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Verb Tenses – Past Present & Future

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Verb Tenses – Past Present & Future

shape Introduction

What is a verb?
A verb is a word denoting action. A verb is a doing word. A verb is used to indicate an action in a sentence. A verb is used to express action or state of being and tells what the subject of the clause is or does. A verb is necessary to complete a sentence. Take the examples given below:


  • He has not broken his pledge taken at the time of his swearing in ceremony.

  • Ramesh ate his food quickly.

  • Meenakshi slept soundly until her exams started.


In the first sentence, the verb is “broken” or “to break”. Here, the verb “to break” is in the present perfect tense. In the second sentence, the verb “ate” is in the simple past tense. In the third example, the subject Meenakshi is told to be “sleeping” until her exams started. Here, the verb is in the simple past tense.

This chapter describes the verb tenses and verb types with various examples.


shape Verb Tense

What is a verb tense and what are its forms?
Verb tenses are used to show time. Verb tenses indicate when events occur, occurred, or will occur. Verbs come in three tenses, namely: present, past and future. The present tense is used to describe action that is taking place right now. An example of a sentence in the present tense would be:


  • Deepak runs the race.

  • Rajesh runs the race, to win the title.

  • Shrishti eats his food silently.


In the first sentence, the noun “Deepak” does the action “runs”. Therefore, the verb is “runs” or “to run” to quote the infinitive. Here, the verb is in the present tense. The action of running is still going on. This is the simple present tense. In the second sentence, the subject, Rajesh is “running” a race, to win the title. In this sentence, the verb “runs” is in the simple present tense. In the third sentence, Shrishti, the noun is “eating” her food silently. Here again, the verb is in the present tense.


shape Sim-Present

What is the simple present tense used for?
The simple present tense is used for mainly to express/denote/convey:


  • Fixed arrangements
    Example:

    1. Our summer vacation starts in May.
    2. His parcel arrives tomorrow.

  • Directions or instructions
    Example:

    1. Boil the pasta for a period of five minutes and then add the vegetables.
    2. Go for 200 meters and then take a left.

  • Habits
    Example:

    1. Rajesh smokes.
    2. Harry runs.

  • General truths
    Example:

    1. Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city.
    2. Mumbai is the commercial capital of Maharashtra state.

  • Repeated actions or events
    Example:

    1. Prerna goes to school.
    2. Ramesh gives his wife a lift to her office

  • Future constructions or events
    Example:

    1. He will come with you to the hospital when your time comes.
    2. I will take your responsibility until I can.


shape Past Tense

What is the Past Tense used for?
The past tense is used to denote action that occurred in the past and which has ended now. The simple past tense is used to denote when something happened. It is often also used to:


  • Indicate frequency
    Example:

    1. I sometimes ate just chips for lunch.
    2. I often worked until 12 midnight to complete the work.

  • Indicate a definite point in time
    Example:

    1. I saw a superb film last week.
    2. Yesterday, I arrived in town.

  • Indicate an indefinite point in time
    Example:

    1. People used plastic some time ago.
    2. Raghav played the piano when he was a child.


Some other examples of the simple past are:


  • I broke the pledge.

  • Ram slept soundly.

  • Rajeev ate slowly.


In the first sentence, the pledge is already broken. The action had taken place in the past and it has already ended. This is the simple past. In the second sentence, the noun “Ram” is said to be “sleeping” soundly. Here again, the verb “to sleep” is in the simple past tense. In the third sentence, Rajeev, the subject, is said to be “eating” slowly. Here again, the verb “to eat” is in the simple past tense.


shape Future tense

The future tense is used to denote action that is going to happen in the time to come. An example of a sentence in the future tense would be:


  • He will break the pledge.

  • Ramesh will eat his food later.

  • Suman will run the race.


In the first sentence, the verb is “to break” and it is in the future tense. The word “will break” denotes action that will take place in the time to come. This is the simple future. In the second sentence, Ramesh, the subject is “eating” the food. Here, the verb “to eat” is in the simple future. In the third example, the noun Suman, is said to “run” the race. Here, the verb is in the simple future again, as in the earlier sentences.

The simple future tense is also used to:


  • Predict a future event
    Example:

    1. It will drizzle tomorrow.
    2. She will buy the vegetables on Sunday.

  • Express a spontaneous decision
    Example:

    1. I will pay for the food by credit card.
    2. I will buy Rajesh a new phone, if he gets good marks in his final exams.

