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12 (All) English Tenses with Examples

Tense and aspect, although they are two different categories, always appear together. There are six tenses and two aspects in English.

With reference to tense and aspect, we can speak about the following structures in practical usage. All English Tenses with Examples!

(Note: progressive aspect is often called continuous.)

present simple
(present tense + common aspect)

FORM
Affirmative
Affirmative: Subject + Base Form of the Verb
*note: for 3rd Person Singular (he/ she/ it) add ‘s’ to the base form

- I/ You/ We/ They work in a bank.
- He/ She works in a bank.

NegativeNegative: Subject + don’t/ doesn’t + Base Form of the Verb

- I/ You/ We/ They don’t (do not) work.
- He/ She/ It doesn’t (does not) work.

 

InterrogativeInterrogative: Question Word + do/does + Subject + Base Form of the Verb

- Where do I/ you/we/they work?
- Where does he/ she work?

 

USE

1. Usual, regular action:

- I usually go fishing at weekends. I don’t go fishing at weekends. Do I go fishing at weekends?
- You always know the answer. You don’t always know the answer. Do you always know the answer?
- She never puts milk in her tea. She doesn’t put milk in her tea. Does she ever put milk in her tea?
- My father plays the violin. My father doesn’t play the violin. Does your father play the violin?
- We sometimes go to the cinema on Friday. We don’t go to the cinema on Friday. Do we go to the cinema on Fridays?
- They never walk in the wood. They don’t walk in the wood. Do they walk in the wood?

2. General existence; stating a fact:

- An ostrich has two legs. A rabbit doesn’t have two legs. How many legs does a spider have?
- The earth goes round the sun. The sun doesn’t go round the earth. Does the moon go round the earth?
- Water is liquid at room temperature. Gold isn’t liquid at room temperature. Is gold solid at room temperature?

3. Dramatic narrative (theatre, sports, etc. events):

- Johnson takes the ball, he bounces it to the floor, then he throws and scores two points.

4. Timetables

- The train leaves at half past four. The train doesn’t leave at five. What time does the train leave?
- The course starts on 1 July.
The course doesn’t start in June. When does the course start?

present progressive
(present tense + progressive aspect)

FORM
AffirmativeAffirmative: Subject + BE + Verb-ING

- You are cooking.

 

NegativeNegative: Subject + BE not + Verb-ING

- You aren’t (are not) cooking.

 

InterrogativeInterrogative: Question Word + BE + Subject + Verb-ING

- What are you cooking?

 

USE
1. Action happening now:

- I’m watching a film on TV now. I‘m not watching a film. Am I watching a film?
- Watch out, a car’s coming. It isn’t not coming. Is it coming?
- The boys are sleeping upstairs. They boys aren’t sleeping upstairs. Are the boys sleeping upstairs?

2. Action happening about this time, but not necessarily now:

- He‘s studying Spanish and German. He‘s not studying French. What languages is he studying?
- They‘re going to a business course. They aren’t going to a cooking course. What course are they going to?
- You‘re visiting museums while you’re here. You‘re not visiting factories.  Are you visiting museums in our city?

3. Definite arrangement in the near future:

- I‘m travelling to Paris tomorrow. I‘m not travelling to Paris tomorrow. Am I travelling to Paris tomorrow?

- My son is taking his girlfriend to dinner tonight. My son isn’t taking his girlfriend to dinner tonight. Is he taking his girlfriend to dinner tonight?

- You‘re going to Italy on holiday this year, aren’t you? You aren’t going to Greece. Where are you going on holiday this year?

past simple
(past tense + common aspect)

FORM
AffirmativeAffirmative: Subject + Verb in Past Simple (2nd form)

- I/ You/ He/ She/ It/ We/ They lived in London ten years ago.

 

NegativeNegative: Subject + didn’t (did not) + Base Form of the Verb

- I/ You/ He/ She/ It/ We/ They didn’t like the film.

 

InterrogativeInterrogative: Question Word + did + subject + Base Form of the Verb

- Where did I/ you/ he/ she/ it/ we/ they meet Richard?

 

USE

Actions, events in the past:

- I had lunch with Mrs Robinson yesterday. I didn’t have lunch with Mrs Robinson yesterday. Did I have lunch with Mrs Robinson yesterday?

- Mother went to work on Tuesday. Mother didn’t go to work on Tuesday. Did Mother go to work on Tuesday?

- You did the shopping this morning. You didn’t do the shopping this morning. Where did you do the shopping this morning?

- She travelled to Spain last year. She didn’t travel anywhere last year. Where did she travel last year?

Past Progressive
(past tense + progressive aspect)

FORM
Affirmative
Affirmative: Subject + was/ were + Verb-ING

- I/He/She was having a shower when you called.
- We/ You/ They were watching TV when Bob arrived.

