English Verb Tenses

Jump to the list of tenses


Sometimes English verb tenses seem complicated, don't they?

But they don't have to be, not if you really understand them.

Make sure to visit our English Grammar Tenses Collection for stories and exercises for all English tenses.


What does TENSE Mean?

What does tense mean?

A tense is a form of a verb which shows the time at which an action happens.

It comes from the Latin word "tempus", which means "time".


Examples

"Sang" is a form of the verb "sing". This form shows the action happened in the past. This is the Past Tense.

Girl singing

"Sleeps" is a form of the verb "sleep". This form shows the action happens in the present. This is the Present Tense.

Girl sleeping at night


In fact, English verb tenses are not much more complicated than that. We will go over them step by step so that you get full a understanding of them.

English Verb Tenses Made Simple, a Special 10-Day Course for FREE

We will start with the Simple English Tenses.

A Simple tense is a form of a verb that simply shows when the action takes place.

  • The Simple Past is a form of the verb that shows the action took place in the past.
  • For example: Lisa danced yesterday.


  • The Simple Present is a form of the verb that shows the action takes place in the present.
  • For example: Lisa dances every day.


  • The Simple Future is a form of the verb that shows the action will take place in the future.

    For example: Lisa will dance tomorrow.


Click here for the full data, examples and exercises on the Simple Tenses, and how to use them


Progressive (Continuous) Tenses

Couple dancing

PROGRESSIVE means "continuing".

A Progressive tense is a form of a verb that shows the action is in progress. Or in other words, that it continues.


  • The Past Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action was in progress at some time in the past.
  • For example: Lisa was dancing yesterday at 8 o'clock.


  • The Present Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action is in progress in the present.
  • For example: Lisa is dancing right now.


  • The Future Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action will be in progress at some time in the future.

    For example: Lisa will be dancing tomorrow at 8 o'clock.


Click here for the full data, examples and exercises on the Progressive (Continuous) Tenses, and how to use them


Perfect Tenses

Girl stepped on guy's foot

PERFECT means "complete, finished".

A Perfect tense is a form of a verb that shows the action is complete. It does not mean the action is "perfect" (100%). It means the action is finished.


  • The Past Perfect is a form of the verb that shows the action was complete before some time in the past.
  • For example: Lisa had danced before she came.


  • The Present Perfect is a form of the verb that shows the action was complete before the present.
  • For example: Lisa has already danced.


  • The Future Perfect is a form of the verb that shows the action will be complete before some time in the future.

    For example: Lisa will have danced tomorrow by 9 o'clock.


Click here for the full data, examples and exercises on the Perfect Tenses, and how to use them


Perfect + Progressive?!

Sad guy singing

Yes! There are 3 more tenses. These are the Perfect Progressive (Continuous) tenses.

A Perfect Progressive tense is a form of the verb that shows the action started, continued, and was complete until some point.


  • The Past Perfect Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action started in the past and continued until some point in the past.
  • For example: Lisa had been dancing for 2 hours before she was tired.


  • The Present Perfect Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action started in the past and continued until the present.
  • For example: Lisa has been dancing for 3 hours without stopping!


  • The Future Perfect Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action will continue until some point in the future.

    For example: By tomorrow morning, Lisa will have been dancing for 12 hours!


Click here for the full data, examples and exercises on the Perfect Progressive (Continuous) Tenses, and how to use them



Well, that is the big picture on English verb tenses.

Practice all the simple tenses. Download the English Grammar Stories and Exercises Series.

English Grammar Stories and Exercises

Go to each individual section for the full picture, examples and exercises on each tense:


Simple Tenses

Simple Past

Simple Present

Simple Future


Progressive (Continuous) Tenses

Past Progressive

Present Progressive

Future Progressive


Perfect Tenses

Past Perfect

Present Perfect

Future Perfect


Perfect Progressive
(Continuous) Tenses

Past Perfect Progressive

Present Perfect Progressive

Future Perfect Progressive


For many more examples of the English tenses, visit this section: 

Examples of English Tenses

You can also check out the Learn English Video section.

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