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Introduction
04 Jan 2021

Tenses play the most crucial part in English grammar. Learning the rules of tenses will help you taking the command over the language.

These are important not only from the learning point of view but also from writing and speaking point of views.

Simply speaking Tense is a form of Verb that represents the time of an action.

Relation between Time and Tense

Relation between ‘Time’ and ‘Tense’

Time is fixed and is universal.

Tense represents action and is movable.

Time – Present, Past and Future

Tense – Indefinite (or simple), Continuous, Perfect and Perfect Continuous.

Combination of Time and Tense helps in representing the exact timing of any action. We will see these relationships in the coming sections.

 

Indefinite (simple)

  • It represents permanent action. In this an action remains the same in past, present and future.

Continuous

  • In this the action is temporary and it is ongoing.

Perfect

  • The action is just finished but its effects can still be felt.

Perfect Continuous

  • Action is continuous and it contains time.

 

Q) I play cricket now a days.

The above sentence is wrong.

Explanation: Tense = Play; Time = now a days

Time and Tense should always match.

Note: We have to change Tense, not Time as time is universal.

Correct: I am playing cricket now a days.


 Time and Tense Chart


Time\Tense

Indefinite

Continuous

Perfect

Perfect Continuous

Present

Do/Does

+

V1

Is/am/are

+

V + ing

Has/have

+

V3

Has/Have been

+

V + ing

Past

Did

+

V1

Was/were

+

V + ing

Had

+

V3

Had been

+

V3

Future

Will/Shall

+

V1

Will/shall be

+

V + ing

 

        -------

Will/shall

+

Have been

+

V + ing

Present Indefinite or Simple Present Tense

Identification:

Do/does + V1

V + s/es (for 3rd person singular)

Examples:

Anuj kicks the football. (3rd person singular takes V+ s/es)

They play cricket. (3rd Person plural takes base form of verb only)

 

Contents of a Simple Present Tense:

1. Universal Truth

State

Action

Honey is sweet.

Man is mortal.

Apples are sweet. 

Sun rises in the east.

Water boils at 1000C.

 

 

Note: the errors are formed by representing the universal truth in some other time frame rather than in Present indefinite.

Example: Shopkeeper said that honey was sweet. (x)

Explanation: ‘Honey is sweet’ is a universal truth. Therefore, it should be in Present Indefinite.

Correct: Shopkeeper said that honey is sweet.

Note: If the sentence uses ‘the’ before honey then the sentence would also be correct. As ‘the’ would then make it specific for the honey of its shop only.

Example: Shopkeeper said that the honey was sweet. (correct)

 

2. Adverbs of Frequency

They are always used in Simple Present Tense

 

Words:

Daily, frequently, seldom, hardly, scarcely, regularly, irregularly, occasionally, usually, generally, sometimes, never, intermittently, sporadically (rarely), continually, always, often, etc.

 

Example:

he is always late.

It seldom rains here.

 

 

Note: Difference between Continuously and Continually

Continuously: It represents temporary action and must be used with continuous action.

Continually (with breaks): It represents permanent action and must be used with indefinite.

 

3. Some Phrases and Idioms

 

Phrases

Idioms

Every + Time = every week, every month, etc.

By fits and starts (irregularly)

Again and again (repeatedly)

Now and then (sometimes)

 

Example:

  • It rains cats and dogs continually.
  • By fits and starts a number of multi-national companies invest in India.

 

If a sentence starts with ‘here’ and ‘there’ we always use present indefinite with inversion.

Example

  • Here comes my bus.
  • There goes the train.

Present Continuous

Identification

Is/am/are + V + ‘ing’

Example:

  • I am reading a novel now a days.
  • I am writing a letter.
  • They are swimming in the river.

 

Note: We never use ‘ing’ form with the following verbs, if they are used in their general meaning.

They are also known as static verbs

  • Five senses – Touch, taste, smell, see, hear.
  • Verbs of perception – look, appear, understand, forget, believe, have, own, know, love, agree, think, mind, want, etc.

 

Static verbs are those which do not consume time. They do not have 'ing' form.

Dynamic verbs consume time. i.e. Sit, sleep. That is why they have 'ing' form.

 

Example:

You are touching a white board. (x)

You touch a white board. (correct)

He is thinking about movies. (x)

He thinks about movies. (correct)

Present Perfect

Identification:

Has/have + V3

Has = for 3rd person singular.

In this the action is just finished.

