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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Present Progressive – Verb Meaning and Use

There are seven different ways to use the Present Progressive (also called the Present Continuous).  This tense is usually only used with active verbs, and if it is used with stative verbs there is a difference in meaning.

This post will show you how to use the Present Progressive. To see how to form the Present Progressive, click here.

1. The Present Progressive is used for activities in progress at the exact moment of speaking.  Time expressions such as now, right now, and at the moment often occur with the Present Progressive tense.

  • Can you call back later? We are studying at the moment.
  • Shhh!! I‘m trying to concentrate!
  • Look, it‘s raining, again!!
  • They‘re playing basketball.
  • You are studying the Present Progressive right now.

2. The Present Progressive can also express the extended present, actions that are in progress but not happening at the exact moment of speaking. You can use time expressions such as this week or these days to show when the action is happening. The action may be ongoing, or may start and stop repeatedly.

  • She‘s taking a computer course this semester.
  • I‘m looking for a cheap car, do you have any ideas?
  • They‘re renovating their kitchen this month, it‘s taking a long time.
  • I‘m in the middle of reading a really good book.

3. Temporary situations can be expressed with the Present Progressive, if we feel that the situation is not permanent and won’t continue for a long time.

  • I‘m staying with a friend this week.
  • She‘s living in Seoul for a few months.
  • Jack‘s working at a cafe until he finds a job in his field.

4. Temporary or new habits can also be expressed with the Present Progressive. (for regular habits that have continued for a long time, and are permanent, choose the Present Simple)

  • I‘m drinking a lot of coffee this week!
  • You‘re smoking too much.
  • They‘re working late every night.

5. The Present Progressive is used to describe a situation which is slowly changing.

  • My grades are improving this year.
  • Technology is getting cheaper all the time.
  • Global warming is becoming an important issue.
  • My English is getting better!

6. The next use is for definite future plans, used with a future time expression.

  • I‘m having lunch with Jackie tomorrow.
  • We‘re going to France next week!
  • She‘s leaving at three.
  • They‘re going to the movies on the weekend.

7. And lastly, we use the Present Progressive to complain about a situation, usually with adverbs of frequency, such as always, constantly, continually, and forever.

  • You‘re constantly missing the train.
  • James is always losing his keys.
  • She‘s forever talking on the phone.

Present Progressive – Verb Forms

The Present Progressive (also called the Present Continuous) tense is formed with two words, the “be” verb and a base verb+ing. This is the same for all verbs, regular and irregular.

This post will show you how to form the Present Progressive. To see how to use the Present Progressive, click here.

Affirmative Statements

Subject Be Base Verb + ing
I am working today.
You are working today.
He/she/it is working today.
We are working today.
They/you (plural) are working today.
   

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Affirmative Contractions

I’m working today.
You’re working today.
He’s working today.
She’s working today.
It’s working today.
They’re working today.
You’re (plural) working today.

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Negative Statements

Subject Be Not Base Verb + ing
I am not working today.
You are not doing anything right now.
He/she/it is not washing the dishes.
We are not going to Seattle.
They/you (plural) are not playing hockey.

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Negative Contractions

I’m not sleeping yet.
You’re not (or) You aren’t cleaning the house.
He’s not (or) He isn’t singing loudly.
It’s not (or) It isn’t going to rain today.
We’re not (or) We aren’t driving today.
They’re not (or) They aren’t doing much.
You’re not (or) You aren’t brushing your teeth.

Yes/No Questions.

Be Subject Base Verb + ing
Am I eating chocolate?
Are you going to school today?
Is she sleeping?
Is it raining today?
Are we meeting at noon?
Are they coming to the party?
Are you (plural) waiting for me?

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Information Questions

Wh- Word Be Subject Base Verb + ing
How am I doing in this class?
Who are you dating these days?
What is he eating?
When are we leaving?
Where are they going to travel?
How are you making so much money?
Why am I working at this terrible job?
Wh- word (subject) Be Subject Base Verb + ing
Who is laughing?
What is happening?

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Short Answers

Yes Subject Be
Yes, I am.
Yes, you are.
Yes, he/she/it is.
Yes, we are.
Yes, they/you (plural) are.
No Subject + Be + Not
No, I’m not.
No, you’re not.
No, he/she/it isn’t.
No, we aren’t.
No, they/you (plural) aren’t.

*Do not use contractions in affirmative short answers.

✔ Yes, I am.

✘ Yes, I’m.

✔ Yes, we are.

✘ Yes, we’re.

 

Stative Verbs

Stative, or non action verbs do not express action.  They express a state or condition, and usually only occur in the Present Simple.  When they do occur in the Present Progressive, there is often a difference in meaning.

Some common stative verbs are:

Attitudes and Emotions

  • love, like, hate, dislike, fear
  • want, need, prefer, appreciate
  • doubt, wish, care, mind, promise, deny, concern

Belief and Knowledge

  • believe, know, think, feel (= opinion), hope, doubt, imagine
  • mean, understand, realize, suppose, guess
  • remember, forget, agree, disagree

Descriptions and measurements

  • be, appear, look (= seem), look like, seem, resemble
  • sound, sound like
  • weigh (have weight), measure (have length), cost
  • fit, contain

Possession and Relationships

  • have, own, possess
  • owe, belong, depend on
  • include, contain, consist of

Senses

  • see, hear, smell, taste, feel
  • ache, hurt, burn, itch, sting

✔ He owes me money.      ✘ He’s owing me money.

✔ They seem happy.         ✘ They are seeming happy.

✔ I forget his name.           ✘ I’m forgetting his name.

✔ She knows the answer.  ✘ She is knowing the answer.

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Some verbs can be both stative and active, with a difference in meaning.

Present Simple (stative)                                                     Present Progressive (active)

I think this is delicious (belief)                 We’re thinking about moving (mental activity)

It weighs a lot (measurement)                   I’m weighing it on the scale (physical activity)

She has six cats (possession)                                        She’s having a bad time (experience)

He has a nice house (possession)                        He’s having lunch with Jennifer (eating)

This soup tastes great (it has a certain flavour)       The chef is tasting the soup (action)

I smell something gross (it has a certain smell)           I’m smelling each flower (action)

I see him (he’s over there)                                    I’m seeing him (I’m dating / meeting him)

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The “be” verb is usually stative, but when it’s used in the continuous it suggests temporary, or atypical behaviour.

Present Simple (stative)                                                     Present Progressive (active)

My kids are good. (they’re always good)  My kids are being good! (usually they are bad)

You are stupid (it’s part of your personality)                      You are being stupid (only now)

He wears nice clothes (all the time)                       He’s wearing nice clothes (only today)