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Verb Tenses

Written by tutor Brian S.

Welcome to the world of verb tenses. Let's just jump right in, using my imaginary friend, Aldarron, as a basis.

Aldarron plays a lot of video games. He played this morning when he woke up; he will play a game sometime next year. He likely is playing even now as he was playing when you started and will be playing when you finish reading this. He probably has been playing for hours since he has played for days on end in the past, and he will have been playing non-stop during the next competition, so Aldarron will have played his best to win. In the past, he had played and placed second instead.

That's a lot of the root verb “to play”, isn't it? However, with a knowledge of verb tenses, we can understand precisely what is going on. Let's now rewind and take them one at a time:

Present Tense (“plays”):

General Formation: just the base (I/we/you/they play) or by adding “-s” to the root (he/she/it plays)
General Use: to make a statement about what the subject does, often something that is a daily event or other often occurrence

Past Tense (“played”):

General Formation: adding “-ed” to the root
General Use: to make a statement about what the subject used to do in the past, often either a habit or a single event. Either way, the action is entirely in the past

Future Tense (“will play”):

General Formation: adding the word “will” before the root
General Use: to make a statement about what the subject will do in the future, often a single event, but it can be used to indicate a future lifestyle/habit change too

Present Progressive (“is playing”):

General Formation: adding the proper conjugation of “to be” before the root
General Use: to write about something which is happening right now that recently started, or it can be used as a statement of what the subject is doing at that instant

Past Progressive (“was playing”):

General Formation: adding the proper conjugation of the past tense of “to be” before the root
General Use: to write about something which was an ongoing event in the past that has either ended or the current status is unknown; it is also often used for an action that was just interrupted

Future Progressive (“will be playing”):

General Formation: adding the words “will be” before the root
General Use: to write about something which will be ongoing in the future

Present Perfect Progressive (“has been playing”):

General Formation: adding “have” (I/we/you/they) or “has” (she/he/it) and “been” before the root
General Use: to write about something that started in the past which is still happening right now; it is used to added an aspect of the past to events in the present

Present Perfect (“has played”):

General Formation: adding “have” (I/we/you/they) or “has” (she/he/it) before the root
General Use: to write about something that started in the past which has recently ended or is ending now; either way, the past is affecting the present in some manner

Future Perfect Progressive (“will have been playing”):

General Formation: adding the words “will have been” before the root
General Use: to write about something that will be ongoing in the future which began before that future time, often beginning either in the past or in the present

Future Perfect (“will have played”):

General Formation: adding the words “will have” before the root
General Use: to write about a single event in the future which began before that future time, often beginning either in the past or in the present

Past Perfect (“had played”):

General Formation: adding the word “had” before the root
General Use: to write about an event that both began and ended in the past

Notes:
-There is also a Past Perfect Progressive (“had been playing”) form, but that is not often used anymore as many use the past perfect form or just past tense instead.

Verb Tense Practice Quiz

Now, test your knowledge by answering the questions with the appropriate choice.

Choose the answer that puts the following into the present perfect tense.
I walk.

A. I am walking.
B. I have walked.
C. I walked.
D. I had walked.
The correct answer here would be B.

The present perfect tense is formed by using "has" or "have," along with the appropriate subject and the past tense of the verb.

Choose the answer that puts the following into the future progressive tense.
I eat.

A. I did eat.
B. I have eaten.
C. I will eat.
D. I will be eating.
The correct answer here would be D.

The future progressive tense is formed by using "will be," along with the appropriate subject and the progressive (ing) of the verb.

Which of the following would be most appropriate to describe an action that began and ended in the past?

A. Past perfect
B. Past progressive
C. Present progressive
D. Present tense
The correct answer here would be A.

An action that clearly began and ended in the past calls for the past perfect tense, such as "She had loved him for years, but realized it was time for a divorce.

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