 

NegativeNegative: Subject + wasn’t (was not)/ weren’t (were not) + Verb-ING

- I/ He/ She wasn’t having a shower when you called.
- We/ You/ They weren’ watching TV when Bob arrived.

 

InterrogativeInterrogative: Question word + was/ were + Verb-ING

- What were you doing when Bob arrived?
- What was she doing when you called?

 

USE

Action in progress in the past:

- I was working in the garden when my sister arrived. I wasn’t working in the garden when my sister arrived. Was I working in the garden when my sister arrived?

- We were watching a film at ten last night. We weren’t watching a film at ten last night. Were we watching film at ten last night?

- She was playing with the kids from eight to nine. She wasn’t playing with the kids from eight to nine. Who was she playing with?

Present Perfect Simple
(present perfect tense + common aspect)

FORM
Affirmative
Affirmative: Subject + have/ has + Past Participle (3rd Form of the Verb)

- I/ You/ We/ They have finished the letter.
- He/ She has finished the letter.

Negative: Subject + haven’t (have not)/ hasn’t (has not) + Past ParticipleNegative

- I/ You/ We/ They haven’t finished the letter.
- He/ She hasn’t finished the letter.

 

InterrogativeInterrogative: Question Word + have/ has + Past Participle

- Have I/ you/we/ they finished the letter?
- Has he/she finished the letter?

 

USE
1. Action with a result:

- Sorry, I‘ve parked at the wrong place. I haven’t parked at the wrong place. Have I parked at the wrong place?

- You‘ve (already) printed the letters. You haven’t printed the letters (yet). Have you printed the letters (yet)?

- We‘ve (already) done the rooms. We haven’t done the rooms yet. Have we done the rooms (yet)?

- He has already repaired the lawn-mower. He hasn’t repaired the lawn-mower yet. Has he repaired the lawn-mower yet?

2. Action in incomplete time:

- Our friends have visited us four times this summer. Our friends haven’t visited us this summer. How many times have our friends visited us this summer?

- I‘ve been to the cinema a lot lately. I haven’t been to the cinema lately. Have I been to the cinema lately?

- You‘ve been on holiday this year. You haven’t been on holiday this year. Have you been on holiday this year?

3. Action in the past without saying when:

- Jane has already been to Italy. Jane has never been to Italy. Has Jane ever been to Italy?

- You have already swum in this lake. You haven’t swum in this lake yet. Have you ever swum in this lake?

- You‘ve been to the hairdresser’s. You haven’t been to the hairdresser’s. Where have you been?

4. Action beginning in the past and still continuing:

- The Simpsons have lived here for eight years. The Simpsons haven’t lived here for long. How long have the Simpsons lived here?

- He has driven a car since 2002. He hasn’t driven a car since 2002. Has he driven a car since 2002?

- You‘ve worked here for two years. You haven’t worked here for two years. How long have you worked here?

Present Perfect Progressive
(present perfect tense + progressive aspect)

FORM
AffirmativeAffirmative: Subject + have/ has been + Verb-ING

- I/ you/ We/ They have been learning English for a year.
- He/ She has been learning English for a year.

 

NegativeNegative: Subject + haven’t/hasn’t been + Verb-ING

- I/ You/ We/ They haven’t been playing tennis for a long time.
- He/ She hasn’t been playing tennis for a long time.

 

InterrogativeInterrogative: Question Word + have/ has + Subject + been Verb-ING

- How long have I/ you/ we/ they been learning English?
- How long has he/ she been learning English?

 

USE
Action beginning in the past and still continuing (with the progress emphasized):

- They‘ve been staying in this hotel for ten days. They haven’t been staying in this hotel for ten days. Have they been staying in this hotel for ten days?

- He has been mowing the lawn all this morning. He hasn’t been mowing the lawn all this morning. How long has he been mowing the lawn?

- You‘ve been missing classes lately. You haven’t been coming to class lately. What have you been doing lately?

Past Perfect Simple
(past tense + common aspect)

FORM
AffirmativeAffirmative: Subject + had + Past Participle

- I/ You/ He/ She/ We/ They had already met Sarah before the party.

 

NegativeNegative: Subject + hadn’t (had not) + Past Participle

- I/ You/ He/ She/ We/ They hadn’t met Sarah before the party.

 

InterrogativeInterrogative: Question Word + had + Subject + Past Participle

- Had I/ you/ he/ she/ we/ they met Sarah before the party?

 

USE
Action in the past before another:

- She said she had written three letters the day before. She said she hadn’t written any letters the day before. How many letters had she written the day before?

- They had lived in York before they moved to Liverpool. They hadn’t lived in York before they moved to Liverpool. Where had they lived before they moved to Liverpool?

- You‘d locked the door before you left. You hadn’t locked the door before you left. Had you locked the door before you left?

