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TENSES

The Tense of a verb shows the time and state of an action or event. There are three main
tenses – The Present, the Past and the Future.

Simple Present Tense

The Simple Present is used:


1. To express a habitual action as
He drinks tea every morning.
I get up every day at five o’clock.
My watch keeps good time.

2. To express general truths as


The sun rises in the east.
Honey is sweet.
Fortune favours the brave

3. To express a situation that is permanent as


My parents live near Dover.
The Qutab Minar stands near Mehraub in New Delhi.
Their house faces south.

4. In exclamatory sentences beginning with here and there to express what is actually
taking place in the present as
Here comes the bus!
There she goes!

5. In demonstrations and commentaries, as


Jack passes to Taylor. Taylor to Morrison, Morrison back to Taylor …and Taylor
shoots – and it’s a goal.

6. To express a future event that is part of a fixed timetable or fixed programme.


The next flight is at 7.00 tomorrow morning
The match starts at 9 o’clock
The train leaves at 5.20
When does the coffee house reopen?

7. It is used to introduce quotations as


Keats says, ‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.’

8. It is used instead of simple future tense, in clauses of time and of condition


I shall wait till you finish your lunch.
If it rains we shall get wet.
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9. The following verbs, on account of their meaning are normally used in the simple
present tense.

• Verbs of perception, e.g., see, hear, smell, notice, recognize.


• Verbs of appearing, e.g., appear, look, seem.
• Verb of emotions, e.g., want, wish, desire, feel, like love, hate, hope,
refuse, prefer.
• Verbs of thinking, e.g., think, suppose, believe, agree, consider, trust,
remember, forget, know, understand, imagine, mean, mind.
• have(=possess), own, possess, belong to, contain, consist of, be (except
when used in the passive).

These grapes taste sour


I think you are wrong
She looks sad.
She has a cellular phone.

Present Continuous Tense

The Present Continuous tense is used


1. For an action going on at the time of speaking, as
She is singing (now)
The boys are playing hockey.

2. For a temporary action which may not be actually happening at the time of
speaking, as
I am reading ‘David Copperfield’ (but I am not reading at this moment).
I am writing a book. (but I am not writing at this moment)

3. For an action that has already been arranged to take place in the near future, as
I am going to the cinema tonight.
My uncle is arriving tomorrow

Present Perfect Tense

The Present Perfect is used


1. To indicate completed activities in the immediate past (with just) as
He has just gone out
It has just struck ten

2. To express past actions whose time is not given and not definite, as
Have you read ‘Gulliver’s Travels?
I have never known him to be angry
Mr Hari has been to Japan.
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3. To describe past events when we think more of their effect in the present than of
the action itself, as
Gopi has eaten all the biscuits (ie there aren’t any left for you)
I have cut my finger( and now it is bleeding now)
I have finished my work (=now I am free)

4. To denote an action beginning at some time in the past and continuing up to the
present moment (often with since and for phrases), as
I have known him for a long time
He has been ill since last week.
We have lived here for ten years
We haven’t seen Padma for several months

5. The following adverbs or adverb phrases can also be used with the Present Perfect
(apart from those mentioned above): never, ever (in questions only, sofar, till
now, yet (in negatives and questions), already, today, this week, this month, etc.
Have you ever been here before?
He has already packed his suitcases
Haven’t you finished yet?

Present Perfect Continuous Tense


The Present perfect progressive is used:
1. For an action which began at some time in the past and is still continuing, as
I have been working since eight o’clock.
He has been learning English for several years.
He has been sleeping for five hours (and is still sleeping).

2. This tense is also sometimes used for an action already finished. In such cases the
continuity of the activity is emphasized as an explanation of something.
‘Why are your clothes so wet?’ – ‘I have been watering the garden’.
My hands are dirty because I’ve been gardening.

Simple Past Tense


The Simple Past is used to indicate an action completed in the past. It often occurs with
adverbs or adverb phrases of past time.
The steamer sailed yesterday
I received his letter a week ago.
She left school last year.

