Basic Verb Forms in English – Overview

Study Tip – As I got deeper and deeper into verb tenses and moods found in French, I realized that I did not have a firm handle on English verb forms. Not every verb tense equates perfectly between the two languages, and this can be frustrating. This post is simply to help the English speaking self-learner to mentally sort their tenses. As always, keep referring back to the French tense and mood cheat sheet (below). If this post creates a bit of a panic, and overwhelms you, ignore the post. The information is not necessary for your French verb tense and mood study. If you want to walk through the entire cheat sheet below, I do this in a post, eight months going forward:

https://duolinguist.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/french-moods-and-tenses/

frenchtenses171

Simple Forms

Present – an unchanging, repeated, or reoccurring action or situation that exists only now.

Past – expresses an action or situation that was started and finished in the past. Most past tense verbs end in -ed. The irregular verbs have special past tense forms which must be memorized.

Future – expresses an action or situation that will occur in the future. This tense is formed by using will/shall with the simple form of the verb. The future tense can also be expressed by using amis, or are with going to.

The surgeon is going to perform the first bypass in Minnesota. We can also use the present tense form with an adverb or adverbial phrase to show future time. The president speaks tomorrow. (Tomorrow is a future time adverb.)

Each tense has a progressive form, indicating ongoing action

Each tense has a perfect form, indicating completed action

Each tense has a perfect progressive form, indicating ongoing action that will be completed at some definite time.

Progressive Forms

Present Progressive Tense

Present progressive tense describes an ongoing action that is happening at the same time the statement is written. This tense is formed by using am/is/are with the verb form ending in -ing.

I.e The sociologist is examining the effects that racial discrimination has on society.

Past Progressive Tense

Past progressive tense describes a past action which was happening when another action occurred. This tense is formed by using was/were with the verb form ending in -ing.

i.e. The explorer was explaining the lastest discovery in Egypt when protests began on the streets.

Future Progressive Tense

Future progressive tense describes an ongoing or continuous action that will take place in the future. This tense is formed by using will be or shall be with the verb form ending in -ing.

i.e. Dr. Jones will be presenting ongoing research on sexist language next week.

Perfect Forms

Present Perfect Tense

Present perfect tense describes an action that happened at an indefinite time in the past or that began in the past and continues in the present.This tense is formed by using has/have with the past participle of the verb. Most past participles end in -ed. Irregular verbs have special past participles that must be memorized.

i.e. The researchers have traveled to many countries in order to collect more significant data.

Past Perfect Tense

Past perfect tense describes an action that took place in the past before another past action. This tense is formed by using had with the past participle of the verb.

i.e. By the time the troops arrived, the war had ended.

Future Perfect Tense

Future perfect tense describes an action that will occur in the future before some other action. This tense is formed by using will have with the past participle of the verb.

i.e. By the time the troops arrive, the combat group will have spent several weeks waiting.

Perfect Progressive Forms

Present Perfect Progressive

Present perfect progressive tense describes an action that began in the past, continues in the present, and may continue into the future. This tense is formed by using has/have been and the present participle of the verb (the verb form ending in -ing).

i.e. The CEO has been considering a transfer to the state of Texas where profits would be larger.

Past Perfect Progressive

Past perfect progressive tense describes a past, ongoing action that was completed before some other past action. This tense is formed by using had been and the present perfect of the verb (the verb form ending in -ing).

i.e. Before the budget cuts, the students had been participating in many extracurricular activities.

Future Perfect Progressive

Future perfect progressive tense describes a future, ongoing action that will occur before some specified future time. This tense is formed by using will have been and the present participle of the verb (the verb form ending in -ing).

Summary

Here is a list of examples of these tenses, for the verb – to take:

Simple Forms Progressive Forms Perfect Forms Perfect Progressive Forms
Present take/s am/is/are taking have/has taken have/has been taking
Past took was/were taking had taken had been taking
Future will/shall take will be taking will have taken will have been taking
Form Simple Progressive Perfect Perfect Progressive
Present *Habitual *General truth *Reporting in print *Historical present *Present moment action *Present period of time action *Parallel actions *An action that began in the past and continues by/in the present *An action occurred in the past (time is not specified) *An action has occurred more than once in the past *An action that started in the past and has continued into the present (emphasis on duration of the activity) *An activity that has been in progress recently
Past *Past action (specific time) *Past action (no longer true) *Past moment action *Past action (emphasis on duration) *An action was completed by a definite past time/ before another past action *An action that was completed before another action in the past (emphasis on the duration)
Future *An action that will occur in the future *Future moment action *Future action (emphasis on duration) *An action will be completed before another time in the future *An action that has been in progress for a period of time before another event in the future
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