Verb tenses in English grammar

In this part we will be looking at the various verb forms that we use to talk about present, past and future time – these verb forms are called tenses. We will also be looking at the meanings of these tenses and the differences between them.

The tenses can be used to refer to more than one time; so, for example, we use the Present Continuous tense to talk about actions that are happening at the time of speaking (e.g. It’s still raining) and are, therefore, unfinished However, we can also use the same tense to refer to future plans (e.g. I’m quitting my job in a month’s time).

In the sections that follow, the forms of the tenses are introduced, beginning with the present, and then their various meanings are discussed. You should bear in mind that the meanings given in the following sections are not exhaustive and are, in many cases, only a guide to the senses that can be conveyed. You should also be aware that there are often exceptions to the general rules that are presented below.

The tenses covered in these notes include:

  • Talking about the present:
    • Present simple
    • Present continuous
    • Present perfect simple
    • Present perfect continuous
  • Talking about the past:
    • Past simple
    • Past continuous
    • Past perfect simple
    • Past perfect continuous
  • Talking about the future:
    • Using ‘will’
    • Using ‘going to’
    • Using present continuous for future events
    • Using present simple for future events
    • Future continuous
    • Future perfect simple
    • Future perfect continuous