Tenses To Go

 

This post will endeavour to probvide a quick-reference guide to the English tenses (and aspects!). The key words should be enough to remind readers about the detailed usage rules, and also highlight differences between the various tenses and aspects in English.

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Talking about present time

Simple Present: a regular or habitual action that is generally true in the present, or is always true.

Present Progressive/Continuous: (1) an action that is in progress around a point in time in the present OR (2) a repeated action over a period of time that continues in the present.

Present Perfect: the result(s) or consequence(s) of an action is/are still true or visible in the present.

Talking about past time

Present Perfect: (1) the time frame started in the past and leads up to the present, OR (2) the action / state itself started in the past and continues up to the present

Simple past: (1) the time frame in which the action/state took place is completed in the past, OR (2) the action itself was a ‘shorter’ action that was completed in the past.

Past Progressive/Continuous: (1) an action that was in progress around a point of time or for a period in the past OR (2) a repeated action over a period of time in the past.

Past Perfect: (1) the time frame started before a point in the past and led up to a point in the past  OR (2) the action / state itself started before a point in the past and continued up to a point in the past , OR (3) the result(s) or consequence(s) of an earlier action were still true or visible at a point in the past.

Talking about future time

Simple Present: “time table future” used for actions that will (almost) definitely happen in the future, and that were planned/decided on by someone other than the speaker/writer.

Will Future: (1) actions we believe (based on present evidence) will almost definitely happen in the future, OR (2) spontaneous decisions about that future made at the moment of speaking/writing.

Present Progressive/Continuous: “diary future” for fixed plans that will (almost) definitely happen in the future, and that were planned/decided on by the speaker/writer themselves.

Going-To Future: for intentions that are very likely to happen, and that were planned/decided on by the speaker/writer themselves

(Will-)Future progressive: (1) an action in continual progress over a period of time in the future OR (2) a repeated action over a period of time in the future

(Will-)Future Perfect: (1) the time frame starts in the present and leads up to a point in the future (by which time the action/state will be complete/over) OR (2) the action/state itself starts in the present and continues up to a point in the future

Further Reading

Leech, G., Meaning and the English verb (Longman, 2004)

Swan, M., Practical English Usage (Oxford U.P., 2005)

See also other blogs:

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