In English we use two tenses to talk about the present and six tenses to talk about the past. There are several ways to talk about the future some of which use the present tenses, these are:
|Present Perfect Simple|
|Present Perfect Continuous|
|Past Perfect Simple|
|Past Perfect Continuous|
|Future||Using the Simple Present|
|Using the Present Continuous|
|Using the Present Perfect Simple|
|Using the Present Perfect Continuous|
|Using going to|
The simple tenses are used to show permanent characteristics of people and events or what happens regularly, habitually or in a single completed action.
The continuous tenses are used when talking about a particular point in time.
Sometimes you need to give just a little bit more information about an action or state…and that is where the perfect tenses come in.
SIMPLE PAST TENSE
You form the simple past of a verb by adding -ed onto the end of a regular verb but, irregular verb forms have to be learnt. There are several examples of irregular verbs in our Picture It section.
|I was.||I wasn’t.||Was I?|
|He was.||He wasn’t.||Was he?|
|She was.||She wasn’t.||Was she?|
|It was.||It wasn’t.||Was it?|
|You were.||You weren’t.||Were you?|
|We were.||We weren’t.||Were we?|
|They were.||They weren’t.||Were they?|
Simple Past Timeline
When you mention a time in the past:-
“Last year I took my exams.”
“I got married in 1992.”
It can be used to describe events that happened over a period of time in the past but not now.
“I lived in South Africa for two years.”
The simple past tense is also used to talk about habitual or repeated actions that took place in the past.
“When I was a child we always went to the seaside on bank holidays.”
It can sometimes be confusing.
“She had a baby last year.” (She hasn’t lost the baby, but here you are talking about the actual process of giving birth.)
SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE
The simple present tense is used to discuss permanant situations, and the frequency of events.
|To have||Short form||Other Verbs (to work)|
|I have||I’ve||I work|
|he has||he’s||He works|
|she has||she’s||She works|
|it has||it’s||It works|
|you have||you’ve||you work|
|we have||we’ve||we work|
|they have||they’ve||they work|
|I work.||I don’t work.||Do I work?||Yes, I do.||No, I don’t.|
|He works.||He doesn’t work.||Does he work?||Yes, he does.||No, he doesn’t.|
|She works.||She doesn’t work.||Does she work?||Yes, she does.||No, she doesn’t.|
|It works.||It doesn’t work.||Does it work?||Yes, it does.||No, it doesn’t.|
|You work.||You don’t work.||Do you work?||Yes you do.||No, you don’t.|
|We work.||We don’t work.||Do we work?||Yes we do.||No, we don’t.|
|They work.||They don’t work.||Do they work?||Yes they do.||No, they don’t.|
Regular or permanent situations
When something happens regularly or is a permanent situation we usually use the simple present tense. When using the simple present the verb (with the exception of the auxiliary verbs) remains in the dictionary form (verb + s with he/she/it).
Simple Present Timeline
Q) “Where do you live?” A) “I live in Germany.”
Q) “Where does he live?” A) “He lives in Germany.”
Q) “What do you do?” A) “I’m a teacher.”
Q) “What does he do?” A) “He’s a teacher.”
The simple present tense is also used to show how often something happens with adverbs of frequency – always, usually, often, sometimes, occasionally, seldom, rarely, never, etc…. And when discussing daily, weekly, monthly etc. routines.
“I always get up at 6.00.”
“I never drink coffee before 12.00.”
“I work on my website every day.”
“Every Monday and Thursday I go to the gym.”
We also use the simple present to ask for and give instructions or to discuss a series of actions.
Q) How do I make pancakes?” A) Well, first you take 4 eggs and crack them into a bowl, then you weigh out 4 oz. of flour and sieve it into the eggs. etc.
Simple Future Tense
We sometimes use the simple present form to discuss future events. Especially when talking about official events that happen at a set time such as timetables, meetings, itineraries, programmes etc.
Q) “What time does the train leave?” A) “It leaves at 17.30.”
Q) “What time does the meeting begin tomorrow?” A) “It begins at 8.00am.”
Q) “What time do you arrive at the airport tomorrow?” A) “I arrive at 6.30pm.”
PAST CONTINUOUS TENSE
We use the past continuous tense to describe a past action over a period of time.
Past Continuous Timeline
Q) “What were they doing yesterday?” A) “They were working all day.”
It can be used to describe what someone was doing at a particular point in time.
Q) “What were you doing at 7.30 last night?” A) “I was watching television.”
The past continuous can also be used to show that an activity frequently took place over a period of time.
Q) “What did you do on holiday?” A) “I went skiing a lot.”
Often the past continuous is mixed with the past simple to show what was happening when something happened. The past continuous refers to the longer event and the simple past to the event that interrupted it.
“I was driving to work when I crashed my car.”
PRESENT CONTINUOUS TENSE
When we talk about events that are actually happening now, we use the present continuous tense. This is formed by using the stem of the verb and adding -ing to the end, for example the verb “work” becomes “working”. In some cases you need to alter the spelling a bit for example the verb “die” becomes “dying”.
|I’m working.||I’m not working.||Am I working?||Yes, I am.||No, I’m not.|
|He’s working.||He isn’t working.||Is he working?||Yes, he is.||No, he isn’t.|
|She’s working.||She isn’t working.||Is she working?||Yes, she is.||No, she isn’t.|
|It’s working.||It isn’t working.||Is it working?||Yes, it is.||No, it isn’t.|
|You’re working.||You aren’t working.||Are you working?||Yes you are.||No, you aren’t.|
|We’re working.||We aren’t working.||Are we working?||Yes we are.||No, we aren’t.|
|They’re working.||They aren’t working.||Are they working?||Yes they are.||No, they aren’t.|
Present Continuous Timeline
Q) “What are you doing?” A) “I’m building a website.”
We also use the present continuous tense to talk about things that are happening around now but are temporary.
Q) “What are you doing these days?” A) “Unfortunately I’m working a lot.”
It is also used to describe trends or situations that are happening but may be temporary.
“Nowadays more and more people are shopping on the Internet.”
…and habitual actions (usually negative).
“He’s always cleaning his car.”
The present continuous tense can also be used to discuss future events:
The present continuous is usually used with doing verbs (verbs of action) not with verbs of state. The following verbs are not used in the continuous form in these contexts:-
|Conditions: belong, cost, need, own, seem|
Feelings: like, love, hate, want, wish
Beliefs: believe, feel, know, mean, remember, think, understand
THE FUTURE USING THE CONTINUOUS TENSE
The future continuous tense is the present continuous tense recycled. It is often used to ask about and discuss future arrangements or plans with just the addition of a future time, but you only use it when these arrangements are certain.
Q) What are you doing next week?” A) “I’m working.”
Q) What’s he doing tomorrow?” A) “He’s playing tennis.”
The present continuous tense is also used to talk about and make future appointments and arrangements using the words go or come….
Q) When are you coming to see me?” A) “Next week.”
Q) What are you doing tomorrow?” A) “I’m going to the dentist.”
…and using verbs of arrival and departure.
“We’re arriving in London at 2.30.”
“The train leaving from platform one is the 2.45 to Edinburgh.”
The Future Continuous (will be doing)
The use of ‘will be doing’ in a sentence is often referred to as the future continuous. It is used to talk about activities that will be happening at a particular time or over a particular time in the future.
Next week we will be having a party. Can you come?
You can also use it (or the present continuous form) to talk about future plans.
We will be leaving here at 7.30pm.