What are Verb Tenses in English – Definition, Examples, Types

Verb tenses – basic & examples

What are Verb Tenses in English – Definition, Examples, Types

What are verb tenses? Would you like to get a clear concept on it or brush up on your knowledge?

In this article, we will learn the basics of verb tenses, proper explanation, it’s definition, types, along a lot of examples.

Let’s begin!

What are Verb Tenses in English

Verb Tense Definition

If we are to define tense, then we can say, tense is nothing but the form taken by the verb to define the time of action.

In the English language, tense can be categorized into three major types.

These are –

  • Past
  • Present, and
  • Future, respectively.

Without the proper understanding of the tense, framing a sentence correctly is not just difficult but almost impossible. The tense of a particular sentence denotes the time of action, and without the correct indication of the time, our thoughts cannot form the desired expression.

Types of Verb Tenses

In this post, I will be listing all the different tenses along with their suitable examples for your better understanding.

There are main three tenses,

  • Present Tense
  • Past Tense
  • Future Tense

If you have always faced difficulties understanding these different forms of tenses, this post will help you.

So, let’s get started.

Description of Verb Tenses & Examples

Now, we will learn the basic details of all types of verb tenses along with examples.

The Present Tense


Although chronologically, we should look at the past tense first, here, we are going to start with the present tense for ease of understanding.

First, let’s look at the four different categories of The Present Tense:

  • Simple Present/Present Indefinite tense
  • Present Continuous Tense
  • Present Perfect Tense
  • Present Perfect Continuous Tense

Now, let’s discuss them one by one with supporting examples.

Present Indefinite

The first type of the present tense, present indefinite tense, indicates all the action that happens in the present and probably on a daily basis. We often use it to denote some common action or our daily habits.

Like for verb tenses examples:

  • John goes to school every day.
  • He eats rice.
  • I visit the school library every day.
  • My grandmother visits us every weekend.

The syntax of the sentence is fairly simple. It uses the first form of the verb since the action takes place in the present time almost on a daily basis.

[Rule: Subject + Verb 1st Form + Object]

Present Continuous Tense

The next type of the present tense is Present Continuous Tense. As the name suggests, this tense refers to an action that is still going on and has not ended yet in the present.

It can refer to basically any activity that is still in motion in the present tense. Like for example,

  • The boys are playing football on the field.
  • Elizabeth is cooking her special dish for everyone in the kitchen.
  • He is singing in the shower.
  • Someone is knocking on the door.

The syntax of this tense is relatively simple. It uses the present tense ‘be’ verbs as auxiliary verbs, and the main verbs use the ‘ing’ form or the continuous form.

[Rule: Subject + am / is / are + Verb + ing + object]

Note: The present perfect tense can also be used to denote some action that’s going to take place in the near future. In that case, instead of using the simple future tense, one can use the present continuous tense.

E.g.: I am going to Mumbai tomorrow.

Present Perfect Tense

The third type of the present tense is Present Perfect Tense, which is used to express some experience or an action that is just finished, yet the effect is still there.

Like for example;

  • I have been to Paris.
  • She has passed the exam.
  • They have done the work.
  • I have lived in Delhi for 5 years.

If you notice carefully, you can realize that all these actions have started in the past, but the result is still relevant in the present. The syntax of this tense is pretty simple. It uses the have/has verb as the auxiliary verb, and the main verb uses its past participle form.

[Rule: Subject + Have / Has + Verb 3rd / Past Participle + Object]

Present Perfect Continuous Tense

The last and fourth type of the present tense is Present Perfect Continuous Tense. This tense form is used to denote an action that started in the past but is still continuing in the present. Let’s look at a few examples to understand better.

  • It has been raining since morning.
  • He has been sleeping for the last four hours.
  • I have been watching TV for the last 40 minutes after dinner.

As you can see, all the actions here are something that started in the past, but it is still continuing. The syntax is also pretty simple. Just like in the present perfect tense, it uses the have/has as auxiliary verbs, the main verb taking the ‘ing’ version, and in the middle, they are joined by ‘been’. This ‘been’ is nothing but the past participle form of the verb ‘Be’.

