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Verb tense - Index

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Verb Tense

In English grammar, the term "tense" traditionally refers to any conjugated form expressing grammatical tense, aspect, or mood. The large number of different composite verb forms means that English has the richest and subtlest system of tense and aspect of any Germanic language. This can be confusing for foreign learners; however, the English system can be presented systematically by noting that each of the temporal spheres (past, present, future) distinguishes simple forms from progressive (continuous), perfect, or both.

Simple Present Simple Past Simple Future
I study English every day. Two years ago, I studied English in England. If you are having problems, I will help you study English.

I am going to study English next year.
Present Continuous Past Continuous Future Continuous
I am studying English now. I was studying English when you called yesterday. I will be studying English when you arrive tonight.

I am going to be studying English when you arrive tonight.
Present Perfect Past Perfect Future Perfect
I have studied English in several different countries. I had studied a little English before I moved to the U.S. I will have studied every tense by the time I finish this course.

I am going to have studied every tense by the time I finish this course.
Present Perfect Continuous Past Perfect Continuous Future Perfect Continuous
I have been studying English for five years. I had been studying English for five years before I moved to the U.S. I will have been studying English for over two hours by the time you arrive.

I am going to have been studying English for over two hours by the time you arrive.

Sentences can be active or passive. Therefore, tenses also have "active forms" and "passive forms".

This table, of course, omits a number of forms which can be regarded as additional to the basic system:

  • the intensive present I do write
  • the intensive past I did write
  • the habitual past I used to write
  • the intensive future I shall write
  • the "going-to future" I am going to write
  • the "future in the past" I was going to write
  • the conditional I would write
  • the perfect conditional I would have written
  • the subjunctive, if I be writing, if I were writing.
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