Ask Expert Teacher
Please submit your questions for publication about English or English Learning. (Questions may be edited)
Can You Explain the Different Tenses in English?
- Alex Rodriguez, USA
Each tense in English has a different purpose. I’ve outlined the different tenses below with examples and special notes on how to use them.
This tense is used when thinking about the past and present at the same time. It is typically used to describe events that recently happened.
David has received a big promotion.
There has been an earthquake in Los Angeles.
(Note: After describing the recent event, you can use the Simple Past to give more details.)
There has been an earthquake in Los Angeles. A building collapsed, but no one was killed.
(Note: When using this tense, you must use the auxiliary verb – have – in the present tense, before the past participle of the main verb. For example: There has been an earthquake)
If an event has been completed in the past, and is not continuing today, then use the Simple Past Tense.
I went to New York in 2002.
I saw a great movie last night.
(Note: Do not use an auxiliary verb when using this tense)
Present Perfect Continuous
This tense connects the past to the present moment. It is used for ideas that begin in the past, but continue until today.
I have been trying to understand the meaning of life since I was a child.
What have you been doing lately?
(Note: When using this tense, you must use the auxiliary verb – have – in the present tense, followed by been, followed by the ing form of the verb. For example: I have been trying)
When you are describing two different moments in the past in the same sentence, use the Past Perfect tense.
It had started raining before I got home.
She had studied English for 10 years before she became a professor.
(Note: When using this tense, you must use the auxiliary verb – had – in the past tense, before the past participle of the main verb. For example: She had studied English)
Past Perfect Continuous
We use this tense to describe longer ongoing events that were happening around a past time.
What were you doing at 10pm last night?
I was watching the hockey game.
(Note: This tense is different from the Simple Past Tense. The simple past is used for shorter events; Past Perfect Continuous is used for longer events or situations that were happening in the past.)
This tense is used to describe habits, personal preferences, or general truths.
I ride my bicycle every day.
Maya loves watching movies.
It is beautiful to watch the sun set over the Rocky Mountains.
(Note: It is uncommon to use this tense to describe actions in the present moment. For this situation, we generally use the Present Continuous Tense.)
We use this tense to describe an action in the present moment. It is usually used to ask a question and to respond to that question.
What are you doing?
I’m making dinner.
- Sidhartha Desai, www.ExpertEnglishTeacher.com