  • Express unwillingness in the negative form
    Example:

    1. The student won’t study his lesson.
    2. The baby won’t eat until she gets the chocolate.

  • Make an offer in the interrogative form with I
    Example:

    1. Shall I open the door?
    2. Shall I eat this cake?

  • Make a suggestion in the interrogative form with we
    Exxample:

    1. Shall we buy the vegetables for tomorrow?
    2. Shall we visit the museum tomorrow?

  • Ask for advice or directions with I in the interrogative form
    Example:

    1. What shall I tell my father about your result?
    2. What shall I do with you, if you cannot work for me?

  • Give orders with you
    Eaxmple:

    1. You will perform this puja exactly as the priest says.
    2. You will work exactly as your boss tells you.

  • Invite in the interrogative form using you
    Example:

    1. Will you come to the church with me?
    2. Will you buy this gift for me?


shape Tenses

These are the three main tenses in English language. Each of these three tenses is further divided into three more tenses. They are shown in the table below:

Simple Present Simple Past Simple Future
Present Perfect Past Perfect Future Perfect
Present Progressive Past Progressive Future Progressive
Present Perfect Progressive Past Perfect Progressive Future Perfect Progressive
This tense is used to denote action that has taken place at some unknown time in the past. The present perfect tense may also be used to denote an action that has begun in the past and is still going on in the present. The present perfect tense can be formed by the past tense of the verb along with the helping verb has or have. An example of this tense would be:

  • Nikunj has eaten his food

  • Ram has arranged his cupboard.

  • They have kicked the football to send it packing.


The present perfect acts as a link between the past and the present. The actual time of the action taking place is before now but it is not exactly specified. The present perfect is used to indicate:

  • An action that was started in the past and still continues in the present.
    Example:

    1. I have lived in India since 1973.
    2. I have killed all my wishes since my divorce.

  • An action, which occurs during a period, that is not yet over.
    Example:

    1. She has been to the temple twice today.
    2. I have been to see the play three times this year.

  • A repeated action in an uncertain period between the present and the past.
    Example:

    1. We have visited Italy many times.
    2. Ramesh and his cousin have been to the doctor twice, this week.

  • An action that has just been completed.
    Example:

    1. I have just finished my food.
    2. Ramnath has just been to Shirdi.

  • An action in which the time is not important.
    Example:

    1. He has read “My experiments with Truth” by M. K. Gandhi.
    2. Ramesh has written many novels.

The past perfect tense is used to denote action that started earlier and which ended before another action could start, again in the past. This tense can be formed using the past participle of the verb along with the auxiliary verb had. A good example of a verb in this tense would be:

  • Nikunj had eaten the food before I ate it.

  • Shilpa had kicked the butt on her doctor’s directions.

  • Suman had known all along that her father was the murderer.


The past perfect tense is used to indicate that one event occurred before another one in the past. Irrespective of which event is mentioned first, the tense makes it clear which event occurred first. This tense refers to a time period which is earlier than before now. Examples of this tense will make things clearer.

  • John had eaten the food when I arrived at home.

  • Rima had saved her file before the laptop crashed.

  • When they arrived we had already started cooking.

The future perfect tense shows an action or condition or event, which will start and end in the future before another action, condition or event in the future commences. This tense is formed using the past participle of the verb and the auxiliary will have. Look at the examples below:

  • By the time Nikunj finishes his food, I will have eaten my food.

  • Until Ram finds Sita, he will have spent a number of days without food.

  • Ramesh will visit his professor until he will have understood the lesson.


The future perfect tense indicates a complete action that happens in the future. This tense is used to project ourselves ahead in time. At the same time, we look at an action that will be completed some time later than now. It is invariably used with an expression of time. Examples of this tense given below will make a lot of things about this tense clear.

  • You will have finished your food by this time next week.

  • Won’t they have arrived by 6:00 pm?

  • I will have been here for one year on June 24.

The present progressive tense, which is also called as the present continuous tense, is used to exhibit an action, condition or event that is taking place as we speak or write. This tense is formed by using am, is or are along with the verb form ending in -ing. A good example of this tense can be:

  • Nikunj is eating.

  • Sam and his father are coming back home.

  • Ram and his cousin are visiting their friends.


The present progressive tense is used:


  • To describe an act that is in progress at this juncture.
    Example:

    1. You are using the bathroom.
    2. You are feeding the baby.

  • To indicate a trend or describe an action or event occurring in the future, which has already been scheduled.
    Example:

    1. We’re going to the temple tomorrow.
    2. I’am meeting my paramour tonight.
    3. Are they cooking for you next year?

