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English Tenses: When to Use Them & How to Get it Right?

English Tenses: When to Use Them & How to Get it Right?

Want to take your writing to an advanced level? One of the critical aspects of language for English learners is to master tenses to clarify your message and become a proficient communicator in writing. 

The English language divides into 12 verb tenses, from present, past to future tense, each for a specific use, conveying time and four aspects (simple, continuous, perfect, and perfect continuous) 

Let’s overview the English tenses and their use through examples. 

Unlocking the Mystery: 12 Types of Tenses and How to Use Them

Some primary forms of tenses include present, past, and future, further divided into categories with distinct meanings.

1. Simple Present

Present tense elaborates on events happening and permanent actions occurring right now. It includes some frequency expressions, including daily, usually, always, and never.

Structure: Subject + verb (s/es)


  • Facts
  • Generalizations
  • Habitual action
  • Universal Truth

Example: I read a book every day.

2. Present Continuous

Present continuous or progressive tenses indicate the ongoing actions happening at present or will occur in the future. Some expressions, such as now, today, tonight, and at the moment, show the continuous tense.

Structure: subject + is/am/are + verb + ing


  • Ongoing actions (temporary)

Example: I am reading a book right now.

3. Present Perfect

Present perfect emphasizes an action that happened at a nonspecific point in the past and is relevant to the present moment. Expressions like, so far, already suggest it’s an unfinished time.

Structure: subject + has/have + 3rd form of verb


  • Summarizing past work
  • Present relevance of previous work

Example: I have read the book many times.

4. Present Perfect Continuous

Present perfect progressive emphasizes an event that began in the past, is ongoing, and will continue. Time expressions include for, since, and so far.

Structure: subject + has/have + verb + ing


  • Recently completed tasks
  • Relevance to present work

Example: I have been reading the book for an hour.

5. Simple Past

Past tense or preterite is an action completed in the past. Past time expressions are yesterday or last week.

Structure: subject + 2nd form of verb


  • Reporting research
  • Historical events

Example: I read the book yesterday.

English Tenses: When to Use Them & How to Get it Right?

6. Past Continuous

It describes an ongoing action interrupted by some other activity—continuity expressions such as when, while, and before.

Structure: subject + was/were + verb + ing


  • Ongoing past events
  • Related to the occurrence of the next event

Example: I was reading the book when it started raining.

7. Past Perfect

Past perfect describes actions completed in the past before a specific time. Expressions for past perfect tense include after, when, and before.

Structure: subject + had + 3rd form of verb


  • Events that happened before other events in the past

Example: I had read the book before it started raining.

8. Past Perfect Continuous

Past perfect continuous refers to an action commenced in the past and continues till a specific point. Some linking words are when, before, and until. 

Structure: subject + had been + verb + ing


  • Events that began, continued, and ended in the past
  • Relevance with past moments

Example: I had been reading the book for an hour before it started raining.

9. Simple Future

Action that will occur in the future at a particular time. Simple future time expressions include tomorrow or next week.

Structure: subject + will + verb


  • Events to be completed in future

Example: I will read the book tomorrow.

10. Future Continuous 

Future continuous tells about the continuity of the event that will proceed in the future. Its signal words are at + time tomorrow, in + weeks.

Structure: subject + will be + verb + ing


  • Future events expected to continue over a period

Example: I will be reading the book at 10 am in the morning.

11. Future Perfect

Future Perfect tense specifies when the action will be completed, often used with words like before or in a week.

Structure: subject + will have + 3rd form of verb


  • Specific points in future

Example: I will have read the book before 10 am tomorrow. 

12. Future Perfect Continuous

It emphasizes the span of a progressing event that will finish at a specific time in the upcoming interval. Some time expressions are by the time, for, and since.

Structure: subject + will have + verb + ing


  • Events that will continue until a time in the future
  • Expected Duration

Example: I will have been reading the book for an hour before 10 am tomorrow.


Learning English tenses seems onerous, but practice develops a sound understanding of the verb tenses. Whether you’re a native speaker or a language learner, you can grasp the art of communication by learning 12 tenses. So, use this guide to enhance your skills and enjoy the magic of fluent English communication!

Catch you very soon,