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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Future Simple – Verb Meaning and Use

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

We use Be Going To and the Present Continuous to talk about a planned event or future intention. A future time expression is usually stated or implied with the Present Continuous in order to avoid confusion.

Future with Be Going To

  • I am going to study hard tonight for the test.
  • He’s going to do the dishes after dinner.
  • Why isn’t she going to work next week?

Future with Present Continuous

  • I am studying hard tonight for the test.
  • He’s doing the dishes after dinner.
  • Why isn’t she working next week?

. Be Going To and the Present Continuous are usually similar, but not exactly the same. With Be Going To the speaker may not have an exact plan. With the Present Continuous, the plan is often more definite. Future with Be Going To

  • I’m going to leave my job (someday). I’m so unhappy
  • He’s going to buy a new car but he doesn’t know what kind yet.

Future with Present Continuous

  • I’m leaving my job (next week). I have been so unhappy here.
  • He’s buying a new car tomorrow! He has already chosen it.

. We use Be Going To for predictions, especially when there is evidence that something is just about to happen. Do not use the Present Continuous for predictions. Future predictions with Be Going To

  • Be careful! That glass is going to fall!!
  • That glass is falling. (incorrect)
  • It’s cloudy. It’s going to rain tonight.
  • It is raining tonight (incorrect)
  • They’re going to win the game tonight. They are the better team.
  • They are winning tonight (incorrect)

. Future with Will We use Will or Be Going To to make predictions or expectations. You can also use probably and other adverbs with Will and Be Going To to express certainty or uncertainty. Future with will

  • Electric cars will become popular in the next ten years.
  • Electric cars are going to become popular in the next ten years.
  • They will probably win the championship.
  • They are probably going to win the championship.
  • It will warm up
  • It’s going to warm up

With predictions, the meanings of Will and Be Going To are not exactly the same. Use Be Going To when you are more certain that an event will happen because there is evidence. Do not use Will in this situation. In this situation, Will needs a requirement to be met first.

  • She’s going to have a baby. (She is pregnant)
  • She will have a baby (If she gets married. She is not pregnant now).
  • They are going to win (They are the best team)
  • They will win tonight (if they can keep the ball).

. In statements with I, the first person, Will and Be Going To have different meanings. Will is often used to express a quick decision made at the time of speaking. Be Going To, however, shows that you have thought about something in advance. Do not use Be Going To for quick decisions. Will for quick decisions

  • A: “Does anyone want to help me?” B: “I will help. What can I do?”
  • A: “There’s someone at the door.” B: “I will answer
  • A: “What would you like to eat today?” B: “I’ll have the soup and salad.”

Be Going To for advanced plans

  • A: “What are your plans for the weekend?” B: “I’m going to help my sister move tomorrow.”
  • A: “Do we have any alcohol for the party?” B: “Not yet. I’m going to pick it up

. In statements with I, Will is often used to express a promise. Will for promises

  • I will do my homework.
  • I won’t tell anyone!
  • I will be on time.
  • I won’t quit school.

. We use the Present Simple for future events, mostly schedules, which are out of our control. Future with Present Simple

  • The plane leaves at 9:15 tomorrow.
  • School starts at 8am and finishes at 3pm.
  • The stores open at 9am everyday.
  • He arrives on the 4 o’clock bus next Saturday.
  • What time does the movie begin?

331 Common Verbs

The 331 most common verbs in the English language, according to the Macmillan Essential Dictionary.

 

