University of Houston-Victoria

University College

A Review of Verb Tense

Author/Creation: Jennifer Mond, July 2010.
Summary:  Describes the four categories of verb tense (simple, perfect, progressive, and perfect progressive) and how present, past, and future function within each category.
Learning Objectives:  To define the four categories of verb tense.


The tense of a verb indicates the time of the action or state of being that is expressed by the verb. Each of the six tenses has a basic form. All basic forms are derived from the principal parts: present (base), present participle (be verb plus -ing), past (-ed), and past participle (-en plus have, had, has). Using the correct tense of verbs when you speak and write is essential to understanding in what time period actions took place.

There are four categories of verb tenses: simple, perfect, progressive, and perfect progressive, with a version of the present, past, and future in each category. Each tense has its own meaning. When the actions take place (completed, ongoing, continuing into the future, has yet to occur) determines which tense to use.

Simple Forms
Let’s start with the simple tenses.

Present
First is the present tense, which indicates actions or conditions occurring now. Present tense is often used to state general information as well as thoughts and opinions.

Ex. Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ex. They are angry about the decision.

Past
Next is the past tense, which indicates actions or conditions that have occurred already and do not extend into the present.

Ex. She felt better after her test.
Ex. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.

Future
The last one of the simple tenses is the future that indicates actions that have yet to begin. To form the future tense, you will use will or shall plus the base or the present principal part of the verb.

Ex. I will graduate the year after next.
Ex. The exhibition will come to Houston in September.

**The question of when to use shall has been asked for many years, for it is often not used here in U.S. Shall should be used when discussing legal documents, meetings, and obligations. Shall is also often used when the speaker is being polite or offering an invitation. **

Exercise 1
Let’s test your knowledge of the information above before moving on. In each blank below, write the tense of the verb in parenthesis.

1. She                   around the living room. (run-present)

2. We                  our plans for the weekend. (discuss-past)

3. The boat                  as soon as the cargo of machinery is loaded. (sail-future)

4. Natasha                  listening to music. (enjoy-past)

5. He                  musical comedies. (like-present)

6. I                  you my new leather jacket. (lend-future)

7. These arguments                   you that I am right. (convince-future)

8. Although the car is old, it                   well. (run-present)

9. The shopper                       to see the manager. (ask-past)

10. The man in the corner                     lead guitar in the band. (play-present)

 

Self-Check: Exercise 1 Answers
Use the answer key below to check your answers:

1. She runs around the living room. (run-present)

2. We discussed our plans for the weekend. (discuss-past)

3. The boat will sail as soon as the cargo of machinery is loaded. (sail-future)

4. Natasha enjoys listening to music. (enjoy-past)

5. He likes musical comedies. (like-present)

6. I will lend you my new leather jacket. (lend-future)

7. These arguments will convince you that I am right. (convince- future)

8. Although the car is old, it runs well. (run-present)

9. The shopper asked to see the manager. (ask-past)

10. The man in the corner plays lead guitar in the band. (play-present)

 

Exercise 2
Identify the tense of the underlined verb in each sentence.

1. She will attend a conference in Washington.

2. Barbara and Marie refused to sign the petition.

3. The dancers rehearse everyday.

4. Storytelling existed before written history.

5. Blue jays have many unusual habits.

6. A squirrel drops its nuts when it gets frightened.

7. A good story will have action and drama.

8. We spotted a bird with red wings and tail.

9. The animals’ unpleasant shrieks warn other animals of danger.

10. We will< practice our math skills this year.

 

Self-Check: Exercise 2 Answers
Use the answer key below to check your answers:

1. She will attend a conference in Washington. Future

2. Barbara and Marie refused to sign the petition. Past

3. The dancers rehearse everyday. Present

4. Storytelling existed before written history. Past

5. Blue jays have many unusual habits. Present

6. A squirrel drops its nuts when it gets frightened. Present

7. A good story will have action and drama. Future

8. We spotted a bird with red wings and tail. Past

9. The animals’ unpleasant shrieks warn other animals of danger. Present

10. We will practice our math skills this year. Future

 

Perfect Forms
The next tenses to consider are the perfect tenses, which give information about the time frame of an action’s completion. The perfect tenses indicate the action of the verb has been completed by a specific point in the past, present, or future.

Present Perfect
The present perfect tense describes an event that has already been completed in the present. It is formed using have or has plus the past participle form of the verb (-ed, -en).

Ex. I have walked to school for five years.
Ex. Dad has written many stories of his childhood.

Past Perfect
The next tense is the past perfect, where the action was completed before a specified time in the past. To form the past perfect tense, you will use had plus the past participle form of the verb.

Ex. We had considered several alternative plans.
Ex. Bill had finished packing before the taxi arrived.

Future Perfect
The last one of the perfect tenses is future perfect, which states that the action will have been completed by a specified time in the future. To form the future perfect tense, you need to use will have or shall have plus the past participle form of the verb.

Ex. In ten years the original investment will have doubled.
Ex. The students will have used all their paper by December.

 

Exercise 3
Again, let’s test your knowledge before we move on. Underline the verb in each of the following sentences. Then identify the tense of each verb.

