20 Vital Ways to Learn English Tenses Better

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It is believed that for a sentence to be meaningful and sensible, it must have a verb or a verb phrase.

That verb or the verb phrase indicates time and action. Therefore, time indication is called a tense in English. The tense indicator is, therefore, a verb.

The English Tenses

As said in the introduction, tense simply means time indication. But there are three parameters that the verb indicates: the time now (present tense), the time past (past tense), and the time yet to be (future tense). Consider the main three parameters below.

Present Tense

(a)        Bola comes here every day.

(b)        I am busy now.

(c)        They sing always.

Past Tense

(a)        Bola came last week.

(b)        I was busy then.

(c)        They sang yesterday.

Future Tense

(a)        Bola will come next week.

(b)        I will be busy later.

(c)        They will sing tomorrow.

Apart from the three major categories above, there are other sub-categories which are called aspects.

Aspect indicates how the verbal action is experienced, whether it is completed or progressive. Let us consider them one after the other.

The Simple Present

(Pres. +LV) For example: go, write, bites, sees, keep, teaches, etc.

(a)        I go to him every day.

(b)        The man takes his meal daily.

(c)        They wash their shoes daily.

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(d)       She sings very beautifully.

The Present Continuous Tense

(present + aux) For example taking, biting, teaching, talking, running, etc.

(a)        The children are enjoying the stories.

(b)        She is dancing.

(c)        We are waiting for a taxi.

The Simple Past Tense

(past.+LV)For example: gave, decided, met, shut, divided, etc.

(a)        I met Sola in Lagos.

(b)        They shut the door.

(c)        The children divided oranges among themselves.

The Past Continuous Tense

(past.+ aux) For example: going, talking, speaking, etc.

(a)        They were speaking vernacular when I was in the classroom.

(b)        He was passing by after he had finished his work.

The Present Perfect Tense

(have/has + V + en or ed) For example:  written, gone, sung, worked, walked, rained, etc.

(a)        We have eaten rice before you come.

(b)        You have worked tirelessly before now.

(c)        He has gone home after completing his assignment.

(d)       It has rained heavily since yesterday.

The Past Perfect Tense

(had + V + en or ed) For example: written, founded, happened, gone, done, beaten, connected, etc.

(a)        The teacher had written a note for us before you came.

(b)        We worked together after you went abroad.

(c)        You had sung before I arrived.

The Present Perfect Progressive Tense

(have/has + been + ing verb) For example meeting, singing, writing, sitting, etc.

(a)        It has been raining cats and dogs since last week.

(b)        We have been dancing since yesterday.

The Past Perfect Progressive Tense

(had + been + ing verb) For example, meeting, eating, writing, talking, etc.

(a)        We had been writing since last year.

(b)        They had been meeting for many years.

The Simple Present Future Tense

(will/shall + simple verb) For example: come, go, eat, dance, slap, etc.

(a)        I will beat you.

(b)        We shall be there.

(c)        It shall be permanent.

(d)       He will be there.

The Simple Past Future Tense

(would/should + simple verb) For example: come, go, eat, etc.

(a)        ‘I would do it’ he declared.

(b)        ‘We should go there, we agreed.

The Present Future Progressive Tense

(will/shall + be + ing verb) For example: coming, doing, talking, etc.

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(a)        I will be hearing from you soon.

(b)        We shall be expecting your call in the next two weeks.

(c)        They will be attending the meeting very soon.

The Past Future Progressive Tense

(would/should + be + ing verb) For example:  doing, inviting, etc.

(a)        We should be doing it in the next one hour.

(b)        They would be coming here by 7.00 pm.

The Future Perfect Tense

(will/shall + have + V + en or ed) For example:  done, grown, walked, etc.

(a)        By this time next year, I will have built a mansion.

(b)        I shall have left before you get there.

The Future Perfect Progressive Tense

(will/shall + have + been + ing verb) For example: coming, dancing, playing, etc.

(a)        By the end of next month, I will have been studying abroad.

(b)        I will have been writing my final examination by the second week in May.

Tenses in Conditional Sentences

A conditional sentence is a sentence that has two subordinators namely: if and unless. One states a certain condition but the other states the effect. For example:

  1. Unless you ask me, I won’t go.
  2. I will go if you ask me.

The two sentences above are conditional because sentence (a) means that if the person is not asked, he will not go but if he is asked, he will go.

Also, sentence (b) means the person will go if he is asked but if not, he will not go. Learn more about the tenses in conditional sentences below.

The Present Tense in Conditional Sentences

  1. If the first clause occurs in the present form, the second clause should be in the present form (if + present + verbs + effect present). For example:

(a)        If you call me, I will answer you.

(b)        You can help her if you love her.

  1. If the first clause occurs as the present auxiliary, the second clause will still be in the present form. (if… + aux + V + effect present). For example:

(a)        If they are making noises, I will go out.

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(b)        I will dance if you are singing.

The Past Tense in Conditional Sentences

  1. If the first clause occurs as the past tense, the second clause should be the past tense (if… + past verb + effect past). For example:

(a)        If she did it, I would beat him.

(b)        I would go if you asked me.

  1. If the first clause appears as the past auxiliary, the second clause will still be in the past form (If … past aux + ing verb + effect past). For example:

(a)        If they were playing the ludo game, I would join them.

(b)        We would not talk to each other if we were writing an examination.

The Present Perfect Tense in Conditional Sentences

  1. If the first clause appears as the present perfect tense, the second clause should be present perfect tense (If … have/has + participle + effect present perfect) For example:

(a)        If they have not completed it, they will not have left.

(b)        He will have met up with the bus if he has come on time.

The Past Perfect Tense in Conditional Sentences

  1. If the first clause occurs as the past perfect tense, the second clause should be in the past perfect form as well (If … had + participle + past perfect). For example:

(a)        If he had not died, he would have become the president.

(b)        I would have gone out with him if I had known.

In most cases, the conditional sentences of the present and past perfect tense types can be made in the passive sentences. Consider the following examples:

(c)   If the man had been assassinated, he will not have gotten married by now (present perfect).

(d) If the man had been assassinated, he would not have gotten married by now (past perfect).

(e)        I would have come if I had been informed earlier (past perfect).

(f)        I will have come if I have been informed earlier (present perfect).

 

Author: Deola Adelakun

 

 

 

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