12 English Tenses

woman wearing teal dress sitting on chair talking to man

In English, there are typically 12 tenses that are commonly used. These tenses are used to indicate different times in relation to the present, past, and future.

Here is a breakdown of the 12 tenses and their common contexts:

PRESENT

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Present Simple: Used for general facts, habits, and permanent situations.

Example: “I eat breakfast every morning.”

woman reading a book beside the window

Present Continuous: Used for actions happening now or around the present moment.

Example: “She is reading a book right now.”

clear glass museum during golden hour

Present Perfect: Used for past actions with a connection to the present or for experiences.


Example: “I have visited Paris several times.”

young man and woman walking together

Present Perfect Continuous: Used for actions that started in the past, continue in the present, and may continue in the future.

Example: “They have been studying English for three years.”

PAST

Past Simple: Used for completed actions in the past.

Example: “He watched a movie last night.”

Learn here the past form of irregular verbs.

man with a bowl of popcorn watching tv at home

Past Continuous: Used for actions in progress at a specific time in the past.

Example: “We were playing soccer when it started to rain.”

men playing football

Past Perfect: Used to describe an action that happened before another action in the past.

Example: “She had already finished her homework when her friends arrived.”

a woman in orange dress knocking on the door

Past Perfect Continuous: Used to describe a continuous action that happened before another action in the past.

Example: “I had been waiting for two hours before the bus finally arrived.”

man working on a bus stop

FUTURE

people toasting wine glasses

Future Simple: Used for actions that will happen in the future.

Example: “They will go to the party tomorrow.”

clever female student reading book in library

Future Continuous: Used for actions that will be in progress at a specific time in the future.


Example: “At 7 PM tomorrow, I will be studying for my exam.”

person wearing white dress shirt signing contract

Future Perfect: Used for actions that will be completed before a specific time in the future.


Example: “By next week, he will have finished writing the report.”

fashion hand hurry outfit

Future Perfect Continuous: Used for actions that will have been ongoing for a certain duration before a specific time in the future.

Example: “By the time she arrives, I will have been waiting for two hours.”

It’s important to note that some tenses may have additional nuanced uses and variations, but these are the basic contexts in which they are typically employed.

Summary

Tense Form Usage Example
Present Simple Subject + Verb General facts, habits, permanent situations I eat breakfast every morning.
Present Continuous Subject + “be” verb + Verb + “-ing” Actions happening now or around the present moment She is reading a book right now.
Present Perfect Subject + “have” + Past Participle Past actions with a connection to the present or experiences I have visited Paris several times.
Present Perfect Continuous Subject + “have been” + Verb + “-ing” Actions started in the past, continue in the present, and may continue in the future They have been studying English for three years.
Past Simple Subject + Verb (Past Tense) Completed actions in the past He watched a movie last night.
Past Continuous Subject + “be” verb (Past Tense) + Verb + “-ing” Actions in progress at a specific time in the past We were playing soccer when it started to rain.
Past Perfect Subject + “had” + Past Participle Action that happened before another action in the past She had already finished her homework when her friends arrived.
Past Perfect Continuous Subject + “had been” + Verb + “-ing” Continuous action that happened before another action in the past I had been waiting for two hours before the bus finally arrived.
Future Simple Subject + “will” + Verb Actions that will happen in the future They will go to the party tomorrow.
Future Continuous Subject + “will be” + Verb + “-ing” Action that will be in progress at a specific time in the future At 7 PM tomorrow, I will be studying for my exam.
Future Perfect Subject + “will have” + Past Participle Action that will be completed before a specific time in the future By next week, he will have finished writing the report.
Future Perfect Continuous Subject + “will have been” + Verb + “-ing” Action that will have been ongoing for a certain duration before a specific time in the future By the time she arrives, I will have been waiting for two hours.

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