 

Root words to identify the Present perfect:

Just, yet, now, recently, hardly, scarcely, since, for, already, lately, so far, ever, etc.


Example:

  • A number of students have taken part in annual sports meet.
  • Sneha has bought new jewellery for her cousin’s wedding.

 

Q) Many lawyers have adviced me to fight against domestic violence. (x)

Explanation: Advice is noun, therefore the use of adviced is wrong.

Correction: Many lawyers advised me to fight against domestic violence.

 

Past Indefinite and Present Perfect

Rule: we always use Past indefinite (simple past) after ‘Since’ and the 2nd clause will be in Present Perfect.

Example: Since I finished my graduation, I have not joined any coaching institute.

 

Past Indefinite or Simple Past Tense

Identification:

  • Did + V1
  • V2 (Second form of verb)

Note: we always use 2nd form of the verb in affirmative sentences of past indefinite.

 

Root words (time words) for Past Indefinite:

  • Yesterday, previous day, that day, ago, later, etc.
  • Any point of time in the past. (i.e., 1942, 1947, etc)
  • Last + time (i.e., Last week, last month, last year, etc)

 

Note: Do, does, did – also used for emphasis.

India did become free in 1947. (wrong)

India become free in 1947. (Correct)

Explanation: the sentence is a fact. There should be no emphasis before a fact.

 

Examples:

I met Sneha today.

Ram went to the market.

I did not receive any scholarship in spite of securing high percentage.

Rahul did not meet the physical criteria for Army.


Past Continuous

Identification:

Was/were + Verb + ing

  • Was – singular
  • Were – plural

Example:

  • Police were chasing a thief who was at large.
  • I was running at the directions of our team coach the whole day today.

Past Perfect

Identification: Had + V3

Usage: To show two activities of the past.

Note: If two actions occur in the past, then the 1st action will be in the Past Perfect and 2nd in Past Indefinite.

 

Conjunctions to join two clauses:

Before, when, as soon as, by the time, after.


Sentence Structure:

  • Past Perfect + (before, when, as soon as, by the time) + Past Indefinite
  • Past Indefinite + After + Past Perfect

 

Example:

  • The train had left before the passengers arrived.
  • The patient had died before the doctor came.
  • Peon had cleaned the office properly by the time director reached there.
  • She cooked delicious dinner after her husband had reached home.

 

Note: Subsequent actions – both in Past indefinite.

Example: He left three children and a wife in the state of poverty when he died.

 

Future Indefinite

 Identification:

 Will/shall + V1

  •  Will – 2nd and 3rd person
  •  Shall – 1st person

 Example:

 I will win the cup.

 Interrogative: Will I win the cup? (wrong)

 Correct: Shall I win the cup?

 Note: In interrogative sentences – Shall is fixed for 1st person.

 

Future Continuous

Identification:

Will be/ shall be + V + ing


Example:

We shall soon be realising how to live peacefully in this materialistic world.


Future Perfect

Identification:

Will have/shall have + V3

 

Example:

They will have accomplished the task before sunset.

 

Note: we never use ‘will’ or ‘shall’ after the following conjunctions:

If, unless, until, till, provided, provided that, as if, I wish, suppose, in case, before, when, as soon as, by the time, etc.



Perfect Continuous Tense

Perfect continuous tenses are used when Time is mentioned.

 

1. Present Perfect Continuous

Identification:

Has been/have been + V + ing + Time

 

2. Past Perfect Continuous

Identification:

Had been + V + ing + Time

 

3. Future Perfect Continuous

Identification:

Will have been/shall have been + V + ing + Time

 

Examples:

Protagonist has been working on this project since January.

Protagonist had been working on this project since January.

Protagonist will have been working on this project from January.


 


Point of Time and Period of Time

When to use – Since and For

Time

Since

(Point of time)

For

(Period of time)

  • Name of days
  • Name of months
  • Name of festivals
  • Date
  • Time
  • Centuries – 17th century, 16th century, etc.
  • Tomorrow, yesterday, previous day, following day, next day, last day, morning, evening, noon.

Date of birth, date of death, periods of life – childhood, that day, time immemorial.

  • Two days
  • 3 weeks, 7 hrs, etc.

 

Construction:

Since + Past/last/Next + Indefinite Time

For + The + past/Next/last + Indefinite Time

 

Example:

A number of countries have been using this technology for centuries.

My friend has been working in this organization since the day a son was born to my brother’s home.


 


Did You Know

  • There is No Future Tense in English.
  • We use 'Auxiliary Verbs' to talk about the Future.