Which Verb Tense do I Use?

English Tenses

An English verb tense refers to an action that can take place in the present (now), the past (happened before now) or the future (will happen after now).

We will look at the most common tenses first.

First let us look at the irregular verb “to be” in the present tense.

  • I am – I am happy.
    You are – You are happy.
    He/she/it is – He (or she) is happy.
    We are – We are happy.
    They are – They are happy.

Present Simple Tense (Regular Verbs)
Use – Used to describe an action that always or usually happens.
Form – An “s” is added in the 3rd person singular.

  • I walk to the store every day.
    You walk to the store every day.
    He walks to the store every day.
    We walk to the store every day.
    They walk to the store every day.

Present Progressive (sometimes called Present Continuous)
Use – Used to describe an action that is taking place at the time of speaking or a plan is made at the time of speaking for a future action.
Form – Correct form of “to be” + (verb + “ing”)

  • I am walking to the store now.
    You are walking to the store now.
    She is walking to the store now.
    We are walking to the store now.
    They are walking to the store now.

Past Simple Tense
Use – Used to describe an action completed before the time of speaking.
Form – Verb + “ed”

  • I walked to the store yesterday.
    You walked to the store yesterday.
    She walked to the store yesterday.
    We walked to the store yesterday.
    They walked to the store yesterday.

Past Progressive Tense
Use – Used to describe an action completed while another action was happening, or, at a certain time.
Form – Past tense of verb “to be” + (verb + ing)

  • I was walking to the store when it started to rain.
    You were walking to the store when it started to rain.
    He was walking to the store when it started to rain.
    We were walking to the store when it started to rain.
    They were walking to the store when it started to rain.

Future Simple – (two forms, sometimes interchangeable)
Use – Used to describe an action that will be completed some time after now, (sometime in the future).
Form – Will + verb (bare infinitive form, that is without the “to”), or, am/is/are + going to + verb.

  • I will walk to the store tomorrow. I am going to walk to the store tomorrow.
    You will walk to the store tomorrow. You are going to walk to the store tomorrow.
    She will walk to the store tomorrow. She is going to walk to the store tomorrow.
    We will walk to the store tomorrow. We are going to walk to the store tomorrow.
    They will walk to the store tomorrow. They are going to walk to the store tomorrow.

Future Progressive – (Two interchangeable forms)
Use – Used to describe a future action that will be interrupted by another action or by a certain time.
Form – will be + (verb + ing), or, am/is/are + going to be + (verb + ing)

  • I will be walking to the store when it starts to rain. I am going to be walking to the store when it starts to rain.
    You will be walking to the store when it starts to rain. You are going to be walking to the store when it starts to rain.
    He will be walking to the store when it starts to rain. He is going to be walking to the store when it starts to rain.
    We will be walking to the store when it starts to rain. We are going to be walking to the store when it starts to rain.
    They will be walking to the store when it starts to rain. They are going to be walking to the store when it starts to rain.

Present Perfect
Use – Something happened before now at a time that is not specified. (Cannot be used with a specific time).
Form – have/has +verb +ed

  • I have walked to the store many times.
    You have walked to the store many times.
    She has walked to the store many times.
    We have walked to the store many times.
    They have walked to the store many times.

Present Perfect Progressive
Use – Two completed actions in the past and their timing in relationship to each other.
Form – had + verb + ed

  • I had walked to the store before it started to rain.
    You had walked to the store after it started to rain.
    He had walked to the store before it started to rain.
    We had walked to the store after it started to rain.
    They had already walked to the store by 3 p.m.

 

Past Perfect, Past Perfect Progressive, Future Perfect and
Future Perfect Progressive are not often used, so we won’t deal with them now.

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