Many English learners worry too much about tense. If you stopped 100 native English speakers in the street and asked them about tense, one of them might give you an intelligent answer—if you were lucky. The other 99 would know little about terms like “past perfect” or “present continuous”. And they would know nothing about aspect, voice or mood. But they can all speak fluent English and communicate effectively. Of course, for ESL it helps to know about tenses, but don’t become obsessed with them. Be like those native speakers! Speak naturally!
The English Tense System
The links below are to lessons for each of the 12 basic tenses. In each lesson we look at two aspects of the tense:
- Structure: How do we make the tense?
- Use: When and why do we use the tense?
Some lessons look at additional aspects, and most of them finish with a quiz to check your understanding.
I do do, I do
Present Continuous Tense
I am doing, I am doing tomorrow
Present Perfect Tense
I have done
Present Perfect Continuous Tense
I have been doing
I did do, I did
Past Continuous Tense
I was doing
Past Perfect Tense
I had done
Past Perfect Continuous Tense
I had been doing
I will do
Future Continuous Tense
I will be doing
Future Perfect Tense
I will have done
Future Perfect Continuous Tense
I will have been doing
Simple Present Tense
How do we make the Simple Present Tense?
subject + auxiliary verb + main verb do base
There are three important exceptions:
- For positive sentences, we do not normally use the auxiliary.
- For the 3rd person singular (he, she, it), we add s to the main verb or es to the auxiliary.
- For the verb to be, we do not use an auxiliary, even for questions and negatives.
Look at these examples with the main verb like:
|Subject||Auxiliary Verb||Main Verb|
|POSITIVE||I, you, we, they||like||coffee.|
|He, she, it||likes||coffee.|
|NEGATIVES||I, you, we, they||do||not||like||coffee.|
|He, she, it||does||not||like||coffee.|
|QUESTIONS||Do||I, you, we, they||like||coffee?|
|Does||he, she, it||like||coffee?|
Look at these examples with the main verb be. Notice that there is no auxiliary:
|You, we, they||are||French.|
|He, she, it||is||French.|
|You, we, they||are||not||old.|
|He, she, it||is||not||old.|
|Are||You, we, they||late?|
|Is||he, she, it||late?|
How do we use the Simple Present Tense?
We use the simple present tense when:
- the action is general
- the action happens all the time, or habitually, in the past, present and future
- the action is not only happening now
- the statement is always true
|John drives a taxi.|
|It is John’s job to drive a taxi. He does it every day. Past, present and future|
It is John’s job to drive a taxi. He does it every day. Past, present and future.
Look at these examples:
- I live in New York.
- The Moon goes round the Earth.
- John drives a taxi.
- He does not drive a bus.
- We do not work at night.
- Do you play football?
Note that with the verb to be, we can also use the simple present tense for situations that are not general. We can use the simple present tense to talk about now. Look at these examples of the verb “to be” in the simple present tense—some of them are general, some of them are now:
|Am I right?Tara is not at home.You are happy.|
|The situation is now.|
|I am not fat.Why are you so beautiful?Ram is tall.|
|The situation is general. Past, present and future|
. This page shows the use of the simple present tense to talk about general events. But note that there are some other uses for the simple present tense, for example in conditional or if sentences, or to talk about the future. You will learn about those later.
Prepared By JIMMY RAPPER
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