The 12 Tenses of the English Language
This article is going to provide a basic outline of the 12 tenses in the English language. There are past, present and future arranged into simple tenses, continuous tenses and perfect tenses.
You use the past simple to describe an action that happened in the past, it started and finished in the past.
For example, I cooked dinner. In this sentence, the cooking of the dinner took place at some point in the past. You would usually add something to this sentence, e.g. I cooked dinner, at 5 o'clock.
The past perfect is used to describe an action that happened before another action in the past.
For example, I had cooked dinner, before the movie started. In this sentence the person cooked the dinner and then a movie started after they had finished cooking the dinner.
The past continuous indicates an interruption in an action that happened in the past.
For example, I was cooking dinner, when the door bell rang. In this sentence the door bell interrupted the cooking of the dinner.
Past Perfect Continuous
This tense, the past perfect continuous denotes an action that started and continued for a specified time and then finished in the past.
For example, I had been cooking dinner for 2 weeks. In this sentence, the person has been cooking for a period of 2 weeks, but this action both started and finished in the past.
This tense, the present simple, is used when an action is repeated or usual.
For example, I cook dinner. This implies that the action being spoken about is a repeated or usual action.
This tense, the present perfect, is used when an action happened at an unspecified time before now and that time isn't important.
For example, I have cooked dinner, ten times already. Here we can see that dinner has been cooked ten times in the past up to now.
We use this tense, the present continuous, to signify that something is happening now.
For example, I am cooking dinner. In this sentence, at the time of speaking dinner is being cooked.
Present Perfect Continuous
You use this tense, the present perfect continuous, to signify that something started in the past and continued up until now.
For example, I have been cooking dinner until you arrived. Here the person arrived at the time of speaking and the action of cooking dinner started in the past and continued up until the present moment when somebody arrived.
We use the future simple to talk about a voluntary action, a promise, a plan or prediction that will happen in the future.
For example, I will cook dinner. Here the speaker is going to cook dinner at some point in the future, this will be a voluntary action as the speaker says they will cook, it might be a promise or a plan.
We use the future perfect for a completed action before something else in the future.
For example, I will have cooked dinner before 7pm. This means that the action of cooking will be finished before the 'something else' in the future, i.e. 7pm.
We use the future continuous when you talk about a continuing action in the future that will be interrupted by something else in the future.
For example, I will be cooking dinner, when you arrive home. Here the action of cooking dinner will continue until the other person arrives home.
Future Perfect Continuous
The future perfect continuous tense is used to describe a cause of something in the future
For example, I will be hungry because, I will have been cooking dinner all afternoon. In this sentence, the cooking of the dinner will cause the person to be hungry.