Grammar 6 min read

Verb Tenses: A Quick Guide to Mastering Grammatical Tenses

Main Takeaways:

  • Verb tenses indicate whether an event is from the past, present, or future.
  • There are 12 verb tenses in the English language.
  • Auxiliary words follow most verb tenses.

Verb tenses clarify whether an event is from the past, present, or future. They give your audience a better understanding of when something happened. This guide will teach you about each type. Also, we’ve got some nifty formulas and a chart that you can use for future reference.

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What are the English Verb Tenses?

In the English language, verb tenses express when an event occurs. We also use verb tenses to convey events from the past, present, or future. These verb tenses typically follow auxiliary words.

An auxiliary word is a helping word, often a verb, that enhances the underlying meaning of a clause’s main verb. Auxiliaries provide information about a verb’s tense. They can also express details about a mood, number, or person. Can, may, must, and will are examples of auxiliary words.

Verb tenses indicate whether an event is from the past, present, or future.
Verb tenses indicate whether an event is from the past, present, or future.

How do you use Verb Tenses?

Use verb tenses when you want to show when something has or will happen. Before choosing a tense, consider these tips:

  1. Know the correct way to express your verb in different tenses, such as adding -ed to a word.
  2. Also, avoid shifting tenses and remain consistent with verb tense usage.
  3. Pick the correct auxiliary words, such as will or have.

What are the 12 Tenses of the Verb?

There are 12 verb tenses in the English language:

  • Present Simple
  • Present Continuous
  • Present Perfect
  • Present Perfect Continuous
  • Past Simple
  • Past Continuous
  • Past Perfect
  • Past Perfect Continuous
  • Future Simple
  • Future Continuous
  • Future Perfect
  • Future Perfect Continuous

When paired with an auxiliary word, these tenses provide information about the primary verbs in your sentences.

Present continuous, present perfect, and present perfect continuous are tenses that express actions happening right now. Present simple indicates an action that occurs regularly, such as a daily commute to work.

Past simple, past continuous, past perfect, and past perfect continuous show actions that happened previously.

Meanwhile, future simple, future perfect, future continuous, and future perfect continuous tenses indicate an action that has not happened yet.

What is the Formula for all Tenses?

Most verb tenses follow a specific formula based on the tense you choose. Keep our handy guide bookmarked until you can easily identify or remember the formulas for verb tenses.

Note the verb form in parentheses in these formulas:

  • V1 is the base form of the verb (clean, shop, begin)
  • V2 is the past simple form of the verb (cleaned, shopped, began)
  • V3 is the past participle form of the verb (cleaned, shopped, begun)
Verb TenseFormulaExample
Present SimpleSubject + Verb (v1) + es/esI play music nearly every day.
Past SimpleSubject + Verb (v2) or irregular verbYesterday, I played an entire album.
Future SimpleSubject+ will/shall+ verb (v1)I will play as many albums as I can this month.
Present ContinuousSubject + is/am/are + Verb(+ing)I am playing The Offspring right now.
Past ContinuousSubject + was/were + Verb(+ing)I was playing Marshmello and Halsey last night.
Future ContinuousSubject + will be/shall be + verb(+ing)I will be playing My Chemical Romance after I download my favorite album.
Present PerfectSubject + Has/have + Verb (v3)I have played so many songs I can’t keep track.
Past PerfectSubject + had + Verb (v3)I had played at least 100 albums by the time I was 10.
Future PerfectSubject + will have + verb(v3)I will have played at least 1,000 songs by the time this year ends.
Present Perfect ContinuousSubject + Has/have + been + Verb(+ing)I have been playing music since I was a toddler.
Past Perfect ContinuousSubject + had + been + Verb(+ing)I had been playing for at least a year before my parents bought me my own iPod.
Future Perfect ContinuousSubject + will have been + verb(+ing)I will have been playing songs for at least 3 hours before practice tonight.
(Note: v1 = base form of the verb; v2 = past simple form of the verb; v3 = past participle form of the verb)


1. Simple Present Tense

Structure: Subject + Verb (v1) + es/es

eat fruit daily.
Alex cooks breakfast for his mom each morning.

2. Present Continuous Tense

Structure: Subject + is/am/are + Verb(+ing)

Bryson is eating dinner.
am studying biology.

3. Present Perfect Tense

Structure: Subject + Has/have + Verb (v3)

Skye has created this beautiful pattern.
have practiced my scrapbooking techniques.

4. Present Perfect Continuous Tense

Structure: Subject + Has/have + been + Verb(+ing)

have been tackling my project for the last week.
Linda has been visiting her mom here since 2015.


5. Simple Past Tense

Structure: Subject + Verb (v2) or irregular verb

He learned several new words.
She ran down the path.

6. Past Continuous Tense

Structure: Subject + was/were + Verb(+ing)

She was reading a magazine.
was going to a restaurant for pancakes.

7. Past Perfect Tense

Structure: Subject + had + Verb (v3)

Jay had completed his online class.
Bella had finished her phone call.

8. Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Structure: Subject + had + been + Verb(+ing)

He had been studying his vocabulary words for the last hour.
Lucas had been playing golf since noon.


9. Simple Future Tense

Structure: Subject+ will/shall+ verb(v1)

shall go swimming in the pool.
He will walk 3 miles.

10. Future Continuous Tense

Structure: Subject + will be/shall be + verb(+ing)

Marcus will be practicing his trumpet.
We shall be watching a movie together.

11. Future Perfect Tense

Structure: Subject + will have + verb(v3)

She will have played tennis.
will have finished my project.

12. Future Perfect Continuous Tense

Structure: Subject + will have been + verb(+ing)

He will have been sitting in traffic for more than an hour by the time this wreck clears.
Sue will have been waiting in line for more than 15 minutes after the only cashier returns from her break.

Follow these guidelines and formulas, and you’ll never go wrong with your tenses again.

Read More: How To Use The Past Perfect Tense Of A Verb In A Sentence

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