 

Past Perfect Progressive
(past perfect tense + progressive aspect)

FORM
AffirmativeAffirmative: Subject + had been + Verb-ING

- I/ You/ He/ She/ We/ They had been living in German for years before  moving here.

 

NegativeNegative: Subject + hadn’t been + Verb-ING

- I/ You/ He/ She/ We/ They hadn’t been living in Germany for a long time before moving here.

 

InterrogativeInterrogative: Question Word + had + Subject + been Verb-ING

- How long had I/ you/ he/ she/ we/ they been living in Germany before moving here?

 

USE
Action in the past before another (with the progress emphasized):

- He said he had been mowing the lawn all that morning. He said he hadn’t been mowing the lawn all that morning. How long had he been moving the lawn when you met him?

- They had been working for the same company for a long time before they changed jobs. They hadn’t been working for the same company for a long time before they changed jobs. Had they been working for the same company for a long time before they changed jobs?

- They had been  living in York before they moved to Liverpool. They hadn’t been living in York before they moved to Liverpool. How long had they been living in York before they moved to Liverpool?

Future Simple
(future tense + common aspect)

FORM
AffirmativeAffirmative: Subject + Will + Base Form of the Verb

- I/ You/ He/ She/ We/ They will see Jane when she comes back from India.

 

NegativeNegative: Subject + Won’t (will not) + Base Form of the Verb

- I/ You/ He/ She/ We/ They won’t see Jane when she comes back from India.

 

InterrogativeInterrogative: Question Word + Will + Subject + Base Form of the Verb

- Will I/ you/ he/ she/ we/ they see Jane when she comes back from India?

 

USE
Fact, action or event in the future:

- I will be thirty years old next year. I won’t be thirty years old again. Will I be thirty years old again?
- We‘ll meet them at the station at six. We won’t meet them at the station. Where will we meet them?
- You‘ll cross the channel by ferry. You won’t cross the channel. How will you cross the channel?

 Future Progressive
(future tense + progressive aspect)

FORM
AffirmativeAffirmative: Subject + Will Be + Verb-ING

- I/ You/ He/ She/ We/ They will be having fun at the party.

 

NegativeNegative: Subject + Won’t Be + Verb-ING

- I/ You/ He/ She/ We/ They won’t be having fun at the party.

 

InterrogativeInterrogative: Question Word + Will + Subject + Be Verb-ING

- Will I/ you/ he/ she/ we/ they be having fun at the party?

 

USE
Action in progress at a given time of the future:

- This time tomorrow we will be flying to Los Angeles. We won’t be flying to New York. Where will we be flying?

- You‘ll be doing housework with me at six tomorrow. You won’t be playing football. What will you be doing at six tomorrow?

- I‘ll be playing tennis from seven to nine. I won’t be playing tennis at six. When will I be playing tennis?

 Future Perfect Simple
(future perfect tense + common aspect)

FORM
AffirmativeAffirmative: Subject + Will Have + Past Participle

- I/ You/ He/ She/ We/ They will have met Dora’s husband by this time tomorrow.

 

NegativeNegative: Subject + Won’t Have + Past Participle

- I/ You/ He/ She/ We/ They won’t have met Dora’s husband by this time tomorrow.

 

InterrogativeInterrogative: Question Word + Will + Subject + Have + Past Participle

- Will you have met Dora’s husband by this time tomorrow?

 

USE
Action completed by a given time of the future:

- I will have done this work by the end of next week. I won’t have done this work by the end of next week. Will I have done this this work by the end of next week?

- They‘ll have arrived by the time we return. They won’t have arrived by the time we return. Will they have arrived by the time we return?

- She will have taken three exams by next Tuesday. She won’t have taken any exams by next Tuesday. How many exams will she have taken by next Tuesday?

Future Perfect Progressive
(future perfect tense + progressive aspect)

FORM
AffirmativeAffirmative: Subject + Will Have Been + Verb-ING

- I/ You/ He/ She/ We/ They will have been working with John for ten years next week.

 

NegativeNegative: Subject + Won’t Have Been + Verb-ING

- I/ You/ He/ She/ We/ They won’t have been working with John for ten years next week.

 

InterrogativeInterrogative: Question Word + Will + Subject + Have Been + Verb-ING

- How long will I/ you/ he/ she/ we/ they have been working with John next week?

 

USE
Action completed by or still in progress at a given time of the future (with the progress emphasized):

- We will have been staying here for a week tomorrow. We won’t have been staying here for a week tomorrow. How long will we have been staying here?

- You will have been living here for thirty years by this time next year.  You won’t have been living here for thirty years by this time next year How long will you have been living here by this time next year?

- I‘ll have been playing the guitar for ten years by next year. I won’t have been playing the guitar for ten years by next year. How long will I have been playing the guitar?

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