Free English Lessons
English Verb Tenses – Video
by Oli Redman on August 31, 2017 , Comments Off on English Verb Tenses – Video
In this lesson, you can get a big picture understanding of English verb tenses. You’ll learn what connects English verb forms, which will make it easier for you to learn and understand verb tenses in English.
Let’s do a quick test. Can you recognise these three verb forms?
I was having dinner this time yesterday.
He’s been sitting there for hours.
Where will you be next week?
Do you know the answers? Let’s check!
In the first sentence, the time is past, and the aspect is continuous: it’s past continuous.
In the second sentence, the time is present, and the aspect is perfect continuous: it’s present perfect continuous.
In the third sentence, the time is future, and the aspect is simple: it’s future simple.
You don’t need to remember all of this right now. What you should remember: all English verb forms are made of these two parts: time plus aspect.
One more point: different teachers, books and courses sometimes use different words for these things.
For example, some books use the word ‘progressive’ instead of ‘continuous’. So, instead of ‘present continuous’, they say ‘present progressive’.
Other words have the same problem. For example, the words ‘tense’ and ‘aspect’ are used in different ways by different people.
Our advice? Don’t think too much about the words. Focus on the ideas. I understand it can be confusing, but it’s really not your problem that people don’t use these words consistently!
Next, let’s talk more about time.
2. Past, Present and Future English Verb Forms
I said we’re going to talk about past, present and future, but really, we’re mostly going to talk about the future.
Why—why is the future different?
English verbs have past and present forms. For example:
be – was
do – did
want – wanted
So, to make a present form past, just change the present verb to a past verb, like this:
I go shopping once a week. → I went shopping once a week.
She’s running in the park. → She was running in the park.
We haven’t seen it yet. → We hadn’t seen it yet.
It doesn’t matter if the aspect is simple, continuous, perfect or perfect continuous. Using a present or a past verb decides whether the meaning is present or past.
That’s almost too simple, right? But what about the future?
There are no future verb forms; you can’t change the verb to make it future. So, you have to add something before the verb. For example:
I’ll be waiting for you outside the station.
When are you going to tell her?
He might join us later.
Now, you can see why the future is more complicated. There are many things you can add before the verb to give it a future meaning. You saw examples with will, be going to and might, but there are other possibilities.
It’s also very common to use present verb forms with a future meaning, like this:
What are you doing this weekend?
Class starts at 10:00.
What should you remember from all this?
Remember that every verb has only one past form, and only one present form, but there are many possible future forms. There isn’t one ‘future tense’ in English.
This time next week, I’ll be eating fresh seafood on an island!
These three sentences are all continuous: past continuous, present continuous and future continuous.
Can you see what connects them?
First, all continuous forms use the verb be, together with an -ing verb.
So, to make a continuous form, take the verb be in the past, present or future, then add your main verb with -ing on the end. For example:
She was telling me a really interesting story.
They aren’t helping at all.
It’ll be getting dark at five o’clock.
What about the meaning of continuous forms? Can you see what connects these examples?
Continuous forms describe things which are incomplete. Generally, continuous forms are used to talk about one moment in time.
So, you say I was eating dinner at seven o’clock last night because you’re talking about a moment in time (seven o’clock), and something incomplete—you hadn’t finished your dinner at that moment.
In the sentence She was telling me a really interesting story, you’re talking about a moment in time when she was in the middle of her story. You use a continuous form because, at that moment, she hadn’t finished her story.