Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the cupboard, having got what there is to get out of Grammar – Love it or Loathe it?, I’m going to hit you with an article about English language tenses.
Don’t worry though, you already know all about this because you’re using many, if not all of these tenses without even thinking about it – and probably without being able to name them.
Just thank your lucky stars if you’re a native English speaker. There are 12 tenses – yes, 12 – to talk about and I’ll give you some simple examples just so you can see just how much you already know!
The concept of time can be split into the Present (what you’re doing now), the Past (what you did some time ago) and the Future (what you will do later).
In English, the tense plays a vital role in the way we form our sentences. There are 4 types of tenses – Simple, Perfect, Continuous and Perfect Continuous and each of these has a present, past and future form (i.e. 4 x 3 = 12).
In Present Simple, the action is simply mentioned but nothing says that it’s complete, e.g.
- I eat.
- I sleep.
- I play.
In Present Continuous, the action is still going on, hence continuous, e.g.
- I am eating.
- I am sleeping.
- I am playing.
In Present Perfect, the action is complete and hence called perfect, e.g.
- I have eaten.
- I have slept.
- I have played.
Present Perfect Continuous
In Present Perfect Continuous, the action has been taking place for some time and is still on-going, e.g.
- I have been eating.
- I have been sleeping.
- I have been playing.
In Past Simple, the action is simply mentioned and understood to have taken place in the past, e.g.
- I ate.
- I slept.
- I played.
In Past Continuous, the action was on-going until a certain time in the past, e.g.
- I was eating.
- I was sleeping.
- I was playing.
Past Perfect is used to express something that happened before another action in the past, e.g.
- I had eaten.
- I had slept.
- I had played.
Past Perfect Continuous
Past Perfect Continuous is used to express something that started in the past and continued until another time in the past, e.g.
- I had been eating.
- I had been sleeping.
- I had been playing.
Future Simple is used when we plan to do something without saying when in the future it will happen, e.g.
- I will eat.
- I will sleep.
- I will play.
Future Continuous is used to express action at a particular moment in the future, however, the action will not have finished at the moment, e.g.
- I will be eating at 9 p.m.
- I will be sleeping when you arrive.
- I will be playing at 9 a.m.
Future Perfect expresses action that will occur in the future before another action in the future, e.g.
- I will have eaten before 10 p.m.
- I will have slept before you arrive.
- I will have played before 5 p.m.
Future Perfect Continuous
Future Perfect Continuous is used to talk about an on-going action before some time in the future, e.g.
- I will have been sleeping for 2 hours before you arrive.
- I will have been playing for 1 hour when it’s 5 p.m.
So, there you have it. Just how much did you know? More than you think probably because you’re so familiar with speaking the language every day.
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