Sergey Sulimov


Sergey Sulimov


The tenses in English

школа английского языка

The main thing when you take on a difficult task is to find a sensible instruction. The tenses in English are a difficult topic that almost all students have trouble with when they first approach it. That is why we offer simple and clear instructions for the first introduction.

English all tenses

Past, present, and future – you’d think that would be difficult. Nevertheless, it’s when you learn English tenses that you’ll find that the two languages grammar can be quite different.

So how many tenses are there in English? There are three, just like in Russian. However, the peculiar thing is that in English, there are also types and voices, and if you consider everything, you can get as many as 26 tenses. However, first, you only need 12 – 4 types for each time:

Past, Present, and Future tenses;

Simple, Continuous, Perfect, and Perfect Continuous types.

And the Perfect Continuous variants are quite rarely used in everyday speech, but it is these 12 forms of expressing and specifying the tenses that you need to understand in order to get an overview and to understand the whole picture.

The English tenses in one table

English verbs have three whales: to be, to have, and to do. No tense construction can do without them. They are auxiliary verbs that help to construct this or that temporal form. The main verbs are also used (we will call them V), which make sense and, if necessary, can be inflected with endings. V2 and V3 are second and third irregular verbs.

A table with the formation rules and examples for each case will help you better understand the tenses in English.

SimpleV/VsDo/does + V? 
+ I swim.+ She cries. 
? Do you swim?? Does she cry? 
– I do not swim.– She doesn’t cry. 
V2Did + V? 
+ I swam.+ She cried. 
? Did you swim?? Did she cry? 
– I did not swim.– She didn’t cry.
Will + V  
+ I will swim.+ She will cry. 
? Will you swim?? Will she cry? 
– I will not swim.– She won’t cry. 
ContinuousTo be (am/is/are) + Ving 
+ I am swimming.+ She is crying. 
? Are you swimming?? Is she crying? 
– I am not swimming.– She isn’t crying. 
To be (was/were) + Ving 
+ I was swimming.+ She was crying. 
? Were you swimming?? Was she crying? 
– I was not swimming.– She weren’t crying. 
Will be + Ving 
+ I will be swimming.+ She will be crying. 
? Will you be swimming?? Will she be crying? 
– I will not be swimming.– She won’t be crying. 
PerfectHave/has + Ved/V3 
+ I have swum.+ She has cried. 
? Have you swum?? Has she cried? 
– I have not swum.– She hasn’t cried. 
Had + Ved/V3 
+ I had swum.+ She had cried. 
? Had you swum?? Had she cried? 
– I had not swum.– She hadn’t cried. 
Will have + Ved/V3 
+ I will have swum.+ She will have cried. 
? Will you have swum?? Will she have cried? 
– I will not have swum.– She won’t have cried. 
Perfect ContinuousHave/has been + Ving
+ I have been swimming.+ She has been crying. 
? Have you been swimming?? Has she been crying? 
– I have not been swimming.– She hasn’t been crying.
Had been + Ving
+ I had been swimming.+ She had been crying. 
? Had you been swimming?? Had she been crying? 
– I had not been swimming.– She hadn’t been crying. 
Will have been + Ving
+ I will have been swimming.+ She will have been crying. 
? Will you have been swimming?? Will she have been crying? 
– I will not have been swimming.– She won’t have been crying. 

How to choose the right English tense

Each temporal form has many functions and uses, but there is one key one that you can use as a guide when choosing the right construction:

◾Simple conveys facts or a specific action;

◾Continuous expresses a process;

◾Perfect expresses the result;

Perfect Continuous combines process + result.

For clarity, we offer another table – now with when to use which tense the rules. For better understanding, we add marker words to each tense form.

SimpleRegular or one-time action in the present
always (всегда)usually (обычно)never (никогда)sometimes (иногда)rarely (нечасто)seldom (редко)every day (каждый день)often (часто)
An action that ended in the past 
yesterday (вчера)in 2020 (в 2020 году)5 years ago (5 лет назад)last month (в прошлом месяце)the day before yesterday (позавчера)
An action that will happen in the future 
tomorrow (завтра)next fall (следующей осенью)in two years (через два года) in 2030 (в 2030 году)
ContinuousThe action takes place at this moment  
all the time (все время)always (всегда)constantly (постоянно)
The action took place at a certain moment or lasted some time in the past
all day long (весь день)all the time (все время)the whole day (целый день)from 5 till 10 (с 5 до 10)
The action will take place at a certain moment or will last some time in the future
at 8 o’clock (в восемь часов)at that moment (в этот момент)in an hour (через час)
PerfectThe action has already taken place, and we can see the result now 
never (никогда) just (только что)already (уже)yet (еще)ever (когда-либо)
The action ended before another action or a certain point in the past
by that time (к тому времени)by Friday (к пятнице)by then (к тому времени)
The action will end by a specific time in the future 
by Monday (к понедельнику)by that time (к тому времени)by next year (к следующему году)
Perfect ContinuousThe action began in the past and continues to this day 
for a week (в течение недели)since morning (с утра)lately (в последнее время)all my life (всю мою жизнь)
Action began at a certain point in the past and continued until another action or a specific moment
for 7 months (в течение 7 месяцев)for a long time (в течение долгого времени)since 4 o’clock (с 4 часов)
The action began in the past, continues now, and will continue into the future 
till и until (пока не) by the end of the day (к концу дня)

Tips for beginners to learn English from scratch

You’ve already got some system to make it easier to master the tenses in English: the formula for each tense form, examples, marker words. Here are a few more tips that will be especially helpful for beginners.

◾Print out both worksheets and hang them in a prominent place.

◾Make up your own examples for the 12 cells each.

◾Do more writing exercises-motor memory will help you write things down in your subcortex.

Study sequentially, from simple to complex, one rule at a time (each may take more than one day).

◾Learn irregular verbs so you won’t be distracted by searching for the right word form in the dictionary.

◾Watch movies and read books in the original to get a feel for how to use the tenses correctly.

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