English tenses are split into three broad time-related categories.
Tenses can be broken down even further. Tap on the links below and see further information about each type of verb tense.
The simple tense is used for all three-time frames, present, past, and future. It is used when talking about facts and repeated activities.
The continuous tense shows an action that is, was, or will happen at a specific time.
The perfect tense often refers to a past action that affects the present.
The perfect continuous tenses show how long something took, whether it has been completed or its importance to the present.
If you want to find out more about them in more depth, check out our verb tenses content, where we go deeper into each verb tense individually.
Here is an example of the simple present tense:
We use English personal pronouns followed by present tense verbs to form the simple present tense with regular verbs. Note: Singular third-person verbs often change, and an -s is placed at the end of the verb.
The present continuous tense or present progressive tense refers to an action or state of being. They deal with temporary actions or states.
Here is an example of the present continuous tense:
To form the present continuous tense, we conjugate the verb ‘to be,’ which in this example is ‘I am,’ and follow it with a present participle of another verb; here, ‘working.’ To form a present participle with regular verbs, we add -ing as a suffix.
Next up is the present perfect tense! We use it to talk about present experiences that relate to the past. They can refer to present situations that will continue or new information.
Here is an example of the present perfect tense:
To form the present perfect tense, we conjugate the auxiliary verb ‘have,’ which in this example is ‘has,’ and follow it with a past participle of another verb; here, ‘decreased.’ To form a past participle with regular verbs, we usually add -ed as a suffix.
Here is an example of present perfect continuous tense:
The past simple tense or preterite refers to a completed action before now.
Here's an example sentence using the past simple tense:
To form the past simple tense in the affirmative, we use the subject, which in this example is ‘they,’ and follow it with the verb + -ed, ‘played,’ and add further information. In this case, ‘soccer.’
To form the past simple tense in negative, we use the subject, which in this example is ‘they,’ and follow it with the auxiliary verb ‘didn’t, or did not.’ Then add a verb in the present participle, for example, ‘play.’
The simple past tense can also be interrogative.
Here is an example sentence using the past continuous tense:
To form the past continuous English tense, add the subject, which in this example is ‘I,’ and follow it with the past form of ‘to be.’ We used ‘was,’ add the verbs' present participle and add -ing as a suffix. In this example, we used ‘making.’
We refer to the past perfect tense when discussing an action completed at a particular time in the past.
Here is an example of past perfect tense:
To form the past perfect tense, we use the past auxiliary verb of ‘have,’ which in this example is ‘had,’ and follow it with the past participle ‘broken up,’ plus more information about the clause, in this case, ‘with her.’
Sometimes adverbs are used to give even more information, like ‘just.’
Here is an example of past perfect continuous tense:
To form the past perfect continuous tense, we use the past auxiliary verb ‘have’ in this example, ‘had,’ and follow it with the word ‘been,’ which is the past participle of ‘be.’ then, add a present participle verb, ‘working.’
Here is an example of the future simple tense:
You can also form this tense with ‘going to,’ but this is for more informal language.
We use the future continuous tense or future progressive when discussing an action that will start in the future and continue for a specific amount of time.
Here is an example of the future continuous tense:
The future perfect tense is used when discussing something that will be finished by a specific time in the future. We add expressions of time to help the sentence.
Here is an example of the future perfect tense:
The future perfect continuous tense or future progressive is used to talk about an action or event that will continue up to a specific time in the future. Think of it like projecting yourself to some time in the future.
Here is an example of the future perfect continuous tense:
To form this tense, we use a time expression; in this example, ‘in January,’ add the subject, ‘I,’ + ‘will have been,’ and the present participle of the chosen verb, ‘study,’ + -ing, as a suffix. Making, ‘studying.’
See? Studying the tenses in English doesn’t have to be a headache. To explore more on these topics in detail, click on our tense-related content.