All Twelve English Verb Tenses

Here is an overview of all 12 English verb tenses, their forms, and how to use them.

FORM: MEANING AND USE:
Present Simple ~Verb Form Present Simple ~Verb Use
Present Progressive ~Verb Form Present Progressive ~Verb Use
Present Perfect Progressive ~Verb Form Present Perfect Progressive ~Verb Use
Past Simple ~Verb Form Past Simple ~Verb Use
Past Progressive ~Verb Form Past Progressive ~Verb Use
Past Perfect ~Verb Form Past Perfect ~Verb Use
Past Perfect Progressive ~Verb Form Past Perfect Progressive ~Verb Use
Future Simple ~Verb Form Future Simple ~Verb Use
Future Progressive ~Verb Form Future Progressive ~Verb Use
Future Perfect~Verb Form Future Perfect ~Verb Use
Future Perfect Progressive ~Verb Form Future Perfect Progressive ~Verb Use

 

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Past Perfect Progressive – Verb Meaning and Use

past_perfect_cont GraphicThis post will show you how to use the Past Perfect Progressive (also called the Past Perfect Continuous). To see how to form the Past Perfect Progressive, click here.

The Past Perfect Progressive expresses the relationship in time between two past events, similar to the Past Perfect. However, the Past Perfect Progressive emphasizes that the first event was ongoing and continued up to or just before the second event.

  • Tomomi had been studying all night. (Past Perfect Progressive, 1st event)
  • She was exhausted at breakfast. (Past Simple, 2nd event)

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 For and since often show how long a situation lasted before the second past event.

  • Chris left his office at 6:00 pm. (Past Simple, 2nd event)
  • Hed been working since 8:00 am. (Past Perfect Progressive, 1st event)

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The Past Perfect Progressive is often used in sentences using past time clauses.

  • Michelle had been working for nine and a half hours (Past Perfect Progressive, 1st event)
  • by the time she left her office. (Past Simple, 2nd event)

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Certain common verbs can be used with the Past Perfect and the Past Perfect Progressive with little or no difference in meaning, but using the Progressive can show a more intense or emotional situation.

  • Mr. Garcia had lived there since 1982. (Past Perfect)
  • Mr. Garcia had been living there since 1982.  (Past Perfect Progressive)
  • I’d waited an hour (neutral)
  • I’d been waiting an hour. (I was so mad!)

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The Past Perfect can express a completed action that may or may not have happened recently. In contrast, the Past Perfect Progressive suggests that an action was continuing up to or ended just before a specific time in the past.

  • Janice had watered the garden before I arrived. (She may have watered it a few minutes or many hours before I arrived.)
  • Janice had been watering the garden before I arrived. (She watered the garden a few minutes before I arrived. The ground was still wet.)

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We do not use the Past Perfect Progressive to tell how many times an action is repeated.

  • I’d read it three times before. (Correct)
  • I’d been reading it three times before. (Incorrect)

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Both the Past Perfect and the Past Perfect Progressive are used to provide background information about earlier events. They are used to give reasons with because, express contrasts with although or even though, and are used to draw conclusions.

  • She looked very tired because she had been studying all night. (Reason)
  • She looked very tired because she had studied all night. (Reason)
  • She looked very tired although she had been sleeping for 12 hours. (Contrast)
  • She looked very tired although she had slept for 12 hours. (Contrast)
  • I realized that he had been criticizing my work. (Conclusion)
  • I realized that he had criticized my work. (Conclusion)

Past Progressive – Verb Meaning and Use

Past Cont GraphicThis post will show you how to use the Past Progressive (also called the Past Continuous). To see how to form the Past Progressive, click here.

We use the Past Progressive to talk about activities that were in progress (happening) at a specific time in the past. This may be an exact moment in the past or a longer period of time.

  • It wasn’t raining at lunch time, it was snowing.
  • You were acting weird last night.
  • I was studying in Brasilia in 2010.

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The Past Progressive expresses an ongoing past activity that may or may not be completed.

  • At 7:00 Rodrigo was making dinner in the kitchen. (He was in the middle of making dinner and we don’t know if he finished.)
  • The children were building a snowman while it was snowing. (They were in the middle of building a snowman and we don’t know if they finished.)

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Simultaneous Events

Sentences with two past time clauses describe the order in which two past events happened. When the verbs in both the time clause and the main clause are in the Past Progressive, the events were simultaneous (happening at the same time).

  • When you were studying, I was working.
  • They were playing hockey while we were shopping.

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Interrupted Events

When one verb is in the Past Simple and the other in the Past Progressive, it shows that one event interrupted the other. The event in the Past Progressive started first and was interrupted by the Past Simple event. When or while begins the time clause, which uses the Past Progressive.

