We’ve talked about what verbs are as well as subject verb agreement, but there is so much more to them. In English, verbs not only say what is being done or how something is, but when the action is happening. To do this, verbs use tenses, which is a type of inflection used to convey additional information within a language.
Simple changes in how a verb is written indicate whether the action is happening now, happened in the past, or will happen in the future.
So what are the different tenses?
The basic tenses are present, future, past, past perfect, past progressive, and past perfect progressive. When you use the present tense, you’re telling the reader this is going on right now or it is something that is constant. Future tense is something that hasn’t happened yet but that will happen sometime in the future. All the past tenses are things that have already happened.
For most verbs, indicating what tense they are in is really simple. The basic verb is in present tense. You add the word “will” before the verb to indicate future tense, and you add “ed” to the end of the verb to indicate past tense.
Present: I like shiny, red apples.
Future: If I see a bag of red apples on the table when we get home, I will like it!
Past: I liked talking about shiny, red apples with you.
Do all verbs follow those rules?
If you know English, you already know the answer to this question. Of course not all verbs follow the rule. We’ll look into irregular verbs next week, including the forms of be.
Okay, what about past perfect, past progressive, and past perfect progressive then?
Slow down, let’s go through these one at a time.
Past perfect is similar to past tense in that it uses “ed” at the end of the verb in most cases, but it is different in that it is used to specify one action was done before another. In other words, you use past perfect when you want to list two things that happened in a certain order. The first one uses the past perfect tense, which will use the word “has” in front of the verb.
I had cleaned the house before Mom left work.
Edward had baked the dessert before I finished cooking dinner.
The past progressive tense is used to describe an ongoing action in the past. In other words, something that took a while to do. It’s often used to kind of set the scene for something else that happened while the ongoing action was taking place.
It is formed by placing the word “was” or “were,” depending on whether it was being done by one person or more than one person, followed by the verb with “ing” added to the end of the word.
They were cleaning when a bird flew through the window.
I was driving when I saw a clown walking down the street.
Past Perfect Progressive
This tense is used to show an ongoing task, on of them that takes a long time like in the past progressive tense, has ended. So to use a verb in past perfect progressive tense, simply change the was or were of its past progressive tense for the phrase “had been.”
When I called, he said he had been studying all night.
Mom had been cooking all week to get ready for the holiday.
There you have the basic tenses and the general rules that govern them. Come back next week to see how to handle the verbs that refuse to follow the rules.
A. B. England is a small business owner, mom of two, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
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