Regular Verbs, Irregular verbs, Modal Verbs

accept care could enjoy happen lead open reduce settle teach
account carry count examine hate learn order refer shake tell
achieve catch cover exist have leave ought reflect shall tend
act cause create expect head lend own refuse share test
add change cross experience hear let pass regard shoot thank
admit charge cry explain help lie pay relate should think
affect check cut express hide like perform release shout throw
afford choose damage extend hit limit pick remain show touch
agree claim dance face hold link place remember shut train
aim clean deal fail hope listen plan remove sing travel
allow clear decide fall hurt live play repeat sit treat
answer climb deliver fasten identify look point replace sleep try
appear close demand feed imagine lose prefer reply smile turn
apply collect deny feel improve love prepare report sort understand
argue come depend fight include make present represent sound use
arrange commit describe fill increase manage press require speak used to
arrive compare design find indicate mark prevent rest stand visit
ask complain destroy finish influence matter produce result start vote
attack complete develop fit inform may promise return state wait
avoid concern die fly intend mean protect reveal stay walk
base confirm disappear fold introduce measure prove ring stick want
be connect discover follow invite meet provide rise stop warn
beat consider discuss force involve mention publish roll study wash
become consist divide forget join might pull run succeed watch
begin contact do forgive jump mind push save suffer wear
believe contain draw form keep miss put say suggest will
belong continue dress found kick move raise see suit win
break contribute drink gain kill must reach seem supply wish
build control drive get knock need read sell support wonder
burn cook drop give know notice realize send suppose work
buy copy eat go last obtain receive separate survive worry
call correct enable grow laugh occur recognize serve take would
can cost encourage handle lay offer record set talk write
    end              

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.

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.

 

Present Simple – Verb Forms

The Present Simple verb tense is very common in the English language, so it’s important to understand it well.  The form you see here applies to all verbs, except the irregular verb “to be”, which must be memorized.

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

Don’t forget the “s” or “es” with he/she/it!!

Affirmative Statements

Subject Base Verb or Base Verb + -s/-es
I eat vegetables.
You eat breakfast at 8:00.
He/she/it eats very slowly.
We eat what we like.
They/you (plural) eat healthy food.

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Negative Statements

Subject Do not or Does not Base Verb
I do not (don’t) like spiders.
You do not (don’t) cook on the weekends.
He/she/it does not (doesn’t) live in Tokyo.
We do not (don’t) travel in the winter.
They/you (plural) do not (don’t) walk to school.

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Yes/No Questions

Do/Does Subject Base Verb
Do you play baseball?
Does he/she play the piano?
Do they/you (plural) play well?

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Information Questions

Wh- Word Do/Does Subject Base Verb
Who do you teach on Mondays?
What does he study at university?
When does she travel to Europe?
Where does the bus (it) go?
Why do they yell at their kids?
How do they make baby carrots?

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Short Answers.

NO Subject Do not or Does not
No, I do not (don’t).
No you do not (don’t).
No he/she/it does not (doesn’t)
No we do not (don’t).
No they/you (plural) do not (don’t).

 

Say vs. Tell

Say is used with direct speech and is never followed by a direct personal object.  In other words, we don’t say who is being spoken to.

✔ “Those cookies smell good” said Jessica.

✔ Jessica said, “Those cookies smell good”.

✘ “Those cookies smell good” Jessica said him.

✔ “I really do love computers!” Daniel said.

✔ Daniel said, “I really do love computers!”.

✘ “I really do love computers!” Daniel said me.

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Say is also used with indirect (reported) speech, with a “that” clause, although the conjunction “that” isn’t usually used.

✔ She said (that) she was going to the party.

✘ She said me (that) she was going to the party.

✔ They said (that) they were unhappy with the service.

✘ They said us (that) they were unhappy with the service.

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Tell is only used with indirect (reported) speech and is always followed by a direct personal object.  In other words, we say who is being spoken to.  (Exceptions: Tell a story, tell the truth, tell a lie, tell the future, tell the time)

✔ She told him (that) she loved him.

✘ She told (that) she loved him.

✘ She said him (that) she loved him.

✔ We told them  (that) we were driving to Seattle.

✘ We told (that) we were driving to Seattle.

✘ We said them (that) we were driving to Seattle.

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Tell is often used with an object + infinitive to express requests, instructions, orders, and advice.

  • I told him to get some milk from the store. (request)
  • He told me to turn left on Main Street. (directions)
  • She told him to leave. (order)
  • We told her not to worry. (advice)

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Say and tell cannot be used with indirect (reported) questions.  In this case, we must replace say or tell with ask.

✔ James asked me to go with him.

✘ James told me (that) “will you go with me?”.

Can vs. Be Able To

There is often some confusion about can and be able to, so let’s see if I can clear that up a bit for you.