  • While we were eating dinner, the phone rang.
  • She ran into Adam when she was walking to school.

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Background Information

The Past Progressive often appears at the beginning of a narrative to describe background activities. It can express several background activities happening at the same time as the main event. The main even is in the Past Simple.

  • It was raining hard outside and my roommate was taking a shower. At exactly 7:10, there was a huge clap of thunder. I jumped up as the house shook violently.
  • When we arrived at the stadium, the home team was winning,  all the fans were cheering, and my heart was racing with excitement.

 

 

 

Past Simple and Used To – Verb Form

past_simpleThis post will show you how to form the Past Simple. To see how to use the Past Simple, click here.

PAST SIMPLE

Affirmative Statements

Subject Base Verb + ED or Irregular Form
I worked hard.
You went to school in the morning.
She/he/it rained yesterday.
We left early.
They/you (plural) sang beautifully.

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Negative Statements

Subject Did Not (didn’t) Base Verb
I didn’t go yesterday.
You didn’t see me after class.
She/He/It didn’t rain last week.
We didn’t run into trouble.
They/You (plural) didn’t finish your homework.

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Yes/No Questions

Did Subject Base Verb
Did I lose my keys?
Did you make that?
Did she/he/it go to work?
Did we drive too far?
Did they/you (plural) have a good time?

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Short Answers

Yes Subject Did No Subject Did Not (didn’t)
Yes, I did. No, I didn’t.
Yes, you did. No, you didn’t.
Yes, she/he/it did. No, she/he/it didn’t.
Yes, we did. No, we didn’t.
Yes, they/you did. No, they/you didn’t.

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USED TO

Affirmative Statements

Subject Used To Base Verb
I used to get up early.
You used to drink coffee.
She/He/It used to be hers.
We used to dance every weekend.
They/You (plural) used to play in the park.

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Negative Statements

Subject Did Not (didn’t) Use To Base Verb
I didn’t use to like him.
You didn’t use to smoke cigarettes.
She/he/it didn’t use to walk to school.
We didn’t use to travel so often.
They/you (plural) didn’t use to go to school.

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Yes/No Questions

Did Subject Use To Base Verb
Did I use to be so selfish?
Did you use to live in Argentina?
Did she/he/it used to get start later?
Did we use to play on Saturdays or Sundays?
Did they/you use to eat lots of junk food?

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Short Answers

Yes Subject Did No Subject Did Not (didn’t)
Yes, I did. No, I didn’t.
Yes, you did. No, you didn’t
Yes, she/he/it did. No, she/he/it didn’t
Yes, we did. No, we didn’t
Yes, they/you did No, they/you didn’t

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Information Questions

Wh- Word Did Subject Use To Base Verb
Why did I use to love him?
When did you use to live in Miami?
Where did they use to eat out?
Wh- Word Used To Base Verb
Who used to run marathons?
What used to be over there?
     
  • Do not use did in information questions when who or what is the subject. Use used to with these questions.

Past Simple and Used To – Verb Meaning and Use

This post will show you how to use the Past Simple and Used To.  To see how to form the Past Simple and Used To, click here.

PAST SIMPLE

We use the Past Simple to talk about a state or action that started and finished in the past. We use time expressions to describe the time period.

  • She lived in Tokyo in 2010.
  • We went to school yesterday.
  • They played hockey on Saturday.
  • Winter was cold last year.

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The actions or states can happen in the recent past (a short time ago), or the distant past (a long time ago).

Recent Past                                                                        Distant Past

He arrived ten minutes ago.                                     They moved to Dubai in 2001.

She felt tired yesterday.                                              He was very sick last year.

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The actions or states can last for a short or long period of time.

Short Period of Time                                                       Long Period of Time

The rain lasted for five minutes.                                The rain lasted for days.

I worked there for two weeks.                                    I worked there for 12 years.

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The actions or states can happen once, or repeatedly.

Happened Once                                                            Happened Repeatedly

He moved to Seoul in 2008.                                  He always walked to work.

She arrived late yesterday.                                    She always arrived late.

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USED TO

used-toUsed to suggests that a habit or situation was true in the past, but is not true now. We use used to for repeated or habitual actions or states that started and finished in the past. Do not use it for actions or states that happened only once. Adverbs of frequency and other time expressions with used to emphasize the repeated actions or states.

  • He used to smoke, but he quit last year.
  • We often used to visit my grandparents before they passed away.
  • She used to live in Sidney before she moved to Prague.

You can use the Simple Present with time expressions to show how a present situation is different from the past.

  • I used to watch TV after school.  Now I don’t have time for that.
  • People used to get their new from newspapers or the radio. These days most people get their news from the internet.