Verb Tenses in English

Esperanto · English
April 6, 2016
Last updated: July 15, 2018

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.
―Jimmy Johnson

Click here for the condensed version.

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

Table of contents

Simple

Simple 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.

Simple 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.

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.

Perfect

Perfect 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.

Perfect 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.

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.

Progressive

Progressive 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.

Progressive 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.

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.

Perfect progressive

Perfect progressive 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.

Perfect progressive 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.

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.

Closing remarks

In order to communicate with the least amount of ambiguities, we have to be accurate. When we use the right constructs, we creater lesser room for misunderstanding. It’s the small changes in the things that we do that make a lot of difference.