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Tenses for Beginners: A Study of The Basics

There are three different tenses in English grammar to indicate the time and state of an action. They are as follows:

1. The Present Tense

2. The Past Tense and

3. The Future Tense.

The Present Tense tells us of an action that happens in the present time.

The past tense tells us of an action that happened in the past time.

The future tense tells us of an action that will happen in the future time.

Each of these three tenses is again divided into four subtypes. They are:

1. Simple or Indefinite.

2. Continuous

3. Perfect and

4. Perfect Continuous.

So there are 12 tenses in total.




Let's now study these 12 tenses in some detail.

1. The Present Indefinite Tense:

This tense is used to express present actions, universal truths and habitual actions.

Structure:
Subject + Present from of verb

Examples:

I/we go to school.

You go to school.

He/she goes to school

They go to school

* The verb takes an 's' or 'es' after it if the subject is a third person, singular number. He, she, it and all singular nouns are called third person, singular number subjects.

2. The Present Continuous Tense:

This tense is used to express that an action is going on.

Structure:

Subject + am/is/are + verb + ing.

Examples:

I am going

We/you/they are going

He/she is going

Am is used with I, Is is used with he, she, it and all singular subjects. Are is used with we, you, they and all plural subjects

3. The Present Perfect Tense:

This tense tells us of the completion of an action. That is, the action is completed. This tense has two main uses. 1. To denote the completion of an action. 2. To tell about a past action which is still fresh in our memory

Structure:

Subject + have/ has + past participle of verb

Examples:

I/we/you/they have finished the work.

He has come just now

She has seen the Tajmahal (She still remembers it well)

Have is used with I, we, you, they and all plural subjects. Has is used with he, she, it and all singular subjects.

4. The Present Perfect Continuous Tense:

This tense tells us of an action that began sometime back and is still going on. 
Structure:

Subject + have been/has been + verb + ing

Examples:

I/We have been reading since morning

You have been reading since 5 o'clock

He/she has been learning English for 5 years

They have been playing for 2 hours

In this tense Since is used to indicate the point of time at which an action begins. For is used to indicate the period of time for which an action continues.

Examples of Since and For:

Since yesterday, since last night, since Monday, since 5 o'clock, since January, since  1998 etc

For 2 hours, for 5 days, for 5 years etc.

5. The Past Indefinite Tense:

This tense tells us of a past action.

Structure:

Subject + past form of the verb

Examples:

I/we/you/he/she/they went

6. The Past Continuous Tense:

This tense tells us of an action that was going on in the past

Structure:

Subject + was/were + verb + ing

I was reading

We were reading

You were reading

He/she was reading

They were reading

Was is used with I, he, she and all singular subjects. Were is used with we, you, they and all plural subjects.

7. The Past Perfect Tense:

This tells us of one out of the two past actions. The other action is written in the simple past tense.

Structure:

Subject + had + past participle of the verb

Examples:

I/we/you/he/she/they had reached home before it rained

8. The Past Perfect Continuous Tense:

This tense tells us of an action that continued for sometime in the past

Structure:

Subject + had been + verb + ing

I/we/you/he/she/they had been playing

9. The Future Indefinite Tense:

This tense tells us of an action that will happen in the future.

Structure:

Subject + shall/will + verb
I/we shall go
You/he/she/they will go

Shall is used with I and we. With all other subjects, will is used.

10. The Future Continuous Tense:

This tense tells us of the continuity of an action in the future time.

Subject + shall be/will be + verb + ing

Examples:

I/we shall be playing
You/he/she/they will be playing

Shall be is used with I and we. Will be is used with all other subjects

11. The future perfect and 12. the future perfect continuous tenses are not generally used now-a-days.



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