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A Summary of All English Tenses for ESL Teachers and Learners

A Summary of All English Tenses for ESL Teachers and Learners | ITTT | TEFL Blog

The tense system of English is probably one of the most daunting areas for many speakers of other languages. Multiple tenses should be taught through explaining strict grammar rules while allowing the students to practice proper structure, as well as evaluating themselves with quizzes and examples.

There are three different tenses in English: the past, the present and the future. Each of these tenses has four aspects: simple, continuous, perfect and perfect continuous.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Zhong B.

1. The Past Tenses

The past tense expresses or indicates a time that is in the past. For instance, if we want to say that an event occurred or something was the case at a particular time in the past, we use the past simple tense which is the one we use most often.

1) Simple Past Tense

Structure: Verb + ed or irregular verb. Example: It rained yesterday.

2) Past Continuous Tense

Structure: Was/were + present participle. Example: We were not listening.

3) Past Perfect Tense

Structure: Had + past participle. Example: He had completed his project.

4) Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Structure: Had + been + past participle Example: I had been eating my dinner for 20 minutes.

2. The Present Tenses

It is the situation when we are talking an existing state of events. We use a verb that is the present tense.

1) Simple Present Tense

Structure: Base verb (+ s/es for third party). Example: I read a book every night.

2) Present Continuous Tense

Structure: is/am/are + present participle. Example: He is sitting in a chair.

3) Present Perfect Tense

Structure: Has/have + past participle Example: I have finished my report.

4) Present Perfect Continuous Tense

Structure: Has/have + been + present participle Example: I have been studying at this school since 2013.

3. The Future Tense

This describes an action that will take place at some future time. For example, if we want to say something that is planned to happen, or we think it is likely to happen in the future, then we use the future tense.

1) Simple Future Tense

Structure: Will + verb Example: He will complete his summative task tomorrow.

2) Future Continuous Tense

Structure: Will be + present participle Am/is/are + going to be + present participle Example: I will be watching the movie at 7 pm.

3) Future Perfect Tense

Structure: Will have + past participle Am/is/are + going to have + past participle Example: She will have completed the English course by the end of this year.

4) Future Perfect Continuous Tense

Structure: Will have been + present participle Am/is/are + going to have been + present participle Example: By next Sunday, I will have been studying grammar for two weeks.

In summary, English grammar of multiple tenses can be hard to learn for lots of non-native English speakers. Many complex rules and exceptions make the language difficult to master. However, teaching multiple tenses can help students to learn English language from the basis. Three main types of tenses are explained above with examples and basic structures.

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