[Rule: Subject + have / has + been + Verb + ing + object]

Past Tense


Let’s look at the four different categories of The Past Tense:

  • Simple Past Tense
  • Past Continuous Tense
  • Past Perfect Tense
  • Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Simple Past Tense

Much like the present tense, the first type of past tense is the Simple Past. This tense is used to denote an action that is completed in the past. It is also known as past indefinite tense. Let’s look at a few examples to understand the usage better.

  • She left yesterday.
  • I finished reading the novel three months ago.
  • He spoke to me about it last night.

As you can see, all these actions started in the past and are completed in the past. The syntax for this tense is much like simple present tense, but instead of using the present form or the base form of a verb, we use the past forms or the second form of a verb.

[Rule: Subject + Verb 2nd form + Object]

Past Continuous Tense

Next, we have the Past continuous Tense. The concept of this tense is almost similar to the present continuous tense. But the only difference is that it denotes an action that was continuously going on at one point in the past. Like for example;

  • He was making tea when I knocked on his door.
  • Emily was reading a book when her mother called her.

The syntax of this tense is quite similar to that of the present tense. But instead of using the present forms of the ‘be’ verb, we use the past forms like ‘was and were’ as the auxiliary verb, and the main verb will use the ‘ing’ form.

[Rule: Subject + was / were + Verb + ing + Object]

Past Perfect Tense

The past perfect tense is used in a unique situation where two actions have taken place in the past. For the first action, we use the past perfect tense, and for the second action, we use the simple past tense. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • He had left the station before I arrived there.
  • Mary had already started eating before I ordered.

The syntax of the tense is just like the present perfect tense. But instead of using ‘have/has’, we use ‘had’ as the auxiliary verb along with the past participle form of the main verb.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

This is another tense that is used in a unique situation. We can use past perfect continuous tense when something started in the past and continued until another action stopped it. Sounds a bit difficult? Well, let’s look at a few examples:

  • They had been playing cricket until Jack got injured.
  • I had been living in Kochi for 15 years before I moved to Japan.

As you can see, one action started in the past and continued till another action stopped it. The syntax of this tense is just like the Present perfect continuous tense, but the only difference is that instead of ‘have/has’, we use ‘had’. The rest is the same.

[Rule: Subject + had + been + Verb + ing + object]

The Future Tense


Let’s look at the four different categories of The Future Tense:

  • Simple Future Tense
  • Future Continuous Tense
  • Future Perfect Tense
  • Future Perfect Continuous Tense

Simple Future Tense

This tense is used to denote any action that will take place in the future, or we plan to do in the future. It can also denote instant decisions and future possibilities.

For example:

  • I will visit the university next week.
  • I guess it will rain tonight.
  • The door is not locked; I’ll close it.

The syntax of the simple future tense includes ‘Will/Shall’ plus the base form of the verb.

[Rule: Subject + Will / Shall + Verb 1st form + object]

Future Continuous Tense

Much like all the other continuous tenses, this one also denotes an action that will continue to happen but in the future. Like for example:

  • I will be taking classes every weekend from next week.
  • He shall be taking charge after his father’s death.

The syntax of this tense is simple. It uses ‘will\shall’ along with ‘be’ since the ‘be verb’ has no future form plus the ‘ing’ form of the verb.

[Rule: Subject + will / shall + be + Verb + ing + object]

There are many worksheets for verb tenses.

Future Perfect Tense

This is a unique tense where an action will be completed before a certain period of time in the future. Let’s look at an example:

  • By tomorrow, I will have finished the work.
  • By the next decade, they will have exhausted the natural resources.

Here, a particular action is hoped to be finished before a specific time in the future.

The syntax uses ‘have’ along with ‘will/shall’ as auxiliary and the past participle form of the main verb.

[Rule: Subject + will / shall + have + Verb 3rd form + Object]

Future Perfect Continuous Tense

This tense is used to indicate that an action will continue until a particular event or time in the future. It is very rarely used but let’s look at an example:

  • She will have been working for over 8 hours by the time her children arrive.

The syntax is just like future perfect tense; it will use ‘been’ and the ‘ing’ form of the main verb.

[Rule: Subject + Will / Shall + have + been + Verb + ing + object]

Conclusion

So there you go, the detailed discussion on all the types of verb tenses in the English language. Should you have any further queries, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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