Easy Learning

Tense - Easy Learning Grammar

We use verbs to talk about actions and states. Verbs tenses allow us to talk about the time when the action or state takes place.All main verbs have two simple tenses, the present simple and the past simple.
present simplepast simple
I walk
she sings
they come
you bring
I walked
she sang
they came
you brought
In these tenses the verb is used on its own without any auxiliary verbs.English verbs also have compound tense forms. In these tenses the main verb is accompanied by one or both of the auxiliary verbs be and have. See Tense and Aspect for more on tenses.


The compound tenses of the verb express two aspects continuous and perfect.
  • The term aspect is used to talk about continuing actions versus completed actions or states. Simple tenses do not have aspect.
continuing actions
I am walking
she is singing
they are coming
you are bringing
I was walking
she was singing
they were coming
you were bringing
completed actions
I have walked
she has sung
they have come
you have brought
I had walked
she had sung
they had come
you had brought
We use these compound verbs when we want to talk about:
  • the continuous nature of an action (using a form of the auxiliary be + -ing). This is called the continuous aspect.
  • I am still studying French.
  • He was living in London all that year.
  • James is helping out with the children this week.
  • Sara and Scott were looking for a new flat at the time.
  • the completion of an action (using a form of the auxiliary have + a past participle, usually -ed). This is called the perfect aspect.
  • I have been a teacher for four years.
  • He had lived in London for a year before coming to Sussex.
  • James has helped out before.
  • Sara and Scott had found their flat by then.
The two aspects of the verb can be joined so that we can talk about the duration and the completion of an action in the same verb phrase. See Tense and Aspect for more on tense and aspect.
  • I have been studying French for four years.
  • I had been living in London for four years when I met him.
  • James has been helping us this week.

Simple tenses

Simple tenses show moments in time, timeless states, and habitual or repetitive actions.
  • It tastes good.
  • Julie keeps a diary.
  • Adrian went home at midnight.
  • She heard a strange noise in the night.
  • Rob usually walks to school.
  • Yesterday he went by car.
The present simple and the past simple of regular verbs are formed by using the base form of the verb. See The present simple tense and The past simple tense.

Continuous tenses

Continuous tenses show duration or continuity.
  • It is raining hard this morning.
  • It was raining when we came out of school yesterday.
  • I’m having dinner. Can I call you back?
  • He was listening to the radio when he heard the news.
The present continuous and the past continuous are formed from either the present or the past tense of the verb be + the present participle (or ‘-ing form’) of the main verb. See The present continuous tense and The past continuous tense.

Perfect tenses

The present perfect tense shows that an action is completed but that it still has some importance in the present time.
  • Ken has walked all the way from the station. (…and he’s tired.)
  • He has never visited me. (…and I’m feeling neglected.)
  • She has missed the train. (That’s why she’s not here.)
The past perfect is used to talk about something that happened in a time before a particular time in the past.
  • He told us that he had tried it before.
  • I had never been climbing before our activity holiday last year.
  • She was late because she had missed her train.
The present perfect and the past perfect are formed using either the present or the past tense of the verb have + the past participle of the main verb. See The present perfect tense and The past perfect tense.

Perfect continuous tenses

Perfect continuous tenses show duration, completion, and importance in the present time.
  • I have been working hard in the garden all day.
  • My mother has been helping me.
  • My sisters have been riding all day.
  • I had been working in Italy that summer.
  • Some of us had been waiting for two hours when the doctor appeared.
The present perfect continuous and the past perfect continuous are formed using either the present or past tense of the verb have + the past participle of be + the present participle of the main verb. See The present perfect continuous tense.

Other verb forms

Other verb combinations are used for positive or negative statements, or to express degrees of time and probability.
  • Do you like espresso coffee?
  • I don’t like fried food.
  • Could I have a coke, please?
  • You will be in Edinburgh within two hours.
  • They will probably meet us at the station.

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