Tenses in English grammar have two parts in meaning: time and aspect.
The time of the action is usually clear:
- He went home after class.
- She was reading a book when I called.
- We used to live together.
- The children are going to kindergarten.
- She doesn't smoke.
- Canadians love hockey.
- The store won't be open yet.
- Are you going to see the movie with us tonight?
- Do you think it will rain tomorrow?
Sometimes, the present tenses can have a future meaning:
- What time are you leaving this afternoon?
- My plane arrives tomorrow evening.
- She is going on a trip next week.
Sometimes, the past tenses can have a present meaning:
- I wish I were rich.
- She could help but she doesn't have time.
- If I had a car, I wouldn't take the bus everyday.
There are three important aspects to consider in English grammar tenses: Simple, Continuous, and Perfect:
The Simple Aspect
The simple aspect describes complete actions. They are viewed as starting and finishing. This is especially important when we use a number, meaning "finished actions."
- It usually rains in the fall.
- I slept for a long time yesterday.
- She will probably come over later.
- They have seen that movie twice.
- I drank three cups of coffee before class.
- He smokes about 15 cigarettes a day.
The Continuous Aspect
The continuous aspect focuses on the duration of an activity. This means we are focusing on the time between the start and finish of an activity. In the continuous aspect, the activity is never permanent.
- She's probably sleeping right now.
- I was watching TV at 9pm last night.
- We will be living in France this time next year.
In the continuous aspect, the activity may not be complete or finished:
- She was having a bath when the fire started in her living room. (She didn't finish her bath)
- Who has been eating my french fries? (There are still some french fries left)
- The boy was playing video games when I turned off the TV. (The boy didn't finish playing video games)
Stative verbs rarely take the continuous form. This is because they are seen to be permanent and they do not frequently change.
- Did you understand class yesterday?
- I love this kind of weather.
- She really believes in ghosts.
- That car costs too much.
Some verbs, like live, work, play, and learn usually last a long time. When we use the continuous aspect with these verbs, it makes them temporary. We are focusing on the fact that the action is not permanent.
- I work in New York, but I have been working in Cairo for the last year.
- She is living abroad right now.
- The team was playing really well. I'm surprised they lost the game.
Some verbs usually only last a short time. They are usually found in the simple aspect.
- The player made an amazing play.
- The car hit a cat.
- He fired the gun.
- I have spent all of my money.
The Perfect Aspect
The perfect aspect refers to something before a time. Present Perfect refers to before now, Past Perfect refers to before a past time, and the Future Perfect refers to before a future time. The exact time of the action is not important.
- Have you ever seen that movie? (Sometime before now)
- In 2030, I think I will have gotten married. (Sometime before 2030)
- When I woke up, someone had broken into my apartment. (Sometime before I woke up)
Open the exercise to begin the activity. Follow the instructions in the document.