Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

15.15: Verb Tenses

  • Page ID
    225974

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    What are they?

    Tense refers to the form a verb takes in a sentence, whether to express the present, past or future.

    Connections

    For more help identifying subjects and verbs, turn to “Subject & Verb Identification.”

    Examples

    Simple Tenses

    Present: I learn.

    Past: I learned.

    Future: I will learn.

    Perfect Tenses

    Present perfect: I have learned.

    Past perfect: I had learned.

    Future perfect: I will have learned.

    Progressive Tenses

    Present progressive: I am learning.

    Past progressive: I was learning.

    Future progressive: I will be learning.

    Present perfect progressive: I have been learning.

    Past perfect progressive: I had been learning.

    Future perfect progressive: I will have been learning.

    Simple Tenses

    Present

    The present tense indicates that an action is taking place at the time you express it, or an action that occurs regularly.

    • We wear organic cotton shirts [an action taking place when it is expressed].
    • I watch the documentary on PBS each Sunday night [an action that occurs regularly].

    Past

    The past tense indicates that an action is completed and has already taken place.

    • Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his most famous speech in 1963 [an action completed in the past].
    • As a girl, she wondered how her college degree would help her career [an action that occurred once or many times in the past but did not extend to the present].

    Future

    The future tense indicates that an action will or is likely to take place.

    • Later today I will rinse the dishes [a future action that will definitely occur].
    • The defendant probably will plead innocent [a future action that is likely to occur].

    Perfect Tenses

    Perfect tenses designate actions that were or will be completed before other actions. You can form the perfect tenses with the appropriate tense form of the helping, or auxiliary, verb have plus the past participle.

    Present perfect

    The present tense indicates that an action is taking place at the time you express it, or an action that occurs regularly.

    • We have worn organic cotton shirts [an action that began in the past and is finished at the present].
    • She has donated extensively to UNICEF [an action that began in the past and extends into the present].

    Past perfect

    The past perfect tense indicates an action occurring before a certain time in the past.

    • By 1995, Doctor Harvey had built the first artificial brain.

    Future perfect

    The future perfect tense indicates that an action will be finished by a certain time.

    • By Thursday, the President will have apologized for his mistake.

    Progressive Tenses

    The progressive tenses express continuing action. You can form them with the appropriate tense of the verb be plus the present participle.

    Present progressive

    The present progressive tense indicates that something is happening at the time you express it.

    • The worker is hammering, and her foreman is watching lazily.

    Past progressive

    The past progressive tense indicates two kinds of past action.

    • Poe’s writing was becoming increasingly bizarre and dark [a continuing action in the past].
    • The mob tackled Jean-Luc Goddard while he was introducing the film [an action occurring at the same time in the past as another action].

    Future progressive

    The future progressive tense indicates a continuing action in the future.

    • The government will be monitoring the phones in the lab.

    Present perfect progressive

    The present perfect progressive tense indicates action continuing from the past into the present and possibly into the future.

    • The teacher has been grading since yesterday afternoon.

    Past perfect progressive

    The past perfect progressive tense indicates that a past action went on until another occurred.

    • Before her promotion, Nico had been working on restoring open space on campus.

    Future perfect progressive

    The future perfect progressive tense indicates that an action will continue until a certain future time.

    • On Tuesday I will have been working on this paper for six weeks.

    Adapted from The Brief Holt Handbook, Fourth Edition, Kirsner & Mandell, 2004.

    Practice

    Exercise 1 – Simple Past Tense

    Fill in each blank with the correct past tense form of the verb provided.

    Example:
    PLAY We played dodge ball all afternoon.

    FRY 1. We ___________ the fish we caught in the lake.

    STUDY 2. All of us ________________ hard for the physics exam.

    CRY 3. Mary ______________ on his shoulder all through the movie.

    MARRY 4. She _______________ him on Tuesday and played slots that night.

    TRY 5. Fred ____________ to get in the concert by posing as a security guard.

    SHOP 6. I _______________ for all of my birthday presents at the art fair.

    ADMIT 7. No one __________________ that he was tired.

    PLAN 8. Marty and Isabel ________________ their marriage simply and loosely.

    TERRIFY 9. The fireworks __________________ the younger children.

    Exercise 2 – Simple Past Tense

    In each of the following sentences, underline any verbs that should have –ed or –d endings and supply the missing letters. Watch for time expressions (last week, yesterday, years ago) that indicate past time.

    incorrect: The committee vote to adjourn yesterday.

    correct: The committee voted to adjourn yesterday.

    1. The driver ask for the exact fare last week.
    1. Oliver use to live in Berkeley when he was a college student.
    1. Katerina studied all the time and so she graduate from college last year.
    1. College students are suppose to attend every class meeting.
    1. Last Sunday, Laura listen to the drummers in the park.
    1. Until I started school, I work twenty hours per week and study the rest of the time.
    1. Finally Gayle’s cat return home.
    1. Several years ago I witness a crime and identify the criminal.

    Exercise 3 – Perfect Tenses

    Use the perfect tense to fill in the blank using the same time period (past, present, future) as the sample.

    Example: Joan licks the popsicle. (present tense)

    Joan has licked the popsicle. (present perfect tense)

    (Remember: Perfect tenses for the verb to run are:

    Present: she has run

    Past: she had run

    Future: she will have run)

    1. Eric took piano lessons.

    Eric ____________________ piano lessons since he was ten years old.

    1. Tara raises as many children as she can.

    Tara _______________ as many children as she can.

    1. Bill, on the other hand, will join the Coast Guard.

    Bill, on the other hand, ____________________ the Coast Guard.

    1. Alyssa gives a drawing to each of her friends.

    Alyssa ________________ a drawing to each of her friends.