  • To indicate a temporary event or situation.
    Example:

    1. He invariably plays the violin, but he’s playing the table tonight.
    2. The weather forecast was good, but it’s drizzling at this juncture.

  • With words like constantly, always, forever, to indicate a continuing series of repeated actions.
    Example:

    1. Hansel and Gretel are always fighting.
    2. You’re constantly eating from the freshly opened packet of popcorn.

The past progressive tense, also called as the past continuous tense is used to show a past event that was already going on, when another event occurred. This tense is formed using the words was or were with the verb form ending in -ing. An example of a sentence in this tense can be:

  • Nikunj was eating when I started.

  • Sam and his father were sleeping when the doorbell rang.

  • Ramesh was running towards the finish when he slipped.


The past progressive tense is used to indicate actions or events which have occurred in a time before now. This time began in the past and it is still going on at the juncture of speaking. Thus, we can say that is expresses unfinished or incomplete action in the past. It is used to:

  • Describe the background in a tale written in the past tense.
    Example:
    The sun was rising and the birds were chirping as the hyena entered the jungle. The other animals were sleeping in the shade of the banyan trees, but the giraffe moved very quickly. The mother was looking for her baby boy, and she did not take cognizance of the hunter who was watching her through his telescope.

  • Describe an action that is unfinished which was interrupted by another action or event.
    Example:

    1. I was eating my food when the sun went down behind the horizon.
    2. Ramesh was grazing the cattle when Ravi came to look for him.

  • Indicate a change of mind.
    Example:;

    1. I was going to spend the day at Chowpatty beach, but, I’ve decided to finish my homework with your help.
    2. Rakesh was a new employee who had joined our team.

  • With wonder to make a very polite request
    Example:

    1. I was wondering if you could baby sit for your brother tonight.
    2. She was rooting for hear team in the match.

The future progressive tense, which is also labeled as future continuous tense, is utilized to depict an action, event or condition, which will take place in the future. This tense is formed using will or shall be along with the verb form ending in -ing. A good example of a sentence in this tense would be:

  • Nikunj will be eating when I arrive.

  • Ramesh will be arriving at the airport in a short time.

  • Sam shall be going to the toilet after he returns from the yoga class.


The future continuous tense indicates an unfinished action that will be in progress later than now. It can be used in the following situations:

  • When we wish to project ourselves into the future.
    Example:

    1. This time next month, I will be sun-bathing in an unknown land.
    2. By Diwali, I will be skiing like a professional.

  • For predicting or guessing future events.
    Example:

    1. He’ll be coming to the party, I expect.
    2. I predict you’ll be feeling hungry after working out.

  • In interrogative form, to ask for information about the future politely.
    Example:

    1. Will you be bringing your friend for the dinner tonight?
    2. Will I be resting in this

  • Can be used to refer to progressive events which we expect to happen in the future.
    Example:

    1. When he is in Amsterdam, he will be staying with friends.
    2. I’ll be eating with my brother this afternoon so that I can talk to him.

  • In combination with still, we use this tense to refer to events that are already underway now and which we expect to continue into the future.
    Example:

    1. Tomorrow he’ll still be suffering from his cough.
    2. Unfortunately, sea levels will be rising every year.

The present perfect progressive tense which is also called by the name present perfect continuous may be formed using has been or have been along with the present participle of the verb form ending in -ing. This tense is utilized to denote an event that began in the past, still continuous in the present, and may also continue in the future. Some good examples of sentences in this tense would be:

  • Nikunj has been eating.

  • Ramesh has been going to a quack to remedy his illness.

  • Renuka and her sister have been decorating the Christmas tree for some time now.


The present perfect progressive tense is used to indicate an unspecified period of time between ‘before now’ and ‘now’. Here, the speaker is interested in the process and the result of an action, which may be going on or may have just finished. Here, we will deal with two kinds of situations:

  • Actions that started in the past and still continue in the present

  • Actions that have just finished, whose results we are interested in


Given below are two examples of each situation:

  • She has been eating with you all day.

  • I’ve been working on my homework since nine o’clock this morning.

  • Someone’s been eating my momos.

  • It’s been raining

The past perfect progressive tense, also called by the name past perfect continuous may be formed using had been along with the present perfect verb form which ends in -ing. This tense is the best to show a past, ongoing event or condition was completed before another past event. A good example of a sentence in this tense would be:

  • Nikunj had been eating when I arrived.

  • Ramesh had been posting his letter when I arrived.

  • Suman had been eating his cake when the doorbell rang.


