Verb Tenses in English

April 6, 2016
Updated: May 13, 2016

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To read, write, and speak better English, learning the qualities and peculiarities between the different verb tenses is important. Knowing how to and when to use them will enable you have a better appreciation of not only English, but also languages in general.

Table of contents

Simple

Past

The simple past tense shows an action that has started and finished in the past.

Maria created a beautiful painting.

Maria created a painting in the past, and she has also finished it in the past.

Present

The simple present tense shows an action that is repeating, or unchanging.

Maria creates beautiful paintings.

Maria creates paintings, and she still continues to do so.

Future

The simple future tense shows an action that will happen in the future.

Maria will create a beautiful painting.

Maria is going to create a beautiful painting in the future.

Perfect

Past

The past perfect tense shows action that happened in the past, before another past action. The hint here is the presence of two actions that happened in the past.

By the time Juan arrived, Maria had created a beautiful painting.

Before Juan arrived, Maria had created a painting.

Present

The present perfect tense shows action that happened in the past, or that began in the past and still continues to the present. This tense is like a combination of past and present tenses.

Maria has created many beautiful paintings.

Maria created paintings, and she has already stopped, or she still paints to this day.

Future

The future perfect tense shows action that will happen in the future, before another action. This is like the inverse of past perfect tense.

By the time Juan arrives, Maria will have created a beautiful painting.

Before Juan arrives, Maria will have created a painting.

Progressive

Past

The past progressive tense shows an action that was happening in the past, when another action happened. The hint here is that an action was occuring, together with another action.

Maria was creating a beautiful painting, when Juan arrived from school.

Maria was already creating a painting, when Juan arrived from school.

Present

The present progressive tense shows action that is happening at the same time the statement is spoken or written. This tense is relative to the time the speaker or writer, spoke or wrote.

Maria is creating a beautiful painting.

Maria is creating a painting, at the time the speaker said this statement.

Future

The future progressive tense shows a continuous action that will happen in the future.

Maria will be creating a beautiful painting next week.

Next week, Maria is going to create paintings.

Perfect Progressive

Past

The past perfect progressive tense shows an ongoing action that was finished, before another past action.

Before Juan’s arrival, Maria had been creating beautiful paintings.

Before Juan arrived, Maria was already creating paintings.

Present

The present perfect progressive tense shows an action that started in the past, continues in the present, and may continue in the future.

Maria has been creating paintings for a long time.

Maria created paintings in the past, still creates paints, and may create more paintings in the future.

Future

The future perfect progressive tense shows an action in the future that is ongoing, before a specific future time.

Before her 16th birthday, Maria will have been creating painting masterpieces.

Before Maria’s 16th birthday, she will be creating paintings.