Tense review chart


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Talking about the Present and/or recent actions with a relationship to the present

Tense
Form Use Example
1A Present simple base verb +s for he/she/it Current Routines N.B. Can be used with an adverb of frequency e.g. always, often, sometimes, never; to give further information on how often the activity occurs. Most people regularly use one form of technology or another on a daily basis, for example a mobile phone.
1B

Present simple

base verb +s for he/she/it Facts (true or true in the mind of the speaker) Many people around the world speak English as either a first or second language.
1C

Present simple

base verb +s for he/she/it Feelings, opinions, states of mind, ownership. N.B. Verbs to describe the above are known as stative verbs e.g. hate, adore, prefer, think, believe, doubt, have etc. They do not express actions as do active verbs (run, study, play etc). Many people think that the death penalty is inhumane.
1D

Present simple

base verb +s for he/she/it Timetables and schedules The university does not accept applications for the new academic year after February 15th.
2A Present continuous be + base verb + ing Something happening at the time of speaking. N.B. Stative verbs are not used in present continuous form. (See: Present Simple Feelings, opinions, states of mind, ownership). For example we say “I have a headache” NOT “I am having a headache” even though the headache may be occurring at the time of speaking and is temporary. Fifty students are taking their IELTS test at the university today, the test started one hour ago.
2B

Present continuous

be + base verb + ing Something happening around the time of speaking but considered temporary/not permanent A number of volunteers are currently developing new educational facilities to help children in the local community.
2C

Present continuous

be + base verb + ing A repeated action that the speaker finds negative N.B. In this usage the negative opinion is expressed by using an adverb such as constantly/always with the present continuous structure Many teenagers believe that their parents are constantly complaining about their behaviour, for example not studying hard enough.
2D Present continuous be + base verb + ing A change or a trend Due to improvements in medical treatment, people are now living longer. OR People are spending more and more time surfing for information on the internet.
The Present Continuous can also be used to talk about the future, please see 2E in “Talking about the Future”.
3A Present perfect

simple

have/has + past participle Experience up to present time N.B. If we state a specific time in the past when the action occurred we DO NOT use present perfect, but the past simple. In the same way if we give any additional descriptive information about the experience we use past simple or past continuous. Many university students have experienced a number of difficulties with their studies.


I have visited 8 different countries in Europe . I went to Europe for the first time in 2002; my favourite country was Spain .

3B Present perfect

simple

have/has + past participle Recent action that has a present effect N.B. in this usage the present perfect sentence can often be changed into a present sentence and express the same meaning e.g. I have finished my exam so now I can relax OR My exam is over so now I can relax. The Government has introduced study incentives for areas of job shortage such as teaching. (so now more people may be interested in studying to become a teacher)
3C *Present perfect simple Also see 4A have/has + past participle An action that began in the past and continues into the present often using “for” or “since” N.B. the action is still happening at the time of speaking/writing. We include for to add information about duration of time or since to say when the action started. We have known for many years that there is a link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer.
3D Present perfect simple Also see 4B have/has + past participle An action recently finished which has a present result (focusing on the RESULT of the action) I have completed five units of the online IELTS course. (I have recently finished the units and want the listener to know how many units I have completed)
4A *Present perfect continuous Also see 3C have/has + been + base verb + ing An action that began in the past and continues into the present using “for” or “since” N.B. With some verbs we can also express this meaning using the Present Perfect Continuous form. Verbs which can be used in either simple of continuous form include: study, live, work, play, smoke. Remember stative verbs never take a continuous form. If you are unsure whether the verb can be used in simple or continuous form it is better to use the simple form. I have worked for my company since 1999.

I have been working for my company since 1999.

In the developing world, people have been living without adequate food and water for a considerable time.

In the developing world, people have lived without adequate food and water for a considerable time.