Past Continuous Tense


The past continuous is used to denote an action going on at some time in the past. The
time of the action may or may not be indicated.
We were listening to the radio all evening.
It was getting darker.
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The light went out while I was reading


When I saw him, he was playing chess.

As on the last two examples above, the Past Continuous and Simple past were used
together when a new action happened in the middle of a longer action. The Simple Past
is used for the new action.

Past Perfect Tense


The Past Perfect describes an action completed before a certain moment in the past, as
I met him in New Delhi in 1996. I had seen him last five years before.

If two actions happened in the past, the past perfect tense is used for the action which
happened earlier than the other. For the action which happened later, the simple past is
used.
When I reached the station the train had started.
I had done my exercise when Hari came to see me
I had written the letter before he arrived.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense


The past Perfect continuous is used for an action that began before a certain point in the
past and continued up to that time, as
At that time he had been writing a novel for two months.
When Mr. Kalam came to the school in 2003. Mr Anand had already been
teaching there for five years

Simple Future Tense


The Simple Future Tense is used to talk about things which we cannot control. It
expresses the future as fact.
I shall be twenty next Saturday.
It will be Diwali in a week.
We will know our exam results in May.

We use the Simple Future tense to talk about what we think or believe will happen in
the future
I think Pakistan will win the match
I’m sure Hellen will get a first class.

We can use the Simple future tense when we decide to do something at the time of
speaking
It is raining. I will take an umbrella.
“Mr Sihna is very busy at the moment.” - “All right. I’ll wait.”

Future Continuous Tense


We use the Future Continuous Tense to talk about actions which will be in progress at a
time in the future.
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I suppose it will be raining when we start.


This time tomorrow I will be sitting on the beach in Singapore.
“Can I see you at 5 o’clock?” – “Please don’t come then. I will be watching the
tennis match on TV.”

We also use this tense to talk about actions in the future which are already planned or
which are expected to happen in the normal course of things.
I will be staying here till Sunday.
He will be meeting us next week.
The postman will be coming soon.

Future Perfect Tense


The Future Perfect tense is used to talk about actions that will be completed by certain
future time.
I shall have written my exercise by then.
He will have left before you go to see her.
By the end of this month I will have worked here for five years.

Future Perfect Continuous Tense


The Future Perfect Continuous Tense is used for actions which will be in progress over a
period of time that will end in the future.
By next March we shall have been living here for four years.
I’ll have been teaching for twenty years next July.

The following is a list of the 12 tense forms of the verb clean. (Please note that the
sentences may appear odd to the student who does not realize that the sentences given
below are potential sentences that need to be actualized with the addition of other words
according to the context).

I clean my room every day Simple Present


I am cleaning my room Present Continuous
I have cleaned my room Present Perfect
I have been cleaning my room Present Perfect Continuous

I cleaned my room Simple Past


I was cleaning my room Past Continuous
I had cleaned my room Past Perfect
I had been cleaning Past Perfect Continuous

