Okay, so now you know that verbs form different tenses to show different times. Now you have to learn how to use the tenses correctly to show the timing of one event in relation to another. And we all know that in life, timing is everything.
Get your bearings with the following table. It shows how the tenses are related.
|Simple past||Simple present||Simple future|
|Present perfect||Future perfect|
|Past progressive||Present progressive||Future progressive|
|Present perfect progressive||Future perfect|
|Past perfect progressive|
Get the inside skinny in the following sections.
What's past may be past, but only if you get your past tenses straight. Use the following table to leave the past in the past.
|Simple past||Completed action||We finished the tofu.|
|Completed condition||We were sad; no more tofu.|
|Present perfect||Completed action||We have finished the tofu.|
|Completed condition||We have been sad.|
|Continuing action||We have burped for hours.|
|Continuing condition||I have been here for days.|
|Past perfect||Action completed before another||I had eaten all the tofu before you returned.|
|Condition completed before another||I had been sad before the new tofu arrived.|
|Past progressive||Continuous completed action||I was snoring that week.|
|Present perfect progressive||Action going into present||I have been snoring all week.|
|Past perfect progressive||Continuing action interrupted by another||I had been snoring when the|
This table explains the future tenses.
|Simple future||Future action||The sponge will dry.|
|Future condition||I will be happy when it does.|
|Future perfect||Future action done before another||By the time you read this, the sponge will be dry.|
|Future condition done before another||The sponge will have been on the window for a week.|
|Future progressive||Continuing future action||They will be buying sponges this week.|
|Future perfect progressive||Continuing future action done before another||When we lunch next week, I will have been pumping iron for at least a week.|
Verbs present special problems for people whose first language is not English. Here are some guidelines to make your life easier (at least as it relates to verbs).
|Present Tense||Standard English|
|we walks||we walk|
|he, she, it walk||he, she, it walks|
|we walk||we walked|
|he, she, it walk||he, she, it walked|
|I would rather walk than ride.||I prefer to walk.|
|I would sleep during foreign films.||I always sleep in foreign movies.|
|Shall we meet again?||I'm inviting you to meet again.|
|Would you mind turning off the radio?||Would you be against doing this?|
|Do you mind turning it off?||Please turn it off.|
|He is absent today.||Is he absent today?|
|Mara can help us.||Can Mara help us?|
|They are working here.||Are they working here?|
|It has made this noise before.||Has it made this sound before?|
Here's the rule: Pick a tense and stick with it. Avoid shifting tenses in the middle of a sentence or paragraph. This confuses readers and makes them battier than they are already. Study this example:
The following recipe for chocolate cake (1040 version) contains many errors in tense. Rewrite the paragraph to correct the tenses. Don't make the cake.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.