular past tense forms that don’t end in -ed. You can learn about them here.

Future Tense

The future tense is one of the easiest tenses to learn because it has no irregular forms. Just as its name suggests, it’s used to describe actions that will happen in the future. It is formed by combining the helping verb will with the base form of the main verb.

Tomorrow I will walk home from school.


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