Tenses are forms of a verb that show the time, continuance or completion of an action or a state that is expressed in connection with the moment at which a statement is made about it. The following tenses are commonly used:
- Simple Present Tense
- Present continuous Tense
- Present Perfect Tense
- Present Perfect Continuous Tense
- Simple Past Tense
- Past Continuous Tense
- Past Perfect Tense
- Past Perfect Continuous Tense
- Simple Future Tense
- Future Continuous Tense
- Future Perfect Tense
- Future Perfect Continuous Tense
Simple Present Tense
The Simple Present is used:
1) To express a habitual action
Ex: He drinks tea every morning.
I get up every day at five o’clock.
My watch keeps good time.
2) To express general truths
Ex: The sun rises in the east.
Honey is sweet.
Fortune favours the brave.
3) In exclamatory sentences beginning with here and there, to express what
is actually taking place in the present.
Ex: Here comes the bus!
There she goes.
4) In vivid narrative, as a substitute for the Simple Past.
Ex: Sohrab now rushes forward and deals a heavy blow to Rustum.
Immediately the Sultan hurries to his capital.
5) To indicate a future event that is part of a plan or arrangement.
Ex: We go to Bombay next week.
They leave tor London by the next mail.
We sail for America next Saturday.
When does the college reopen?
Note: also the other uses of the Simple Present Tense.
1) It is used to introduce quotations
Ex: Keats says, ‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever’.
2) It is used, instead of the Simple Future Tense, in clauses of time and of
Ex: I shall wait till you finish your lunch.
If it rains we shall get late.
3) As in broadcast commentaries on sporting events, the Simple Present is
used, instead of the Present Continuous; to I describe activities in progress
where there is stress on the succession of happenings rather than on the
4) The Simple Present is used, instead of the Present Continuous, with the
type of verbs mentioned below. We must say, for example, ‘I see the
sunrise’, not ‘I am seeing the sunrise’.
a) Verbs of perception, e.g. see, hear, smell, notice, recognize.
b) Verbs of emotion, e.g. want, wish, desire, feel, like, love, hate,
hope, refuse, prefer.
c) Verbs of thinking, e.g. think, suppose, believe, agree, consider, trust,
remember, forget, know, understand, imagine, mean, mind.
Present Continuous Tense
The Present Continuous is used
1) For an action going on at the time of speaking
Ex: She is singing (now).
The boys are playing hockey.
2) For a temporary action which may not be actually happening at the time
Ex: I am reading ‘David Copperfield’ (but I am not reading at this moment).
3) For an action that is planned or arranged to take place in the near
Ex: I am going to the cinema tonight.
My uncle is arriving tomorrow.
The following verbs, on account of their meaning, are not normally used in the continuous form:
1) Verbs of perception, e.g. see, hear, smell, notice, recognize.
2) Verbs of appearing, e.g., appear, look, seem.
3) Verbs of emotion, e.g. want, wish, desire, feel, like, love, hate, hope,
4) Verbs of thinking, e.g., think, suppose believe, agree, consider, trust,
remember, forget, know, understand, imagine, mean, mind.
5) have (=possess), own, possess, belong to, contain’, consist of, be
(except when used in the passive).
These verbs are used in the Simple Present. They may, however, be used in the continuous tenses with a change of meaning.
Ex: I am thinking of (=considering the idea of) going to America.
Mr. Singh is minding (=looking after) the baby while his wife is out shopping.
Present Perfect Tense
The Present Perfect is used
1) To indicate completed activities in the immediate past.
Ex: He has just gone out.
It has just struck ten.
2) To express past actions whose time is not given and not definite.
Ex: Have you read ‘Gulliver’s Travels’?
I have never known him to be angry.
Mr. Hari has been to Japan.
3) To describe past events when we think more of their effect in the present than of the action itself.
Ex: “Gopi has eaten all the biscuits (i.e., there aren’t any left for you).
I have cut my finger (and it is bleeding now).
I have finished my work (=now I am free).
4) To denote an action beginning at some time in the past and continuing up to the present moment.
Ex: I have known him for a long time.
He has been ill since last week.
We have lived here for ten years.
We haven’t seen Padma for several months.
The following adverbs (or adverb phrases) can be used with the Present
Perfect: just, often, never, ever (in questions only), so far, till now, yet (in negatives and questions), already, since—phrases, for—phrases, today, this week, this month, etc.
Note: The Present Perfect is never used with adverbs of past time. We should not say, for example, ‘He has gone to Rajahmundry yesterday’. In such cases the Simple Past should be used (‘He went to Rajahmundry yesterday’).
Present Perfect Continuous Tense
The Present Perfect Continuous is used for an action which began at some
time in the past and is continuing.
Ex: He has been sleeping for five hours (and is still sleeping).
They have been building the bridge for several months.
They have been playing since four o’clock.
This tense is sometimes used for an action already finished. In such cases, the
continuity of the activity is emphasized as an explanation of something.
Ex: ‘Why are your clothes so wet’?’, — ’I have been watering the garden’.
Simple Past Tense
The Simple Past is used to indicate an action completed in the past. It often
occurs with adverbs or adverb phrases of past time.
Ex: The steamer sailed yesterday.
I received his letter a week ago.
She left school last year.
Sometimes this tense is used without an adverb of time. In such cases the time may be either implied or indicated by the context.
Ex: I learnt Hindi in Nagpur.
I didn’t sleep well (i.e., last night).
Babar defeated Rana Sanga at Kanwaha.
The Simple Past is also used for past habits
Ex: He studied many hours every day.
She always carried an umbrella.
Past Continuous Tense
The Past Continuous is used to denote an action going on at some time in the past. The time of the action may or may not be indicated.
Ex: We were listening to the radio all evening.
It was getting darker.
The light went out while I was reading.
When I saw him, he was playing chess.
This tense is also used, with always, continually, etc., for persistent habits in the past.
Ex: He was always grumbling.
Past Perfect Tense
The Past Perfect describes an action completed before a certain moment in
Ex: I met him in New Delhi in 1970.
I had seen him last five years before.
If two actions happened in the past, it may be necessary to show which action happened earlier than the other. The Past Perfect is mainly used in such situations. The Simple Past is used in one clause and the Past Perfect in the other.
Ex: When I reached the station, the train had started (so I couldn’t get ‘into the
I had done my exercise when Hari came to see me.
I had written the letter before he arrived.
Past Perfect Continuous Tense
The Past Perfect Continuous is used for an action that began before a certain
point in the past and continued up to that time.
Ex: At that time, he had been writing a novel for two months.
When Mr. Mukerji came to the school in 1965, Mr. Anand had already
been teaching there for five years.
Simple Future Tense
The Simple Future is used for an action that has still to take place.
Ex: I shall see him tomorrow.
Tomorrow will be Sunday.
Note: The Simple Future Tense generally expresses pure or colourless future.
When the future is coloured with intention, the going to\infinitive construction is preferred.
Ex: ‘He is going to build a new house.’
Future Continuous Tense
The Future Continuous represents an action as going on at some time in future time.
Ex: I shall be reading the paper then.
When I get home, my children will be playing.
This tense is also used for future events that are planned.
Ex: I’ll be staying here till Sunday.
He will be meeting us next week.
Future Perfect Tense
The Future Perfect is used to indicate the completion of an action by a certain future time.
Ex: I shall have written my exercise by that time.
Before you go to see him, he will have left the place.
Future Perfect Continuous Tense
The Future Perfect Continuous indicates an action represented as being in progress over a period of time that will end in the future.
Ex: By next July, we shall have been living here for four years.
When he gets his degree, he will have been studying at Oxford for four years.