Tenses

A tense is a grammatical category that locates a situation in time, to indicate when the situation takes place. In strict terms Tense is a form of a verb used to indicate the time, and sometimes the state of an action or event. A Tense in this way become a method that to refer to Time – whether it is Past, Present or Future. Apart from English many languages also use tenses to talk about time but some don’t have any tenses. They use different methods to indicate time. The number of tenses in any language may be disputed as the term Tense is often used to represent any combination of tense proper, aspect, and mood. In many texts the term Tense may erroneously indicate qualities of uncertainty, frequency, completion, duration or possibility.

Common Tenses or Basic Tenses

Tenses in English Language are broadly classified as:

1.  Present Tense – A verb that refers to present time is said to be in Present Tense. Present Tense is also referred as Simple Present or Present Simple.

  • I sing a song.
  • He works.

In the above examples the verbs in bold is said to be in Present Tense.

2.  Past Tense – A verb that refers to past time is said to be in Past Tense. It is also referred as Simple Past or Past Simple

  • I sang a song.
  • He worked.

In the above examples the verbs in bold is said to be in Past Tense.

3.  Future Tense – A verb that refers to Future time is said to be in Future Tense. It is also referred as Simple Future or Future Simple

  • I shall sing a song.
  • He will work.

In the above examples the verbs in bold is said to be in Future Tense.

Since the Tense of a verb not only shows the time of  an action but also the state of an action thus these Tenses can be further classified into four parts each as given below:-

  1. Simple Tense – Also known as Indefinite Tense
  2. Perfect Tense – Also referred as Simple Perfect, Perfect Tense (simple form)
  3. Continuous Tense – Also referred as Progressive Tense
  4. Perfect Continuous Tense – Also referred as Perfect Progressive

For Past and Present, there are 2 simple tenses + 6 complex tenses (using auxiliary verbs). To these, we can add 4 "modal tenses" for the future (using modal auxiliary verbs will/shall). This makes a total of 12 tenses in the active voice. Another 12 tenses are available in the Passive Voice. That totals to 24 Tenses.

24 Tenses

PAST

PRESENT

FUTURE

ACTIVE

simple tenses

past

present

future

complex tenses
formed with
auxiliary verbs

past perfect

present perfect

future perfect

past continuous

present continuous

future continuous

past perfect continuous

present perfect continuous

future perfect continuous

PASSIVE

past

present

future

past perfect

present perfect

future perfect

past continuous

present continuous

future continuous

past perfect continuous

present perfect continuous

future perfect continuous

Tenses are deictic in the sense that the time referred by the Tenses cannot be ascertained without context. The core of deixis may either be the time or moment of discourse - An absolute Tense- or moment under discussion- A relative Tense.

Absolute tense indicates when the time of assertion, time of completion, or time of evaluation occurs relative to the time of utterance itself. Where as in Relative tense, the tense is  relative to a given event.

For Ex. If PM told his PA that "I will go to the Press Conference." but doesn't turn up, then the PA would report his words as "PM said that he would come." It is because the event took place in the past, all verbs must be in the past tense.

The phrase "PM said that he will come" means something different: That the time of his expected arrival is in the absolute future, later than the time of reporting it.

Tenses Chart

Present TenseExample
Simple Present Tense I do my work regularly.
Present Perfect Tense I have done my work regularly.
Present Continuous Tense I am doing my work regularly.
Present Perfect Continuous Tense I have been doing my working regularly since morning.

 

Past TenseExample
Simple Past Tense I did my work regularly.
Past Perfect Tense I had done my work regularly.
Past Continuous Tense I was doing my work regularly.
Past Perfect Continuous Tense I had been doing my work regularly since morning.

 

Future TenseExample
Simple Future Tense I shall do my work regularly.
Future Perfect Tense I shall have done my work regularly.
Future Continuous Tense I shall be doing my work regularly.
Future Perfect Continuous Tense I shall have been doing my work regularly since morning.

Basic Tenses or

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