Grammar – Tenses


The tense is the change of form in a verb to express the time of an action. There are three principal tenses:
The Present Tense:describes an action in the present time. For example:
1. This fruit tastes sweet.
2. They are playing in the garden.
3. He has done his best.
4. I have been doing this work for the last three years.
The Past Tense:describes an action in the past time. For example:
1. They found me asleep.
2. You were laughing at me.
3. I had made an appointment with the doctor.
4. She had been playing chess since 2005.
The Future Tense:describes an action in the future time. For example:
1. He will write a letter to his mother.
2. I shall be reaching Delhi tomorrow.
3. You will have finished your project.
4. She will have been reading novel.
Each of these principal tenses has four forms:
1. Indefinite
2. Continuous / Progressive
3. Perfect
4. Perfect Continuous / Progressive
The Present Tense
1. The Present Indefinite: is used:
1. To express a habitual action; as
a. He goes out for a walk every morning.
b. I get up every day at 5 o’clock.
2. To express general truths: as
a. The sun rises in the east.
b. Fortune favours the brave.
3. To express what is taking place at the present moment; as:
a. There he goes!
b. See, how it rains!
4. To indicate a future event, provided that the future time is implied by the context; as:
a. We sail for America next Monday.
b. He comes in a few days’ time.
2. The Present Continuous:is used:
1. To express some habit or custom; as:
a. She is working regula

rly these days.

b. He is always telling lies.
2. To express an action going on at the time of speaking; as:
a. John is reading a book.
b. She is playing chess.
3. To indicate an action that is planned to take place in the near future; as:
a. I am going to Jaipur tomorrow.
b. She is coming here in the evening.
4. To describe a temporary action which may not be actually going on at the time of speaking; as:
a. I am playing cricket these days.
b. We are learning German at school.
3. The Present Perfect: is used:
1. To denote an action that has just been completed; as,
a. He has reached home safe and sound.
b. He has worked the sum.
c. He has just gone out.
2. To describe some past event the present importance or effect of which is to be emphasized; as:
a. He has come to my house many a time (and so it is nothing strange that he has come again).
b. This disease has killed many children (and so something must be done about it).
c. He has travelled round the world (and so he knows much about other countries).
d. The students have gone on strike (and so the situation is serious).
3. To express some past experience whose time is not given; as:
a. My father has worked with Gandhiji.
b. I have seen the Taj Mahal in moonlight.
c. I have studied in this school.
4. To represent a past action as continuing to the present; as:
a. We have lived here ten years (and we are still living here).
b. He has been ill since last week (and he is still not well).
Note the difference:
1. We have lived here ten years.
2. We lived here ten years.
Sentence 1shows that we are still living here.
Sentence 2shows that we are living here no longer.
The Present Perfect, since it denotes present time, cannot be qualified by an Adverb or phrase denoting past time:
We can’t say — He has come yesterday.
He has reached home last night.
We should say — He came yesterday.
He reached home last night.
4. The Present Perfect Continuous:  is used when an action, started in the past, is still Continuing.
a. He has been reading English for two years.
b. They have been reading this book since morning.
The Past Tense
1. The Past Indefinite or The Past Simple: is used:
a. To denote an action in the past; as,
We learnt English at school.
He killed a snake.
My father taught in this school.
b. To denote a habitual action in the past; as:
He came to me every evening.
He never told a lie.
He studied many hours every day.
 C. To denote an action going on in the past; as,
While they danced (= were dancing) we sang (= were singing).
2. The Past Continuous:is used for an action continuing at a particular time or during a particular period in the past. The chief interest is not the time of action, but its continuity.
a. When I saw him, he was playing chess.
b. I was writinga letter when he came to my house.
This tense is also used with always, continually, etc., for persistent actions or habits in the past.

a. He was always ringing me up.
b. He was always troubling his parents.
3. The Past Perfect:is used to express an action completed before a certain moment in the past. It is used whenever we wish to say that some action had taken place before another was begun or completed.
a. The patient had died before the doctor came.
b. I had finished my work by evening.
This tense is also used to express some unfulfilled desire.
a. I wish my father had been here at this time.
b. I wish I had worked harder.
Note: If there are two actions taking place in the past:
1. The action that took place first is put in the Past Perfect Tense.
2. The action that took place later is put in the Past Indefinite Tense.
a. I had done my exercises when Hari came to see me.
b. I had written the letter before he arrived.
c. It started raining after he had left.
4. The Past Perfect Continuous: is used to indicate that the activity was continuous and that it was still going on, at the named point or period of time in the past.
a. When I reached there at 2 p.m., he had been waiting for me since 1.30 p.m.
b. It had been raining since morning when you rang me up.
The Future Tense

1. The Future Indefinite or The Future Simple:is used for an action that has still to take place: as,
a. I shall see him tomorrow.
b. They will play a match in the evening.
2. The Future Continuous:  is used to express an action going on at some point in future time; as:
a. I shall be reading the paper then.
b. They will be playing a match at that time.
This tense is also used to indicate some future plan; as,
a. We shall be staying there for a week.
b. I shall be visiting this place regularly.
(1) The Future Indefinite Tense (Future Simple) indicates some point of time in the future.
(2) The Future Continuous Tense (Future Progressive) indicates some period of time in the future.
(3) In the following sentences, the use of Future Indefinite seems to be as appropriate as the use of Future Continuous:
a. I shall do this work at 7 a.m. tomorrow. (Future Indefinite)
b. I shall be doing this work at 7 a.m. tomorrow (Future Continuous)
But note the difference in the meanings of these two sentences:
a. I shall do this work at 7 a.m. tomorrow.
(and I shall not start earlier than that)
b. I shall be doing this work at 7 a.m. tomorrow.
(/ shall start before 7 a.m. and shall continue working even after 7 a.m.)
The Future Indefinite shows that the action begins at the stated future moment.
The Future Continuous shows that the action began before the stated moment in the future.
3. The Future Perfect:  is used to indicate the completion of an action by a certain future time; as,
a. I shall have finished my homework by evening.
b. She will have cleaned the room before you reach there.
4. The Future Perfect Continuous: is used when an action is to continue till some point of time or for some period of time in future.
It emphasizes the continuity of an action up to a certain point of time in future.
a. By six o’clock
I will have been sitting here for ten hours.
b. He joined this office in the month of March. By December, he will have been working here for ten month.
The Perfect Continuous:is used when the action continues for some duration of time. In order to express the duration of time, the preposition for or since is used.
For is used when the period of time taken by the action is to be mentioned.
·         for fifteen minutes;
·         for half an hour;
·         for a month;
·         for three years;
·         for a long time.
Since is used when the point of time at which the action began is to be mentioned.
·         since Sunday;
·         since breakfast;
·         since yesterday;
·         since Diwali;
·         since January 1988.
·         since the first of May.

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