Verb Usage Verb Tenses

• A tense is a form of a verb that shows the time of an action or a condition. In speaking and writing you often need to indicate when something happens—now, yesterday, tomorrow. In English, different tenses of verbs are used to show past, present, and future.

THE SIX TENSES OF VERBS

Verbs have six tenses, each of which can be expressed in two different forms. Each tense has a basic and a progressive form.

The first chart gives examples of the six tenses in their basic forms. Simple tenses show actions completed or occurring regularly. Perfect tenses show actions that were or will be completed at the time of another action.

THE BASIC FORMS OF THE SIX TENSES

Present

She writes for the school newspaper.

Past

She wrote an editorial last month.

Future

She will write a feature story next month.

Present Perfect

She has written for several contests.

Past Perfect

She had written her first article before she joined the staff.

Future Perfect

She will have written two editorials by March.

The second chart gives examples of the six tenses in their progressive forms. Progressive forms show actions in progress, or not yet completed. Note that all these forms end in -ing.

THE PROGRESSIVE FORMS OF THE SIX TENSES

Present Progressive

She is writing a feature story.

Past Progressive

She was writing her editorial last month.

Future Progressive

She will be writing to enter some contests.

Present Perfect Progressive

She has been writing since elementary school.

Past Perfect Progressive

She had been writing articles before she joined the high

school newspaper.

Future Perfect Progressive

She will have been writing on the newspaper staff for

three years by the time she graduates.

THE FOUR PRINCIPAL PARTS OF VERBS

• A verb has four principal parts: the present, the present participle, the past, and the past participle. Tenses are formed from principal parts and helping verbs.

The next chart lists the principal parts of two verbs.

THE FOUR PRINCIPAL PARTS

Present

Present Participle Past

Past Participle

talk

talking talked

talked

sing

singing sang

sung

The first principal part is used to form the present and future tenses. To form the present, an -s or -es is added whenever the subject is he, she, it, or a singular noun (I talk, Paul sings). To form the future tense, the helping verb will is added (I will talk, Paul will sing).

The second principal part is used with various helping verbs to produce all six of the progressive forms (I am talking, Paul was singing, and so on).

The third principal part is used to form the past tense (I talked, Paul sang).

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