Can and be able to are often interchangeable and you can usually use either one without a difference in meaning.  But not always.

Can is a  modal auxiliary verb that expresses general ability in the Present tense, or could for general ability in the Past tense.

Be able to is not a modal auxiliary verb, it’s just the verb “be” + the adverb “able” + the infinitive “to”. 

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Present Ability. We use both can and be able to, but can is much more common:

✔ James can speak three languages.

✔ James is able to speak three languages.

✔ Michelle can easily multitask.

✔ Michelle is able to easily multitask.

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Future Ability. We only use will be able to to talk about a future skill or ability that you don’t have yetbut you will have in the future. We never use can for an ability that you will only have in the future:

✔ When I finish training I will be able to run a 5 minute mile.

✘ When I finish training I can run a 5 minute mile.

✔ I will be able to see better when I get new glasses.

✘ I can see better when I get new glasses.

We use either can or be able to when we are talking about decisions and future arrangements:

✔ The doctor can see you next Monday.

✔ The doctor is able to see you next Monday.

✔ I’m busy now, but I can help you in an hour.

✔ I’m busy now, but I’ll be able to help you in an hour.

✔ Mom can drive you to school tomorrow.

✔ Mom is able to drive you to school tomorrow.

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Past Ability.  We use could or was/were able to to talk about an ability that existed for a long time in the past, but which isn’t true now:

✔ When I was young, I was able to eat like a pig and not get fat.

✔ When I was young, I could eat like a pig and not get fat.

✔ When I was a teenager, I could stay up all night without getting tired.

✔ When I was a teenager, I was able to stay up all night without getting tired.

We only use was/were able to with action verbs to talk about an ability related to a single event:

✔ We were able to go sailing yesterday because the weather was so nice.

✘ We could go sailing yesterday because the weather was so nice.

✔ I was able to file my taxes online this year.

✘ I could file my taxes online this year.

✔ Yesterday we were able to get tickets for the concert.

✘ Yesterday we could get tickets for the concert.

But we use either can or was/were able to with some stative verbs (see, hear, feel, taste) to talk about an ability related to a single event:

✔ Were you able to see the fireworks from your balcony last night?

✔ Could you see the fireworks from your balcony last night?

✔ I was able to taste the salt in her cooking.

✔ I could taste the salt in her cooking.

✔ Because I was sitting in the front row, I was able to hear the teacher clearly.

✔ Because I was sitting in the front row, I could hear the teacher clearly.

We use couldn’t or wasn’t/weren’t able to for negative statements for both single events and a long period of time:

✔ Yesterday he wasn’t able to finish his dinner.

✔ Yesterday he couldn’t finish his dinner.

✔ I wasn’t able to swim when I was younger.

✔ I couldn’t swim when I was younger.

✔ We weren’t able to get tickets for the concert.

✔ We couldn’t get tickets for the concert.

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Here is a visual chart to help you out:

Can/Could (affirmative) Cannot/Can’t/Couldn’t Be Able To (affirmative) Be Able To (negative)
Past Ability She could read when she was five. She couldn’t read when she was five. She was able to read when she was five. She wasn’t able to read when she was five.
Past Repeated Actions When they were young, they could run marathons. When they were young, they couldn’t run marathons. When they were young, they were able to run marathons. When they were young, they weren’t able to run marathons.
Past, Single Action, Stative Verb I could feel the wind in my hair. I couldn’t feel the wind in my hair. I was able to feel the wind in my hair. I wasn’t able to feel the wind in my hair.
Past, Single Action, Action Verb NOT POSSIBLE!! I couldn’t get tickets for the concert. I was able to get tickets for the concert. I wasn’t able to get tickets for the concert.
Present Ability They can speak Italian. They can’t speak Italian. They are able to speak Italian. They aren’t able to speak Italian.
Future Ability or Skill NOT POSSIBLE!! When we pass our driver’s exam, we will be able to drive a car.
Future Decisions and Arrangements The dentist can see you tomorrow morning. The dentist can’t see you tomorrow morning. The dentist will be able to see you tomorrow morning. The dentist won’t be able to see you tomorrow morning.