4B Present perfect continuous Also see 3D have/has + been + base verb + ing An action recently finished which has a present result. (Focusing on the DURATION of the action) I have been studying the online IELTS course all afternoon. (I want the speaker to know how long I spent studying)

 

Talking about the Past

Tense
Form Use Example
5A Past simple past verb +ed or irregular past An action that happened in the past – it is finished and no longer happening now. The Government made it compulsory to wear a seat belt while travelling in a car to reduce the number of serious injuries on our roads, for the same reasons they should ban the use of mobile phones while driving. (While the wearing of seatbelts may still be compulsory the action of MAKING it compulsory is finished and in the past)
6A Used to used to + base verb A past habit or state which no longer applies. N.B. Used to emphasises the frequency of the action in the past, or the common nature of the action. In the past the majority of children used to play outside with their friends, but now many spend a lot of time indoors playing computer games.
7A Past continuous was/were + base verb + ing Action already happening at a specific moment in time in the past. Last year the Government was considering the introduction of new legislation in this area.
7B Past continuous was/were + base verb + ing Two actions happening at the same time in the past My 18th birthday was a very memorable time for me. The DJ was playing great music and everyone was dancing, it was so much fun.
7C Past continuous was/were + base verb + ing To show that a longer action was interrupted by another past action, or was happening at the same time as a shorter action in the past. N.B. Used in a sentence also containing another past verb. The President was making an announcement when the news of the disaster came through.

I was studying in high school when I met my favourite teacher, she had an enormous impact on my life because…

8A Past perfect simple had + past participle To talk about an action that was completed before another action in the past (to show sequence of events). N.B. Used in a sentence with another past verb. I had travelled overseas only once before I came here to study English.

Many people had already received their visas before the immigration law was changed.

9A Past perfect continuous had + been + base verb + ing To show that a longer action in the past was in progress up until another past action occurred. E.g. I had been waiting for three hours when he finally arrived – once he arrived I stopped waiting for him. N.B. Used in a sentence with another past verb. I had been wondering for some time which university course to take but then I decided I wanted to be a doctor.
9B Past perfect continuous had + been + base verb + ing To show that a longer action in the past was in progress up until a specific time or event in the past. E.g. I had been studying at my high school for 2 years when I met my boyfriend. – I did not necessarily stop studying at that point, but meeting my boyfriend shows a specific time frame in the past. N.B. Used in a sentence with phrase describing the past event e.g. when I met my boyfriend or a specific date in the past i.e. February 2004. By the time I started university, my family and I had been living in Australia for about 12 months.

 

Talking about the Future

Tense
Form Use Example
10A Future simple (will) will + base verb Future ‘facts’ (true future facts or true from the speaker’s perspective) The increase in tuition fees will affect the number of students enrolling on university courses. It is likely that the debate on this issue will continue for some time.
10B Future simple (will) will + base verb Decisions made at the time of speaking Speaker A: “I am having problems studying for my exam” Speaker B: “Are you? I’ll help you if you like”
11A Future (going to) Also see 2E be + going to + base verb Decisions made before the time of speaking; plans and intentions. N.B. Native speakers often interchange the use of ‘present continuous for future plans and intentions’ and ‘going to’ there is very little difference in usage. I am having a party to celebrate my birthday but I am only going to invite close friends and family.
11B Future (going to) be + going to + base verb A prediction based on present evidence According to financial analysts, the Government is going to increase taxes in the next budget. Based on negative media reports it is likely that the problem is going to get worse.
2E Present continuous Also see 11A be + base verb + ing Future plans and intentions (often involving other people) N.B. Native speakers often interchange the use of ‘present continuous for future plans and intentions’ and ‘going to’ there is very little difference in usage. My faculty is planning to have a huge party to celebrate our graduation from university.
12A Future continuous will + be + base verb + ing An action which will be happening at a specific time in the future. N.B. we can talk about future possibilities/predictions likely to be in place by a certain time in the future by adding phrases such as ‘probably’, ‘hopefully’, ‘I think’. “What do you think you will be doing five years from now?” “I am not sure, but hopefully I will be working as a lawyer by then, but I’m not sure where.”
13A Future perfect will + have + past participle What will have been completed by a specific time in the future. “I will have completed my university degree by this time next year.”
14A Future perfect continuous will + have + been +base verb + ing The continuous nature or duration of an action by a specific time in the future. “I will have been studying English for 10 years by next July.”

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