Verbs have different characteristics that help make us clear while talking. Indicating the tenses is one of the characteristics that is related to time.

What are tenses in the English Grammar?

What Do We Mean by Tense?

Any verb which is able to indicate the exact or approximate time for the occurrence of action, has a tense. So, the tense, makes the time of actions clear.

Indicating Tense or Not?

We can use different structures in English to talk about past, future, or present time. But none of them is considered tense. As a result, you should know which structure has a tense to indicate the time. For example:

She is going to find a job.

They will have finished the project by Sunday.

Different Tenses in English

There are three main tenses in English, as follows:

  • Present
  • past
  • future

Can One Tense Indicate More than One Time?

A particular tense can describe two different actions in two different periods of time. As a result, there is a need to know the usage of every tense to use them in the right way. Check out the examples.

I go swimming tomorrow.

I go to school every day.

Combination of Aspects and Tenses

Every verb can indicate two characteristics. One is the tense and the other is the aspect. The verb is not meaningful unless it has both the aspect and the tense together. The tense alone has no significance.
Let us consider the tense and the aspect of the verbs all together on a table.

Let us learn them one by one.

Use of the Simple Present Tense

The 'simple present tense' (also called 'present simple tense'), is used to express actions that are happening repeatedly, or how often something happens. Another use is to describe actions that are happening in a chain of series. We can also use the present simple tense to describe actions in general.
It is really important to know that we can use the present tense to describe the timetable in the future. Check out the examples.

Suddenly she calls me and tells me that the store is on fire.

The Jimmy Fallon show is at 11:34 pm.

Use of the Simple Past Tense

The 'simple past tense' (also called 'past simple tense') is used to describe actions that began happening in the past and finished in the past with no connection with the present time. Here are a few examples.

She got her license three years ago.

I slept well last night.

Use of the Future Simple

The 'simple future' (also called 'future simple') is used to talk about events that have not happened yet. The important point to keep in mind is that these structures are not actually considered tenses. That is why we do not call them tenses. For example:

I will be there for you.

She is going to get married

using the present simple to talk about routines

Use of the Present Progressive Tense

The 'present progressive tense' (also called the 'present continuous tense'), is used to describe an action that happens at the same time of speaking or around it. Sometimes we can use the present progressive to express a fixed plan, date, or for something that we have already decided on it. Check out the examples:

I am quitting smoking.

She is trying hard to loose weight.

Use of the Past Progressive Tense

We use the 'past progressive tense' (also called 'past continuous tense'), to talk about an unfinished action that started to happen in the past. In some cases, we can use the past progressive tense to indicate that an event happened in the middle of another incident.

She was studying English two years ago.

Alice and Sam were talking in the conference the whole time he was giving his speech.

Use of the Future Progressive Tense

The 'future progressive tense' is used when an action happens because it normally does or to express an action that is in progress at a certain time in the future. Here are the examples.

I will be raising my prize up, when you are fettering me.

He will be waiting for you from dust till dawn.

Use of the Present Perfect Tense

The 'simple present perfect tense' is used to express actions that started in the past but continued up to the present time or at least have a connection with the present. These are a few examples that may help you:

They have been in China for three years.

We have been married for 37 years from now.

Use of the Past Perfect Tense

The 'past perfect tense' is used as the past form of the present perfect tense, or to express an earlier action when it comes to a series of events in the past. The event that happened earlier than the other one, is expressed in the past perfect tense. For example:

They had talked to the manager and he changed his mind.

She had been in Tokyo before leaving for London

Use of the Future Perfect Tense

The 'future perfect tense' is used to express an action that will already have happened before a certain time in the future. Here are a few examples that may help you understand the concept:

We will have arrived to Sydney by Monday.

I won't have been married by next year.

Use of the Present Perfect Progressive Tense

The 'present perfect progressive' tense is used to express actions that began to happen in the past and have just stopped. The emphasis in this structure is on the length of the time. Check out the examples:

I have been working on this essay for over five hours.

I have been acting on set for two days. I am really tired.

Use of the Past Perfect Progressive Tense

The 'past perfect progressive' tense is used to express the length of an action that had been happening before another event. Check these examples out for more clarification.

We had been painting the house the last two days.

They had been playing hockey for years.

Use of the Future Perfect Progressive Tense

The 'future perfect progressive' tense is used to indicate the length of an action that will be already happened before a certain time in the future. For example:

She will have been dancing for three years, by then.

Samuel will have been studying math for one year when I come back home, from military.


There are three different tenses in English that are used in four different aspects. Here are the tenses and the aspects in English.

  • present simple, present progressive, present perfect, present perfect progressive
  • past simple, past progressive, past perfect, past perfect progressive
  • future simple, future progressive, future perfect, future perfect progressive


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The present continuous tense is a basic tense. It is usually one of the first tenses you start to learn when you first start studying English.

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