    1. Chickens pecked at bugs and fruit in the garden.

    Chickens ____________________ at bugs and fruit in the garden.

    1. Each egg will travel a thousand miles before it lands on her lap.

    Each egg _____________________ a thousand miles before it lands on her lap.

    1. The wings had plenty of room to spread.

    The wings _____________ plenty of room to spread.

    1. Madison collects the hay in the morning after breakfast.

    Madison ____________________ the hay in the morning after breakfast.

    Exercise 4 – Progressive Tenses

    In the following sentences, change the simple tense verbs to progressive tense verbs using the same time period (present, past, future). Avoid the perfect tense for this exercise.

    Example: Martians land on the planet Earth. (present)

    Martians are landing on the planet Earth. (present progressive)

    (Remember: Progresssive tenses for the verb to run are:

    Present: she is running

    Past: she was running

    Future: she will be running)

    1. Ferdinand scoffed when his friends all left for college.

    Ferdinand __________________ when his friends all left for college.

    1. He enjoys his flowers, vegetables and herbs.

    He ______________________ his flowers, vegetables and herbs.

    1. The pumpkins ripened too long last year.

    The pumpkins ____________________ too long last year.

    1. His friends will call at the next holiday or break.

    His friends ________________________ at the next holiday or break.

    1. Ferdinand answers the phone saying “What?”

    Ferdinand ______________________ the phone saying “What?”

    1. He screened his calls last week to avoid bill collectors.

    He ____________________ his calls last week to avoid bill collectors.

    1. His money goes under his mattress until he needs it.

    His money ___________________ under his mattress until he needs it.

    1. He will go fishing next week if he gets his license.

    He _______________________ next week if he gets his license.

    Answer

    Exercise 1 – Simple Past Tense

    Fill in each blank with the correct past tense form of the verb provided.

    Example:

    PLAY We played dodge ball all afternoon.

    FRY 1. We fried the fish we caught in the lake.

    STUDY 2. All of us studied hard for the physics exam.

    CRY 3. Mary cried on his shoulder all through the movie.

    MARRY 4. She married him on Tuesday and played slots that night.

    TRY 5. Fred tried to get in the concert by posing as a security guard.

    SHOP 6. I shopped for all of my birthday presents at the art fair

    ADMIT 7. No one admitted that he was tired.

    PLAN 8. Marty and Isabel planned their marriage simply and loosely.

    TERRIFY 9. The fireworks terrified the younger children.

    COMPILE 10. The assistants compiled the materials into a great handbook.

    Exercise 2 – Simple Past Tense

    In each of the following sentences, underline any verbs that should have –ed or –d endings and supply the missing letters. Watch for time expressions (last week, yesterday, years ago) that indicate past time.

    incorrect: The committee vote to adjourn yesterday.

    correct: The committee voted to adjourn yesterday.

    1. The driver asked for the exact fare last week.
    2. Oliver used to live in Berkeley when he was a college student.
    3. Katerina studied all the time and so she graduated from college last year.
    4. College students are supposed to attend every class meeting.
    5. Last Sunday, Laura listened to the drummers in the park.
    6. Until I started school, I worked twenty hours per week and study the rest of the time.
    7. Finally Gayle’s cat returned home.
    8. Several years ago I witnessed a crime and identify the criminal.

    Adapted from Fog City Fundamentals, Fourth Edition, Altman & Deicke, 1998.

    Exercise 3 – Perfect Tenses

    Use the perfect tense to fill in the blank using the same time period (past, present, future) as the sample.

    Example: Joan licks the popsicle. (present tense)

    Joan has licked the popsicle. (present perfect tense)

    (Remember: Perfect tenses for the verb to run are:

    Present: she has run

    Past: she had run

    Future: she will have run)

    1. Eric took piano lessons.

    Eric had taken piano lessons since he was ten years old.

    1. Tara raises as many children as she can.

    Tara has raised as many children as she can.

    1. Bill, on the other hand, will join the Coast Guard.

    Bill, on the other hand, will have joined the Coast Guard.

    1. Alyssa gives a drawing to each of her friends.

    Alyssa has given a drawing to each of her friends.

    1. Chickens pecked at bugs and fruit in the garden.

    Chickens had pecked at bugs and fruit in the garden.

    1. Each egg will travel a thousand miles before it lands on her lap.

    Each egg will have traveled a thousand miles before it lands on her lap.

    1. The wings had plenty of room to spread.

    The wings had had plenty of room to spread.

    1. Madison collects the hay in the morning after breakfast.

    Madison has collected the hay in the morning after breakfast.

    Exercise 4 – Progressive Tenses

    In the following sentences, change the simple tense verbs to progressive tense verbs using the same time period (present, past, future). Avoid the perfect tense for this exercise.

    1. Ferdinand scoffed when his friends all left for college.

    Ferdinand was scoffing when his friends all left for college.

    1. He enjoys his flowers, vegetables and herbs.

    He is enjoying his flowers, vegetables and herbs.

    1. The pumpkins ripened too long last year.

    The pumpkins were ripening too long last year.

    1. His friends will call at the next holiday or break.

    His friends will be calling at the next holiday or break.

    1. Ferdinand answers the phone saying “What?”

    Ferdinand is answering the phone saying “What?”

    1. He screened his calls last week to avoid bill collectors.

    He was screening his calls last week to avoid bill collectors.

    1. His money goes under his mattress until he needs it.

    His money is going under his mattress until he needs it.

    1. He will go fishing next week if he gets his license.

    He will be going fishing next week if he gets his license.


    This page titled 15.15: Verb Tenses is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Skyline English Department.

    • Was this article helpful?