Every language in the world has verb tenses. These tenses, which refer to the present, past, and future, explain when something — such as an action, event, or state -– happened. The problem is that although all languages have verb tenses, not all languages have the same verb tenses or use them in a similar way. That’s why English tenses are often confusing to ESL students.

The charts below provide a quick reference to help you understand the tenses in English more easily:

  • Chart 1 lists each English tense and explains when to use it.
  • Chart 2 gives an example of each tense, in active and passive form.
  • Chart 3 provides time words and expressions commonly used with the verb tenses, to help you recognize when to use each tense.
Overview of English Verb Tenses
Present Simple Usage: general action, habitual action, general truth
Example: I work in a hospital.
Present Continuous
Present Progressive
Usage: ongoing or temporary action
Example: Sorry, I can’t talk right now. I am working.
Past Simple Usage: completed action or condition
Example: I worked for ten hours yesterday.
Past Continuous
Past Progressive
Usage: past ongoing action, past interrupted action
Example: I was working on my project when you called.
Future Usage: planned or unplanned future action
Example: I will work at the main branch next week.
Present Perfect Usage: action that happened at an indefinite time in the past and continues to the present
Example: I have worked at the bank for three years.
Past Perfect Usage: past action that happened before another past action.
Example: I had already worked for several years before I got married.
Future Perfect Usage: future action that will happen before another future action
Example: I will have worked here for five years next July.
Present Perfect Continuous
Present Perfect Progressive
Usage: past action that started in the past and continues to the present
Example: I have been working on that project for the last two weeks.
Past Perfect Continuous
Past Perfect Progressive
Usage: past ongoing action that was completed before some other past action
Example: I had been sleeping at my desk when my boss fired me.
Future Perfect Continuous
Future Perfect Progressive
Usage: future ongoing action that will occur before another action
Example: I will have been working here for ten years tomorrow, so we’re having a party.


Examples of English Verb Tenses
Verb Tense Example – ACTIVE Example – PASSIVE
Present Simple I work. The work is done.
Present Continuous
Present Progressive
I am working. The work is being done.
Past Simple I worked. The work was done.
Past Continuous
Past Progressive
I was working. The work was being done.
Future I will work.
I’m going to work.
The work will be done.
The work is going to be done.
Present Present I have worked. The work has been done.
Past Perfect I had worked. The work had been done.
Future Perfect I will have worked. The work will have been done.
Present Perfect Continuous
Present Perfect Progressive
I have been working.
Past Perfect Continuous
Past Perfect Progressive
I had been working.
Future Perfect Continuous
Future Present Progressive
I will have been working.


Common Time Expressions for English Verb Tenses
Verb Tense Example – ACTIVE Time Clues
Present Simple I work. every day / morning / night
always
never
sometimes
usually
frequently
rarely
seldom
Present Continuous
Present Progressive
I am working. now
right now
at the present time
this weekend
Past Simple I worked. yesterday
last night
last week / month / year
last summer / winter
Past Continuous
Past Progressive
I was working. while
when
Future I will work.
I’m going to work.
tomorrow
next week / month /year
in the future
soon
Present Present I have worked. since
until now
ever
never
for two hours / days / months
many times
Past Perfect I had worked. already
by the time
till then
till that time
Future Perfect by the time…
already
The work will have been done.
Present Perfect Continuous
Present Perfect Progressive
for the past four years
for the last two days
up to now
Past Perfect Continuous
Past Perfect Progressive
I had been working. before
since
for three hours / days / weeks
Future Perfect Continuous
Future Present Progressive
I will have been working. by the time
for six months / years
engVid quiz
Quiz

Test your understanding of this English lesson

Test your understanding of the English lesson by answering these questions. You will get the answers and your score at the end of the quiz.
Identify the verb tense being used. She is writing her essay.

Identify the verb tense. I have lived here all my life.

Identify the verb tense. I have been cleaning the house for three hours!

Identify the verb tense. How have you been?

Identify the verb tense. They are going to call you later.

Identify the verb tense in italics. John had been practicing the piano for two hours before his friend arrived.

Identify the verb tense. Every day, I wake up at 7:00 am.

Identify the verb tense. No thanks, I've already had lunch.


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