Verb Tenses and Time Phrases

The Simple Present Tense

When you see one of the following words or time phrases in a sentence, consider using the simple present tense.

every (week) / usually / generally / once a (week)

He goes to church once a week.
They usually have breakfast at 7:00.



The Progressive Tense

Use the progressive tense if you use a time phrase to show the specific point in time.

now / right now / at this moment /

I am eating lunch right now
My son was playing a computer game when I got home.
I was watching TV at 9:00 last night.
I watched TV last night.



The Past Tense

The following words and phrases are used with the past tense.

ago / yesterday / last (year) / in (2013) / on September 11, 2001

Special uses of the past tense.

- To express a wish

I wish I had a car.
I wish you would be able to come.
- In subjunctive mood
If I were you, I would accept the offer.
- To express politeness
I wonder if you can come to dinner tonight.
I wondered if you could come to dinner tonight. (formal and polite)
I was wondering if you could come to dinner tonight. (more polite)
- In sentence structure "It's time ......"
It's time we left.
It's time you bought a new car.
It's time we bailed out our education.
It's high time we went.

The Perfect Tense

The following words and phrases are used with the perfect tense.

since / in the past (3 years) / so far / for (a period of time) / yet / ever / frequently / recently / repeatedly / several times / many times /

The following words can be used for both the past and perfect tenses.

already / just / before

A one-time action verb cannot be used with a time phrase that shows a period of time.

I have bought my house for 10 years. (incorrect)
I have had my house for 10 years. (correct)
I have bought my house. (correct)

My grandfather has died for 5 years. (incorrect)
My grandfather has been dead for 5 years. (correct)
My grandfather has died. (correct)


The Future Tense

Use the simple present tense in the time clause
when
We will be there when you arrive tomorrow.
We will be there when you will arrive tomorrow. (incorrect)

before
It won't be long before the rain stops.

after
I'll have lunch after I finish / have finished my work.

until
I'll wait here until she comes.

as soon as
I'll give it to you as soon as you come back.
Use the present progressive tense to express the future

The present progressive tense is used to express the future instead of using the future tense.
He is taking the exam next week.
I'm having dinner with him tomorrow.
The simple present tense is used to express the future if something is scheduled to happen.
The train leaves at 7:30 this evening.
She retires next month.
Tomorrow is Tuesday.
Use the future progressive tense when a specific point in time in the future is mentioned.
He will be flying to China at this time tomorrow.
He will be attending a meeting at 10:30.
Use the future perfect tense when "by" is used.
By the end of next week, they will have finished all the work
You will have changed your mind by tomorrow.
By the end of the year, Susan will have worked here for 30 years.