English Verb Tenses
Made Simple Course

Lesson 03


Welcome to the third 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 this lesson we will learn:

What Are the 2 Most Important Questions?

What Are the 2 Most Important Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before You Say or Write a Sentence?

These 2 questions are important because they will help you decide which tense you should use.

So... These questions are:

1) What is the time of the action?

2) What aspect of the action do I want to emphasize?

Let's start with the first one.

1) What Is the Time of the Action?

There are basically 3 possible answers to this question:

Past, present or future.

Examples of PAST time expressions:

Yesterday When we were young
Last week Before World War II
A month ago Last Sunday
In 2001 When I was a child
In the 20th century A few days ago

Examples of PRESENT time expressions:

Now This summer
Today At the moment
This week As we speak
This month Currently
These days Right now

Examples of FUTURE time expressions:

Tomorrow In an hour
Next Week Tonight
Next month This evening
Next year When I graduate
In 2035 Before they arrive


2) What Aspect of the Action
Do I Want to Emphasize?

This basically means: 

do you want to emphasize the fact that the action is in progress (ongoing)? 

Or the fact that the action is complete (finished)? 

Or maybe you don't want to emphasize anything?

It is up to you to decide.

Let's look at a real life example:

Lisa is at the bank. She waits for service. She waits and waits and waits, but nothing happens. Now, after all this waiting she wants to complain about it.

What time should she use? PRESENT, because it's happening NOW.

She wants to emphasize the fact that this action is now in progress, it still continues, so she uses the PROGRESSIVE aspect.

(PROGRESSIVE means "continuing")

So Lisa says: "I am still waiting! What is going on?"

"I left my job a week ago."
Another real life example:

Lisa talks with some friends. They ask her about her life. She wants to tell them that she left her job a week ago.

What time should she use? PAST, because it happened a week ago.

She just wants to mention what she did. She doesn't want to emphasize any particular aspect, so she uses the SIMPLE past form of the verb.

Lisa says: "I left my job a week ago."


Everyday English

These two rules are applied by English speakers all the time. Obviously, they don't pause every time they want to say something... It is done naturally, without thinking about it.

In everyday English you usually see the following:

Regular actions in the present are expressed using the Simple Present tense:

  • She likes to swim.
  • They meet every day.
  • He never fails.
Actions that are happening right now, or at the current time period are expressed using the Present Progressive tense:
  • I am eating a sandwich.
  • He is preparing for his exam.
  • She is not working today.

Things that happened in the past are expressed using the Simple Past tense.

  • She started school in 1991.
  • They bought the house a year ago.
  • We wanted to go to the party last night.

Actions that were in progress over a period of time in the past are expressed using the Past Progressive tense:

  • I was washing the dishes all evening.
  • She was sleeping all night.
  • They were working when the power went off.

Things from the past that affect the present are expressed using the Present Perfect tense:

  • I have lost my wallet. Now what am I going to do?
  • She has watched that movie. She doesn't want to watch it again.
  • You have studied for this exam, so you should do fine.

Things that will happen in the future (not plans), predictions, promises, intentions, etc. are expressed using the Simple Future tense ("will"):

  • I will be 21 next week.
  • I will help you.
  • She will not tell you.
Things that you plan to do in the future, or predictions, are expressed using the Simple Future tense ("going to"):
  • I am going to start a business.
  • He is going to talk with his father about this.
  • They are not going to listen.

Important note:

This is a partial list of the most common tenses usage.

Don't worry if you don't remember all of it. This is just a short overview.

We will go over all these tenses in detail in the following lessons!

We will go over all these tenses in detail in the following lessons!

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

Click the links below to start practicing:

Lesson 03, Exercise 01

Lesson 03, Exercise 02

On the next lesson we will dive right into learning 3 of the most common tenses of the English language.

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

Click here to ask your question.

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