What you need to know about English Tenses

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Starting to feel tense in thinking about the English Tenses? This is why I should probably stick to teaching and not be a comedian. Jokes aside, tenses are an essential part of the English language. They allow speakers to clarify the timing of when an action is happening. In this article, we will briefly go over each English tense and how it is used. But first, what are tenses?

What are Tenses?

Essentially a tense will indicate the timing of an action. There are three basic tenses in English: The Present, The Past, and The Future. Along with tenses, you will notice they will be attached to the verb tense. There are 4 kinds of verb tenses that will be associated with the tenses.

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Simple It expresses a simple fact.

Example: I study English…

Meaning: In general, I study. I’m saying a statement. It’s a fact.

Progressive It expresses something that takes place during a limited period of time.

Example: I am studying English.

Meaning: I’m studying English at this moment.

Perfect It expresses something that occurred in the past, but is linked to another point in the future.

Example: I had studied English.

Meaning: I had studied English in the past and up until the present moment.

Perfect Progressive Expresses something that began in the past, but continues into the future.

Example: I have been studying English.

Meaning: I had started studying English in the past, up until the present moment. This emphasizes the duration of the past action.

english tenses

These aspects affect how the verb is conjugated, as well as which auxiliary words are used in the sentence (if any). With each tense, you will learn how to conjugate verbs (changing verb forms).

Don’t worry if this seems too complicated or overwhelming speakers please remember that many native English struggle with this, too. There’s some good news though, some verb tenses are more common than others. We’ll start with those. As you continue learning English, you can dive into more complex forms to express more specific ideas. In this article, I’ll be covering only the simple aspect of each tense. If you want to get more in-depth practice, I highly recommend checking out the Takelessons Live ESL Group Classes. Click here for a free trial.

1. Present Tense

EXAMPLE: I cook.

The present tense is used to refer to something that is happening now, in the present. It can also be used to describe something that occurs on a regular basis and to express facts and statements.

To form the simple present, you simply take the infinitive form of the verb

EX: To cook

Then remove the word “to” to create the base infinitive.

EX: cook

Let’s take a look at this table to see how the verb “To Cook” is conjugated.

Person Present Tense Verb (“To Cook”)
I Cook.
You [singular] Cook.
He / She / It Cooks.
We Cook.
You [plural] Cook.
They Cook.

NOTE: The third person requires the -s at the end.

Of course, you can make these sentences longer and more specific by adding time words/phrases. These are words that indicate exactly when the action is taking place.

Common Time Words & Phrases for Simple Present Tense

Today She cooks today.
Every day I cook every day.
More They cook often.
Sometimes Sometimes, you cook.
At ___ We cook at night.

2. Past Tense

She cooked.

The past tense is used to refer to something that happened previously, in the past.

To form the simple past for regular verbs, you’ll need to take the infinitive form of the verb (in this case, “to cook”) take away the word “to,” and add -ed to the end of the root verb :

Person Past Tense Verb (“To Listen”)
I cooked
You [singular] cooked
He / She / It cooked
We cooked
You [plural] cooked
They cooked

As you will notice, all subjects take on the same verb form, even the third person singular. Their conjugation is identical. Now, let’s go ahead and add some time words that refer to the past.

Yesterday We cooked yesterday.
Earlier I cooked earlier.
A few hours ago They cooked a few hours ago.
Last week You cooked last week.
Last weekend He cooked last weekend.

3. Future Tense

You will cook.

The future tense is used to refer to future actions or, in some cases, probable future actions.

To form the simple future, take the infinitive form of the verb, remove the word “to,” and add the word “will” in front of the root verb. The auxiliary verb “will” indicates a future event.

As you will notice, “will” does not take have a special conjugation. The same form is used for all verbs.

Person Future Tense Verb (“To Work”)
I will cook.
You [singular] will cook.
He / She / It will cook.
We will cook.
You [plural] will cook.
They will cook.

Let’s try adding time words that will indicate the future.

Tomorrow I will cook tomorrow.
Soon They will cook soon.
Next week You will cook next week.
In a few hours We will cook in a few hours.
Wedding ( a future event) She will cook for the wedding.

Irregular Verbs

Now that we looked at the rules for regular verbs, let’s take a look at those lovely irregular verbs.

Irregular verbs are verbs that don’t conjugate the same way remember as regular verbs, which means you’ll have to separate conjugation rules for them.

