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What Are Verb Tenses? (Basic, A-Level)

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A “verb tense” tells us when an action or event happens (in the past, present, or future).

Tenses change the verb to show the time or to put the verb in a particular time frame.

A verb tense also shows if the action is complete or happening. That is called the “aspect.”


The names of the verb tenses come from these differences: time and aspect (simple or continuous / imperfect or perfect).




Verb Tense

past (imperfect)
past simple
past continuous
past perfect
past perfect continuous
present (imperfect)
present simple
present continuous
present perfect
present perfect continuous
future (imperfect)
future simple
future continuous
future perfect
future perfect continuous


The table above shows where the names of the verb tenses come from, but those names do not always tell us where it puts the verb in a time frame.

For example, in the sentence “The plane leaves at 7 tomorrow,” the verb (to go) is in the present simple tense, but it expresses the future.


Although future verb tenses have names, English has no true future tense. In the future simple tense, you would say, for example, “I will go to the park.” The auxiliary “will” is actually in the present tense (present = will; past = would).

Similarly, we say that “I’m going to visit my parents next week” is the “future with going to.” However, the auxiliary verb (am) is in the present.

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