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Tenses

Tense

The tense of a verb indicates the time of the action or of the state of being expressed by the verb.

6 Tenses

Each verb in English has six tenses: present, past, future, present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect. These six tenses are formed from the four principal parts of each verb.

PRESENT We are artists. We paint. [existing or happening now]
PAST We were artists. We painted. [existing or happening in the past]
FUTURE We will be artists. We will paint. [existing or happening in the future]
PRESENT PERFECT We have been artists. We have painted. [existing or happening sometime before now; may be continuing now]
PAST PERFECT We had been artists. We had painted. [existing or happening before a specific time in the past]
FUTURE PERFECT We will have been artists. We will have painted. [existing or happening before a specific time in the future]

Listing the forms of a verb according to tense is called conjugating the verb
  • PRESENT
    I paint. 
  • PRESENT PERFECT
    I have painted. 
  • PAST
    I painted. 
  • PAST PERFECT
    I had painted. 
  • FUTURE
    I will paint. 
  • FUTURE PERFECT
    I will have painted.
Notice that helping verbs are used with four of the tenses: the future, present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect tenses.

Progressive Forms of Verbs

Each of the six verb tenses has a form called the progressive form, which expresses continuing action or state of being. Each progressive form consists of a form of the verb be and the present participle (–ing form) of the verb.

  • PRESENT PROGRESSIVE
    am creating, is creating, are creating [continuous action in the present] 
  • PAST PROGRESSIVE
    was creating, were creating [continuous action in the past] 
  • FUTURE PROGRESSIVE
    will be creating [continuous action in the future]
  • PRESENT PERFECT PROGRESSIVE
    has been creating, have been creating [continuous action that happens before and up to the present] 
  • PAST PERFECT PROGRESSIVE
    had been creating [continuous action that happened before a specific time in the past] 
  • FUTURE PERFECT PROGRESSIVE
    will have been creating [continuous action that will happen before a specific time in the future]

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To tell the difference between the progressive form and the perfect progressive form, compare their structures. The perfect progressive form requires an extra word.

  • PROGRESSIVE
    a form of be plus the –ing verb 
  • PERFECT PROGRESSIVE
    a form of have plus a form of be plus the –ing verb
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