I shall/will clean my room Simple Future


I shall/will be cleaning my room Future Continuous
I shall/will have cleaned my room Future Perfect
I will have been cleaning my room Future Perfect Continuous
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EXERCISE
Choose the correct verb form from those in brackets:
1. The earth ----- round the sun (move, moves, moved)
2. My friends ----- the Prime Minister yesterday. (see, have seen, saw)
3. I ----- him only one letter up to now. (sent, have sent, shall send)
4. I shall telephone you when he ----- back. (comes, will come, came)
5. It started to rain while we ----- tennis. ( are playing, were playing, had played)
6. Can I have some milk before I ----- to bed? (go, am going, shall go)
7. He ----- asleep while he was driving. (falls, fell, has fallen)
8. I’m sure I ----- him at the party last night. (saw, have seen, had seen)
9. He ----- a mill in this town, (have, has, is having)
10. He ----- here for the last five years. (worked, is working, has been working)
11. He thanked me for what I ----- (have done, had done, have been doing)
12. I ----- a strange noise. ( hear, am hearing, have been hearing)
13. I ----- him for a long time. ( know, have known, am knowing)
14. We ----- English for five years. ( study, am studying, have been studying)
15. Don’t disturb me. I ----- my homework. (do, did, am doing)
16. Abdul ----- to be a doctor. ( wants, wanting, is wanting)
17. I ----- forty next birthday. (am, shall be, have been)
18. If you ----- at once, you will arrive by six o’clock. (start, started, will start)
19. He ----- out five minutes ago. ( has gone, had gone, went)
20. When he lived in Hyderabad, he ----- to the cinema once a week. (goes, went, was
going)
21. The baby ----- all morning. (cries, is crying, has been crying)
22. She ----- in the concert tomorrow evening. (is playing, has played, has been
playing)
23. I ----- Kumar this week. (haven’t seen, didn’t see, am not seeing)
24. This paper ----- twice weekly. (is appearing, appearing, appears)
25. By this time next year Prakash ----- his University degree. (takes, will take, will
have taken)

Choose the correct alternative from those given in brackets:


1. The headmaster ----- to speak to you. (wants, is wanting, was wanting)
2. I ----- a new bicycle last week. (bought, have bought, had bought)
3. Here are your shoes; I ----- them. (just clean, just cleaned, have just cleaned)
4. It ----- since early morning. ( rained, is raining, has been raining)
5. I ----- a lot of work today. (did, have done, had done)
6. I ----- something burning. (smell, am smelling, have been smelling)
7. He will explain it to you when he ----- back. ( comes, will come, came)
8. She ----- unconscious since for o’clock. (is, was, has been)
9. He used to visit us every week, but he ---- now. (rarely comes, is rarely coming,
has rarely come)
10. If he ----- of your marriage, he will be surprised. (hears, will hear, heard)
11. Every day last week my aunt ----- a plate (breaks, broke, was breaking)
12. I know all about that film because I ---- it twice. (saw, have seen, had seen)
13. My uncle ---- tomorrow. (arrives, has arrived, will have been arriving)
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14. I ----- him since we met a year ago. (didn’t see, haven’t seen, hadn’t seen)
15. We ---- our breakfast half an hour ago. (finished, have finished, had finished)
16. She jumped off the bus while it -----. (moved, had moved, was moving)
17. When we went to the cinema, the film -----. (already started, had already started,
would already start)
18. When I pay him tomorrow, he ----- everything I owe him. (has received, has been
receiving, will have received)
19. Did you think you ----- me somewhere before? ((have seen, had seen, were seeing)
20. The town ---- its appearance completely since 1960. (is changing, changed, has
changed)
21. When I get home my dog ----- at the door waiting for me. ( sits, will be sitting, has
been sitting)
22. We can’t have a fire here until we ----- the chimney. (sweep, shall sweep, shall be
sweeping)
23. I meant to repair the radio, but ----- time to do it today. (am, not having, haven’t
had, hadn’t)
24. The train ----- before we reach the station. (left, has left, will have left)
25. Men ---- to abolish wars up to now, but maybe they will find a way in the future.
(never managed, have never managed, will have never managed)

Answers:
1. moves 2. saw 3. have sent 4. comes 5. were playing 6. go 7. fell 8. saw 9.has 10
has been working 11. had done 12. hear 13. have known 14. have been studying 15.
am doing 16. wants 17. shall be 18. start 19. went 20. went 21. has been crying 22. is
playing 23. haven’t seen 24. appears 25. will have taken.

1. wants 2. bought 3. have just cleaned 4. has been raining 5. have done 6. smell 7.
comes 8. has been 9.rarely comes 10. hears 11. broke 12. have seen 13. arrives 14.
haven’t seen 15. finished 16. was moving 17. had already started 18. will have
received 19. had seen 20. has changed 21. will be sitting 22. sweep 23. haven’t 24.
will have left 25. have never managed.