Tense : Introduction

If we talk of the word ‘Tense‘, it is derived from the Latin word ‘Tempus’ which means time. Time is a dimension which expresses the state of the speech or sentence that we form. State shows if the action of the sentence is already done or is happening now or to happen later in future. The verb of a sentence shoulders the responsibility to express the time of the action or state. Thus, if we want to express an event that is already from the time passed by, we call it a past event and use the past form of the verb in; if the expression shows an event of now, we call it a present event and use the present form of the verb in; the same way, if the expression shows an event from any upcoming time, we name it a future event and use the method to make the verb represent a future time. So, tense can be broadly categorised into three kinds, i.e., I. Present Tense, II. Past tense and III. Future Tense.

Each of the aforementioned tenses can further be categorised into four sub-categories according to express its sense and exact timing. The sub-categories are, I. Simple or Indefinite, II. Continuous, III. Perfect and, IV. Perfect Continuous.

Let’s take a bird’s-eye view of all the categories of the tense below along with an example from each section.

Mindmap of Tense

1. Present Tense

Present Indefinite

Construction

  • Sub + V1 + Obj
  • Sub + do/does + not + V1 + Obj
  • Wh- + do/does + Sub + V1 + Obj
  • Wh- + don’t/doesn’t + Sub + V1 + Obj

Remember! for negative interrogative sentences we place ‘not‘ after the pronoun but, if there is a noun, we place ‘not’ before the noun. e.g.,

  • Does he not go to college?
  • Does not Raji go to college?

When to use Present Indefinite Tense?

We use present indefinite tense in various aspects. It is used for expressing universal truths. It is used to express regular habits. It is used in newspaper headlines. Remember, there cannot be two future tenses in a single sentence. One should be in the present indefinite and another in the future tense. The part having a conditional term should be in the Present Indefinite Tense. Sometimes present indefinite tense is used in the place of future indefinite when the action is certain and is of near future. It is used after the expression ‘had better’, ‘would better’, ‘had rather‘, ‘as usual‘, ‘usually‘, ‘generally‘, ‘sometimes‘, ‘never‘, ‘often‘, etc. Let’s go through examples from each aforementioned aspect.

  • The sun rises in the east.
  • I take tea coffee day.
  • J&K Governor appeals for calm, remains silent on Article 35A
  • We will move on as soon as we get a signal.
  • If it rains, I will not go to college.
  • The next film of Shahrukh Khan releases on 7th March.
  • The show begins 9 p.m. tonight.
  • You had better talk to your teacher regarding your studies.
  • Do you want to go for a coffee? I would rather not, if you don’t mind.

Present Continuous

Construction

  • Sub + am/is/are + V + ing + Obj
  • Sub + am/is/are + not + V + ing + Obj
  • Wh- + am/is/are + Sub + V + ing + Obj

When to use Present Continuous Tense?

There are many an aspect where we use Present Continuous Tense. It is used to describe an ongoing action or event, that is happening when the speaker is talking about the action or event. It is used to express compulsive habits. It is used to express future action which is near and certain. Let’s check the usages.

  • I am watching a movie.
  • They are playing football.
  • You are reading a few examples.
  • He is always crying and nagging.
  • They are going to get married tomorrow.

Present Perfect

Construction

  • Sub + have/has + V3 + Obj
  • Sub + have/has + not + V3 + Obj
  • Wh- + have/has + Sub + V3 + Obj

When to use Present Perfect Tense?

In various aspects we use Present Perfect Tense, mainly it portrays an action that is incomplete, incomplete in the sense, the result of the action is yet to come or experience. Present Perfect tense is used to express an action that has shortly been done. It is used when the time of the action is not clear. It is used when there are some words in a sentence like, ‘just’, ‘just now’, ‘already’, ‘recently’, ‘so far’, ‘yet’, ‘as yet‘, ‘lately‘, ‘recently‘, ‘by now‘, ‘by the time of now‘, ‘by this time‘, ‘of late‘, etc. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

  • I have completed my homework.
  • I have never been to London.
  • He has not completed the project yet.

Present Perfect Continuous

Construction

  • Sub + have/has + been + V + ing + Obj + since/for + time
  • Sub + have/has + not + been + V + ing + Obj + since/for + time
  • Wh- + have/has + Sub + been + V + ing + Obj + since/for + time

When to use Present Perfect Continuous Tense?

We use this tense when a time is added to any sentence of continuous form. It is often called Point of Time and Period of Time. Some phrases like, From time immemorial, for long, since, etc. directly take present perfect continuous tense.

  • She has been finding the dress since morning.
  • I have been watching the concert for an hour.
  • From time immemorial men and women have been sharing a peerless pair.

Exception

Stative verbs like ‘know’, ‘smell’, ‘taste’, ‘love’, ‘possess’, ‘belong’, ‘own’, ‘feel’, ‘think’ cannot be used in continuous tenses.

see’ & ‘hear’ are involuntary verbs, used to refer to an involuntary action and these verbs are not used in the continuous tense.

