English Tenses (an overview)

Read the brief description of the verb tenses

This lesson is the basic overview of the verb tenses. In later lessons each tense will be covered in great detail.

Verbs come in three tenses: past, present, and future.

The past is used to describe things that have already happened (e.g., 1 minute ago, 5 hours earlier, yesterday, three years ago).

The present tense is used to describe things that are happening right now, or things that are continuous. (e.g., I am walking, you are talking, he is short, it is snowing).

The future tense describes things that haven’t happened yet (e.g., later today, tomorrow, next week, next year, three years from now).

Time

When we think of tense we should be thinking of time:

Past

“I ate pizza yesterday”

Yesterday I ate a pizza. I started and finished eating the pizza yesterday.

Present

“I am eating pizza”

Right now I am eating some pizza.

Future

“I will eat pizza tomorrow”

Tomorrow I am eating some pizza.

Aspect

An aspect is a part of time or a feature of time.

So in the example

“I ate pizza yesterday” This is a simple aspect of the past. Therefore we call it Past simple.

In the other 2 examples

“I am eating pizza” This is a continuous aspect of the present.

“I will eat pizza tomorrow” This is a simple aspect of the future.

You may hear some people say Simple Past, but for our lesson today it will be Past simple. You may also hear the aspect continuous replaced with the word progressive, but in this lesson we will use continuous.

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