Tenses can be confusing! I’ve simplified the main tenses, with examples of their Affirmative, Negative and Question forms, in the chart below.
In English, the basic tenses are the past, the present and the future. The tenses tell us when an action or state happened. Simple, continuous, perfect and perfect continuous are all aspects. Aspects tell us how an action or state extends over time. Was the action repeated regularly? Has this action finished? Did this action happen at the same time as another action? These are some questions that the “aspect” answers.
When a student tells me that he/she has a problem with tenses, most of the time the problem is actually with the aspects. It is not difficult to decide between the past, present and future, even for most students with native languages that are generally tenseless. But in order to weave a more precise and interesting story or conversation we must consider the aspect portion of the tense.
In my posts I hope to look at the aspects in more depth and provide examples that can be used in everyday English. For now, please see the summarised chart I created below. I have used the verb “to cook’, but you can replace this with any other verb you like. However, remember that some verbs are irregular.
A summary chart of the English tenses (with examples):
Please note, the explanations and writing throughout my posts are in British English (BrE). “Continuous” in this chart is the same as Progressive and “Perfect Continuous” is the same as Perfect Progressive.
So I hope this chart is useful! I’ve printed it out for some of my students so that they can use it as a guide if they get a bit muddled up with their tenses. Feel free to do the same.
List of tenses in this chart:
Present Simple, Present Continuous, Present Perfect, Present Perfect Continuous.
Past Simple, Past Continuous, Past Perfect, Past Perfect Continuous.
Future Simple, Future Continuous, Future Perfect, Future Perfect Continuous.