English Verb Tenses
Made Simple Course

Lesson 02


Welcome to the second lesson of this special course!

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

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On the last lesson I started telling you about a very important factor:

The Trick to Understanding English Verb Tenses

The Trick to Understanding
English Verb Tenses

So... What's the trick?

As I mentioned on the previous lesson, English verb tenses can be made very complicated, but they really don't have to be.

You just need to understand 2 basic things. These 2 key things can make your life a lot easier...

On this lesson we will discuss them in detail.

So what are these 2 things?

Here goes:

Time + Aspect

Every verb in the English language gives us information about two important factors:

1) Time

2) Aspect

Time

Time

Now, understanding time is easy, right?

When does it happen?

An hour ago? Yesterday? Tomorrow? Right now? This week? By 2054?

What is the time of the action?


In English we basically have 3 possibilities:

The past, the present and the future.


Each of the following sentences shows different time:

"I ate an apple yesterday." (Time = past)

"You eat apples." (Time = present)

"She will eat an apple." (Time = future)


So we discussed "time," but what is an aspect?

Aspect

Aspect

Okay, this is the tricky one. Probably the reason why it so tricky is that many other languages simply don't have it! So when you start learning this in English, it can seem very confusing.

So what's an ASPECT?

An aspect is a point of view, a way to look at something.

In grammar, an aspect is a way to change the verb in order to show additional information about it.

This additional information tells us whether the action is complete or ongoing (in progress).


For example:

In the sentence "I eat an apple," the verb "to eat" has a simple form.

Meaning, it only shows us the time of the action. It doesn't give us any additional information.


Compare it with the following sentence:

"I am eating an apple."

Now, here the verb form "am eating" does not only show us the time of the action, but it also gives us an additional piece of information. It tells us that the action is currently in progress, it is not finished yet.

In other words, it emphasizes the fact that the action is continuing as we speak.


Compare it with the following sentence:

"I have eaten an apple."

Here the verb form "have eaten" does not only show us the time of the action, but it also gives us an additional piece of information. It tells us that the action is already complete, it is no longer in progress.

In other words, it emphasizes the fact that the action is finished.

Take a look at the following table:

Action Verb Form (=Tense) Sentence Time Aspect Meaning
to eat eat I eat an apple. Present Simple It simply tells the time. It doesn't emphasize anything.
to eat am eating I am eating an apple. Present Progressive It gives the time AND emphasizes the fact that the action is in progress.
to eat have eaten I have eaten an apple. Present Perfect It gives the time  AND emphasizes the fact that the action is finished.

So you see, these 3 sentences have:

  • The same ACTION (eating) 

  • The same TIME (the present) 

  • But different ASPECTS, meaning different things we want to emphasize. 
So we get 3 different TENSES!

These tenses are:
  • Simple Present

  • Present Progressive

  • Present Perfect
Note that for each tense we change the basic verb in a different way:
  • eat

  • am eating

  • have eaten
This example was for the present, but obviously it's the same with the past and the future.

Take a look at the following table:

Aspect/Time Past Present Future
Simple Simple Past Simple Present Simple Future
Progressive Past Progressive Present Progressive Future Progressive
Perfect Past Perfect Present Perfect Future Perfect

In the above table TIME and ASPECT combine to create the different English tenses.

So How Do You Use This Information?

So How Do You Use This Information?

Let's say you want to say what you are going to do tomorrow. You do not want to emphasize any particular aspect. How do you say it?

"I will talk with my boss tomorrow." (Simple Future)

TIME: Future, ASPECT: Simple

Now, if you want to emphasize the fact that in 10 AM tomorrow you are going to be in the middle of a conversation with your boss (so nobody should disturb you), then you say:

"Tomorrow at 10 AM I will be talking with my boss." (Future Progressive)

TIME: Future, ASPECT: Progressive

And if you want to say, that by 10:30 AM, your conversation with your boss will be finished (and you are free to take care of other matters), you say:

"Tomorrow at 10:30 AM I will have talked with my boss."

TIME: Future, ASPECT: Perfect

A meeting with the boss

So now, after all of this information, let's do some exercises!

Click the links below to start practicing:

Lesson 02, Exercise 01

Lesson 02, Exercise 02

On the next lesson we will learn what are the 2 most important questions you must ask yourself before you speak or write a sentence?

Do you have any questions? Now is the perfect time to ask them!

Click here to ask your question.

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