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Tenses (Overview) B1-B2

Tenses in English grammar define the time frame and continuity of actions or events, indicating when they happen in relation to the present moment. They are crucial for clarity and precision in communication, allowing speakers and writers to convey when actions occur and in what sequence.

Discussion Starter Text

“Every morning, John runs through the park. Yesterday, he was running when he stumbled upon an old friend. They have been planning to meet up for months. Next Saturday, they will be attending a concert together, an event they have been looking forward to.”

This passage uses a variety of tenses to narrate events that happen regularly, actions that were happening at a specific moment in the past, plans that have been made for the future, and actions that are anticipated.

Why Tenses are Important to Learn

Understanding and using tenses correctly are fundamental for effective communication in English. They help to:

  • Clearly indicate the timing of actions.
  • Describe sequences and durations of events.
  • Express conditions and hypotheses.
  • Convey nuances in meanings and attitudes towards events.

How to Learn Tenses through Self-study

  1. Understand the Basics: Start with the present, past, and future simple tenses to get a grasp of basic time frames.
  2. Practice with Examples: Use example sentences to see how each tense is used in context.
  3. Use Signal Words: Learn the signal words that typically accompany each tense to identify and use them correctly.
  4. Create Your Sentences: Apply what you’ve learned by creating your own sentences in different tenses.
  5. Regular Revision and Practice: Consistently review and practice each tense, moving from simpler to more complex structures.


Table 1: Form

Tenses Positive Negative Interrogative
Present Simple I do / I play I do not do / play Do I do / play?
Present Continuous I am doing / playing I am not doing / playing Am I doing / playing?
Present Perfect I have done / played I have not done / played Have I done / played?
Present Perfect Continuous I have been doing / playing I have not been doing / playing Have I been doing / playing?
Past Simple I did / played I did not do / play Did I do / play?
Past Continuous I was doing / playing I was not doing / playing Was I doing / playing?
Past Perfect I had done / played I had not done / played Had I done / played?
Past Perfect Continuous I had been doing / playing I had not been doing / playing Had I been doing / playing?
Future Simple I will do / play I will not do / play Will I do / play?
Future Continuous I will be doing / playing I will not be doing / playing Will I be doing / playing?
Future Perfect I will have done / played I will not have done / played Will I have done / played?
Future Perfect Continuous I will have been doing / playing I will not have been doing / playing Will I have been doing / playing?

Table 2: Meaning and Use

Tenses Meaning and Use + Example Sentence Signal Words
Present Simple Habitual actions: “She walks to school.” always, usually, often
Present Continuous Actions happening now: “I am studying.” now, right now
Present Perfect Actions completed at an unspecified time: “They have arrived.” already, yet, just
Present Perfect Continuous Actions started in the past and continuing: “We have been waiting for an hour.” for, since
Past Simple Completed past actions: “He left early.” yesterday, last week
Past Continuous Past actions in progress: “She was reading at 7 PM.” while, when
Past Perfect Actions completed before another past action: “They had finished before I arrived.” before, by the time
Past Perfect Continuous Duration of past actions before another action: “I had been working there for a year before I quit.” for, since
Future Simple Predictions or promises: “It will rain tomorrow.” tomorrow, next week
Future Continuous Future actions in progress: “I will be sleeping at midnight.” at this time tomorrow
Future Perfect Actions to be completed by a future point: “She will have graduated by then.” by tomorrow, by next year
Future Perfect Continuous Duration of future actions before another future point: “They will have been living here for ten years by next month.” for, by the time, until

Learning tenses through structured self-study allows learners to gradually build up their understanding and use of different time frames, enhancing their ability to communicate effectively in English.