[ since/for → present perfect and past perfect tenses; for/from → future perfect tenses ]

2. Past Tense

Past Indefinite

Construction

  • Sub + V2 + Obj
  • Sub + did + not + V1 + Obj
  • Wh- + did + Sub + V1 + Obj

When to use Past Indefinite Tense?

Past Indefinite Tense is used to mention an event that is already completed. It should be used with the past adverb of times, like, ‘yesterday‘, ‘last week’, ‘last year’, ‘last night‘, ‘last evening‘, ‘the other day’, ‘before’, ‘ago‘, ‘back‘, etc. And when we start a sentence with some phrases, like, ‘It is time’, ‘It is the time‘, ‘It is high time’, ‘It is about time’, ‘Now is the time‘, ‘It is (the) right time‘, ‘It is long since’, ‘It is just as well that‘, etc., we use past indefinite tense. Let’s go through a few examples.

  • I visited her yesterday.
  • Last week, I came accross a friend of mine.
  • It is time we started working.
  • It is just as well that I brought un umbrella with me.

Check the Difference between The Past Tense and The Present Perfect Tense

Past Continuous

Construction

  • Sub + was/were + V + ing + Obj
  • Sub + was/were + not + V + ing + Obj
  • Wh- + was/were + Sub + V + ing + Obj

When to use Past Continuous Tense?

The Past Continuous Tense is used to express an ongoing past event or action.

  • Yesterday, he was calling you.

Past Perfect

Construction

  • Sub + had + V3 + Obj + before/after + Simple past tense
  • Sub + had + not + V3 + Obj + before/after + Simple past tense
  • Wh- + had + Sub + V3 + Obj + before/after + Simple past tense

When to use Past Perfect Tense?

This is used to show two past events or actions in a single sentence. One event happed earlier than the other. Here, we use ‘before’ or ‘after’ to express the order of the events or actions. If we use ‘before‘ as the conjunction, the earlier event is placed first and ‘had‘ goes with the earlier event or action and the latter event is written in simple past or past indefinite. On the other hand, if we use ‘after‘ in place of ‘before’ the clauses interchange the places. Let’s go through a couple of examples to understand it better.

  • I had reached the station before the train left.
  • The train left after I had reached the station.

Remember! In a single sentence, there can’t be two simple past tenses. The action taking place earlier should take past perfect and the action taking place later on, should take simple past. If the part of past perfect comes first then ‘before’ is used but if it goes last then ‘after’ is used.

In case of three incidents in a single sentence:
The train left after I had reached the station and I got it easily.

Exceptions

  • Then he was 18 his father had died before that time.
  • I had completed my project by last week.

[ ‘by + time’ shows a deadline, is always perfect tense ]

Past Perfect Continuous

Construction

  • Sub + had + been + V + ing + Obj + since/for + time
  • Sub + had + not + been + V + ing + Obj + since/for + time
  • Wh- + had + Sub + been + V + ing + Obj + since/for + time

When to use Past Perfect Continuous Tense?

If there is a duration or period of time is mentioned with a past ongoing event or action, we use Past Perfect Continuous Tense.

Yesterday, they have been waiting for me for an hour.

3. Future Tense

Future Indefinite

Construction

  • Sub + shall/will + V1 + Obj
  • Sub + shall/will + not + V1 + Obj
  • Wh- + shall/will + Sub + V1 + Obj

When to use Future Indefinite Tense?

Future Indefinite Tense is used to express an event or an action from the future time.

  • I shall talk to you tomorrow.
  • He will join us in a moment.

Future Continuous

Construction

  • Sub + shall/will + be + V + ing + Obj
  • Sub + shall/will + not + be + V + ing + Obj
  • Wh- + shall/will + Sub + be + V + ing + Obj

When to use Future Continuous Tense?

Future Continuous Tense is used to express a continuous action or event in future. Sometimes, future continuous tense is used in the place of future indefinite to express certainty.

  • Tomorrow I will be waiting for you.
  • He will be arriving soon.

Future Perfect

Construction

  • Sub + shall/will + have + V3 + Obj + before/after + Simple present tense
  • Sub + shall/will + not + have + V3 + Obj + before/after + Simple present tense
  • Wh- + shall/will + Sub + have + V3 + Obj + before/after + Simple present tense

When to use Future Perfect Tense?

Future Perfect tense is used to express the completion of an action or event before or after another event or action. Future perfect tense can also be used with a single action when a deadline (‘by + time’) is there.

  • I will have completed the task before he arrives.
  • I will have completed the task after he arrives.
  • Before/After he arrives, I will have completed the task.
  • I should have completed my task by next year.

Future Perfect Continuous

Construction

  • Sub + shall/will + have + been + V + ing + Obj + from/for + Time
  • Sub + shall/will + not + have + been + V + ing + Obj + from/for + Time
  • Wh- + shall/will + Sub + have + been + V + ing + Obj + from/for + Time

When to use Future Perfect Continuous Tense?

  • Tomorrow, I shall have been watching T.V. from 6 p.m. in the afternoon.