In the section below, I’ll introduce you to some of the common irregular verbs: “to be,” “to do,” and “to have.” Let’s take a look!

TO BE

PRESENT

My ESL teacher is tired.

Person Present Tense Verb (“To Be”) Example Sentence
I Am I am tired.
You [singular] Are You are tired.
He / She / It Is He is tired.
We Are We are tired.
You [plural] Are You are tired.
They Are They are tired.

PAST

My ESL teacher was tired.

Person Past Tense Verb (“To Be”) Example Sentence
I Was I was tired.
You [singular] Were You were tired.
He / She / It Was She was tired.
We Were We were tired.
You [plural] Were You were tired.
They Were They were tired.

FUTURE

My ESL teacher will be tired.

Person Future Tense Verb (“To Be”) Example Sentence
I Will be I will be tired.
You [singular] Will be You will be tired.
He / She / It Will be He/She/It will be tired.
We Will be We will be tired.
You [plural] Will be You will be tired.
They Will be They will be tired.

TO DO

PRESENT

I do study.

Person Present Tense Verb (“To Do”) Example Sentence
I Do I do study.
You [singular] Do You do study.
He / She / It Does She does study.
We Do We do study.
You [plural] Do You do study.
They Do They do study.

PAST

I did a good job.

Person Past Tense Verb (“To Do”) Example Sentence
I Did I did study.
You [singular] Did You did study.
He / She / It Did He did study.
We Did We did study.
You [plural] Did You did study.
They Did They did study.

Future Tense

I will do a good job.

Person Future Tense Verb (“To Do”) Example Sentence
I Will do I will do a good job studying.
You [singular] Will do You will do a good job studying .
He / She / It Will do She will do a good job studying.
We Will do We will do a good job studying .
You [plural] Will do You will do a good job studying.
They Will do They will do a good job studying.

TO HAVE

PRESENT

We have a dog.

Person Present Tense Verb (“To Have”) Example Sentence
I Have I have a dog.
You [singular] Have You have a dog.
He / She / It Has He has a dog.
We Have We have a dog.
You [plural] Have You have a dog.
They Have They have a dog.

PAST

We had a dog.

Person Past Tense Verb (“To Have”) Example Sentence
I Had I had a dog.
You [singular] Had You hada dog.
He / She / It Had She had a dog.
We Had We had adog.
You [plural] Had You had a dog.
They Had They had a dog.

FUTURE

We will have a dog.

Person Future Tense Verb (“To Have”) Example Sentence
I Will have I will have dog.
You [singular] Will have You will have dog.
He / She / It Will have He will have a dog.
We Will have We will have dog.
You [plural] Will have You will have dog.
They Will have They will have dog.

Let’s Practice!

Let’s go ahead and give what you read a try. There is nothing better than practicing what you have learned, right?

Here are three regular verbs that need to be conjugated according to the tense. See if you can do answer them. The answers will be at the end of this article.

Present

“To Walk” (Present Tense)
I
You [singular]
He / She / It
We
You [plural]
They

Past

“To Sing” (Past Tense)
I
You [singular]
He / She / It
We
You [plural]
They

C-Future

“To Play” (Future Tense)
I
You [singular]
He / She / It
We
You [plural]
They

Final Thoughts

How did you do?

With enough study time, dedication, and practice, you’ll be able to master all the English tenses and their conjugations.

I hope this English tenses lesson has been helpful for you! How do you feel about English tenses at this point? At TakeLessons Live, it’s our goal to help you learn in the most fun and effective way possible through our group classes. I hope to see you there soon!

Answers

“To Walk” (Present Tense)
I walk
You [singular] walk
He / She / It walks
We walk
You [plural] walk
They walk
“To Play” (Past Tense)
I played
You [singular] played
He / She / It played
We played
You [plural] played
They played
“To Bake” (Future Tense)
I will bake
You [singular] will bake
He / She / It will bake
We will bake
You [plural] will bake
They will bake

How did you do?

Rosita Ruiz

Hello All! I’m a vocal and language coach that not only teaches people how to speak in different languages ​​but also teaches people how to sing in either English, Spanish, or Japanese! My goal is to help people get out of their comfort zones and show them that they are able to learn a language and if they choose to sing as well! From customizing lesson plans to help groups overseas to better communicate with their clients to helping you impress your friends by singing a song in Japanese. m here for you and I customize lesson plans based on your goals. Looking in to contact me? Use the “Ask Rosita a Question” feature on my profile when you click on the website!”

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