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The FIVE most important tenses in the English language


It is important to know when to use each tense and also how to make the tenses. Here’s some help with the most commonly used tenses in English:


Present Simple

(I go)

Past Simple

(I went)

Future Simple

(I will go)

Present Perfect

(I have gone)

Present Continuous

(I am going)

When do I use this tense?

Used for present facts and repeated actions.

Used for completed actions in the past.

Used for future actions, even if they are only a few seconds in the future.

Used for actions which started in the past and are still true now.

Used for temporary actions going on now.

Words that signal use of the tense:

every (day, week, month, year, etc.), always, usually, often, sometimes, etc.

Yesterday, last (week, month, year, etc.), when I was a child, this morning (if it is no longer morning), etc.

Tomorrow, next (week, month, year, etc.), in the future, when I retire, when I get home, etc.

Since, for, ever (with questions), up to now, how long (with questions), etc.

Now, at the moment, today, this week, presently, etc.

How do I make the tense?

The first form of the verb is used to make the Present Simple.

For questions and negatives the helping verb (do / does) is used with the first form of the verb.

An important rule with the Present Simple is: Don’t forget the "s" with he, she & it!

The second form of the verb is used for the Past Simple.

However, when making questions and negatives in the Past Simple, we use the helping verb "did" and leave the main verb in its infinitive form (1st form).

The Future Simple is formed with the helping verb will and the first form of the verb.

The Present Perfect is formed with the helping verb have (or: has) and the third form of the verb.

The Present Continuous is formed with the helping verb to be (am, are, is) and the "-ing" form of the verb.

Which helping verb do I use?

do / does



have / has

to be (am, are, is)

Handy hint on tense usage in written English:

Tense refers to time. What time is it in your sentence? Whatever time it is it should remain consistent throughout your whole piece of writing. If it was last week you are talking about, stay there.


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