Which Verb Tense Fits Best?

The best verb tense makes your message click.


Verbs express what the subject is doing (or being) and are necessary for the formation of any complete thought.

Verb tenses are important for expressing when actions happen in relation to other actions.


You already know if the actions happen in the past, present, future.


There are 4 present tenses, 4 past tenses, and 4 future tenses: How do you know which fits best?


Do the following with the actions that you want to talk about:


First, determine if each action is singular or continuous.


2 Clues:

Ongoing or repeated actions are considered continuous even if they are not happening when you talk about them.


Continuous actions end in -ing and are preceded by a form of the verb "to be."



Singular Action(s): He always kicks the ball and shouts.

Continuous Action(s): He is always kicking the ball and shouting.


Talking about the Present


Most English language learners find present tense the least tricky.


Use simple present if you want to talk about (1) habits or (2) timeless facts.


Examples:

(1) I walk uphill to school every day.

(2) Some dogs bark a lot.


Use simple present continuous if you want to talk about something happening at this moment or repeatedly including during the present time even if it is not happening at this exact moment.


Example:

I am walking uphill to school nowadays.


You can also repeat or combine singular and continuous actions in the same sentence:


Examples:


I walk uphill to school nowadays, which is why I am in bed so early now.


I walk to school every day while the dogs are barking at me.


Talking about the Past


Use simple past if you want to talk about singular actions in the past.

Example:

I walked uphill to school yesterday.


If you want to talk about related actions in the past that did not occur at the same time or for the same duration...


Use (1a) past perfect or (1b) past perfect continuous followed by (2a) simple past or (2b) simple past continuous


Examples:

I (1a) had walked uphill to school every day before I (2a) drove my own car.

I (1b) had been walking uphill to school every day for five years before I (2b) was driving my own car.


Use (1) present perfect if you want to mention but not focus on past actions or general past experiences because they created or affect the (2) present circumstances.


Examples:

I (1) have walked to school uphill, so (2) driving my own car is important to me now.

(2) Driving my own car is important to me now because (1) I have walked to school uphill.


These examples do not specify when, how often, or how long I walked to school uphill because those details are not important. I mention the walking experience only to indicate that it was significant enough to make driving my own car important to me now. The focus of the sentence is on the importance of driving to me.


Talking about the Future


Use simple future if you want to talk about singular actions that will happen in the future.


Example:


I will walk to school tomorrow.


Use future perfect if you want to talk about actions (1) that will be started and completed in the future when other actions (2a) happen or are (2b) happening.


Example:

When you (2a) come late to pick me up for school tomorrow, I (1) will have arrived already.


In this example, one singular action will happen (come) when another action (will have arrived) is in the past.


When you are (2b) coming late to pick me up from school tomorrow, I (1) will have arrived already.


In this example, one singular action will be happening (coming) when another action (will have arrived) is in the past.


Use future perfect continuous if you want to talk about actions that will be happening in the future when other actions happen or while other actions are happening.


Example:

When you arrive late to pick me up for school tomorrow, I will have been walking for a half hour already.


In this example, one singular action will happen (arrive) while another continuous action, which was started before, is still happening (walking).


We have been bringing a lesson to you every week, and one year from today, we will have brought you 52 more. As always, thanks so much for reading!

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