The past perfect continuous is similar to the present perfect continuous. However, the time specified is earlier than ‘before now’. This form of tense is also utilized in reported speech. It is similar to the past continuous and the present perfect continuous when used in direct speech. The examples given below will make things clearer.

  • Jane said she had been gardening all morning

  • When the cops questioned him, Suraj told them he had been working late in the office that night.

The future perfect progressive tense also called as the future perfect continuous tense is used to show a future, ongoing event that will take place before a certain future time. This tense is formed using will have been along with the present participle of the verb form which ends in -ing. A good example of a sentence in this tense would be:

  • Nikunj will have been eating.

  • Rama will have been scheduling his meeting with his doctor.

  • Amanda will have been telling her tale of woe by the time you come.


The future perfect continuous, like the future perfect simple, is used to project actions forward in time and to look back. This tense refers to actions that are currently unfinished, but which will be finished at some time in the future. This tense is more often used with a time expression. Examples of this tense are as under:

  • I will have been waiting here for three hours when it strikes six.

  • When I finish this fruit, I will have been eating fruits for breakfast, lunch and dinner for ten years.


shape Verb Types

Regular verbs:

A regular verb is one that is used to form the past tense by adding a suffix -d or -ed.

An example of a regular verb would be:

  • Form-formed, smile-smiled, laugh-laughed, kick-kicked


Irregular verbs:

An irregular verb is one that does not take -d or -ed in the past tense. The past tense for irregular verbs is created by altering the verb internally. Some commonly used irregular verbs are

  • Eat-ate, do-did, is-was, run-ran, have-had,


Active verbs:

Active verbs indicate what the subject (a person, place, thing, or concept) does to the object in a sentence.
A good example of an active verb is as under:

  • Nikunj kicked the ball.

  • Ramesh bought a piece of cake.

  • Suman rang her friend to inquire about school.


Passive verbs:

Passive verbs (passive verbs) indicate what is done to the subject by the object. A good example of a passive verb is:

  • The ball was kicked by Nikunj.

  • The piece of cake was bought by Ramesh.

  • The friend was rung by Suman, to inquire about school.


Each of the verb tenses described above can be written in three forms. These three forms are as under:

The affirmative form of normal verbs follows the pattern subject + verb + complement. Some examples of the affirmative forms are:

Simple present eg Deepak runs the race Simple past eg: I broke the pledge Simple future eg: He will break the pledge
Present perfect eg: Ram has eaten his food. Past perfect eg: Ram had eaten his food Future perfect eg: Ram will have eaten his food, by the time I come.
Present progressive eg: Nikunj is eating. Past progressive eg: Nikunj was eating when I started to go. Future progressive eg: Nikunj will be eating when I arrive.
Present perfect progressive eg: Nikunj has been eating. Past perfect progressive eg: Nikunj had been eating when I arrived. Future perfect progressive eg: Nikunj will have been eating.

The negative form is formed by using the negative form of the verb. For example, look at the sentences given in the table below:

Simple present negative eg: Deepak does not run the race. Simple past negative eg: I did not break the pledge. Simple future negative eg: He will not break the pledge.
Present perfect negative eg: Ram has not eaten his food. Past perfect negative eg: Ram had not eaten his food. Future perfect negative eg: Ram will not have eaten his food, by the time I come.
Present progressive negative eg: Nikunj is not eating Past progressive negative eg: Nikunj was not eating when I started to go. Future progressive negative eg: Nikunj will not be eating when I arrive.
Present perfect progressive negative eg: Nikunj has not been eating. Past perfect progressive negative eg: Nikunj had not been eating, when I arrived. Future perfect progressive negative eg: Nikunj will not have been eating.

The interrogative form is made by using the interrogative form of the verb. Essentially, we convert the verb into a question form. For example, look at the sentences given in the table below:

Simple present interrogative eg: Did Deepak run the race? Simple past interrogative eg: Did I break the pledge. Simple future interrogative eg: Will he break the pledge?
Present perfect interrogative eg: Has Ram eaten his food? Past perfect interrogative eg: Had Ram eaten his food? Future perfect interrogative eg: Will Ram have eaten his food, by the time I come.
Present progressive interrogative eg: Is Nikunj eating? Past progressive interrogative eg: Was Nikunj eating when I started to go? Future progressive interrogative eg: Will Nikunj be eating when I arrive?
Present perfect progressive interrogative eg: Has Nikunj been eating? Past perfect progressive interrogative eg: Had Nikunj been eating, when I arrived? Future perfect progressive interrogative eg: Will Nikunj have been eating?