1. They had notified us of their arrival.

2. Our dogs have bitten no one.

3. The family will have finished dinner by seven.

4. We have seen that movie twice.

5. Tom will have departed before Brain’s arrival.

6. Janet has refused any credit for the team’s success.

7. By this evening, I will have cleaned the whole downstairs.

8. We had avoided each other for 20 years.

9. We had considered several alternate plans.

10. I have memorized two poems by Walt Whitman.

 

Self-Check: Exercise 3 Answers
Use the answer key below to check your answers:

1. They had notified us of their arrival. Past Perfect

2. Our dogs have bitten no one. Present Perfect

3. The family will have finished dinner by seven. Future Perfect

4. We have seen that movie twice. Present Perfect

5. Tom will have departed before Brain’s arrival. Future Perfect

6. Janet has refused any credit for the team’s success. Present Perfect

7. By this evening, I will have cleaned the whole downstairs. Future Perfect

8. We had avoided each other for 20 years. Past Perfect

9. We had considered several alternate plans. Past Perfect

10. I have memorized two poems by Walt Whitman. Present Perfect

 

Exercise 4
Write the basic form of the verb as directed in parenthesis.

1. The Johnsons                              three times in the past year. (move-present perfect)

2. They              everything they wanted to by the end of their vacation. (see-past perfect)

3. By the end of their tour, the group                    in eleven cities. (perform-future perfect)

4. Sharon                   to her counselor earlier in the day. (talk-past perfect)

5. We                very fond of our new neighbors. (grow-present perfect)

6. Margie                       before the spring semester. (graduate-future perfect)

7. We              three times this week. (exercise-present perfect)

8. The manager                     to the pitcher twice by that time. (talk-past perfect)

9. I                the whole kitchen by the time Mom returns. (clean-future perfect)

10. The rescuers                         the area for the past three hours. (search-present perfect)

 

Self-Check: Exercise 4 Answers
Use the answer key below to check your answers:

1. The Johnsons have moved three times in the past year. (move-present perfect)

2. They had seen everything they wanted to by the end of their vacation. (see-past perfect)

3. By the end of their tour, the group will have performed in eleven cities. (perform-future perfect)

4. Sharon had talked to her counselor earlier in the day. (talk-past perfect)

5. We have grown very fond of our new neighbors. (grow-present perfect)

6. Margie will have graduated before the spring semester. (graduate-future perfect)

7. We have exercised three times this week. (exercise-present perfect)

8. The manager had talked to the pitcher twice by that time. (talk-past perfect)

9. I will have cleaned the whole kitchen by the time Mom returns. (clean-future perfect)

10. The rescuers have searched the area for the past three hours. (search-present perfect)

 

Progressive Forms
The next set of tenses is known as the progressive forms, which means the action or conditions are unfinished (ongoing, continuing).

Present Progressive
Present progressive indicates actions are ongoing even as we speak. It is formed with the present participle with -ing plus is, am, or are.

Ex. The kids are playing outside.
Ex. Sam is attending church.

Past Progressive
With the past progressive, the action was going on during a past period being discussed. It is formed with -ing (the present participle) plus was and were.

Ex. By the 1970s, many Americans were buying smaller cars.
Ex. I was writing to you when you telephoned me.

Future Progressive
The last one of the progressive tenses is future progressive, which indicates that the action will be ongoing during some future time frame. To form the future progressive, you will use will be or shall be plus the present participle form of the verb (-ing).

Ex. A team of observers will be monitoring the elections.
Ex. Clarissa will be studying music at a special camp this summer.

 

Exercise 5
Supply the progressive form of the verb as directed in parenthesis.

1. Despite her height, Kate                    to make the basketball team. (hope-present progressive)

2. The rain                           all of our plans. (ruin-present progressive)

3. The last ferry                            soon. (leave-future progressive)

4. The workers                            the building. (repair-future progressive)

5. The architect                             his plans. (explain-present progressive)

6. They                                important political issues. (discuss-present progressive)

 

Self-Check: Exercise 5 Answers
Use the answer key below to check your answers.

1. Despite her height, Kate is hoping to make the basketball team. (hope-present progressive)

2. The rain is ruining all of our plans. (ruin-present progressive)

3. The last ferry will be leaving soon. (leave-future progressive)

4. The workers will be repairing the building. (repair-future progressive)

5. The architect is explaining his plans. (explain-present progressive)

6. They are discussing important political issues. (discuss-present progressive)

Perfect Progressive Forms
There are also perfect progressive tenses that use a combination of perfect and progressive forms. Perfect progressive emphasizes the duration or the continuousness of the action. To write in the perfect progressive tense, you will use a form of have (perfect) followed by a be verb and -ing (progressive).

Present Perfect Progressive
The present perfect progressive describes something that began in the past, continues into the present, and may continue into the future. It is formed with has or have plus been and -ing form of the verb.

Ex. Kim has been writing a novel since she left high school.
Ex. The Smiths have been breeding dogs since 2000.

Past Perfect Progressive
The past perfect progressive tense describes something that began in the past, continued in the past, and concluded in the past. It is formed with had and been plus the -ing form of the verb.

Ex. I had been riding the bus until I got my license.
Ex. Frank had been leaving get well notes to his uncle.

Future Perfect Progressive
The future perfect progressive describes something that begins in the present and continues into the future. It is formed with will have and been plus the -ing form of the verb.

Ex. By the time the class ends, the students will have been working for 10 minutes without a break.
Ex. Hannah will have been playing the piano for five years this June.

 

Exercise 6
Write the correct form of the verb as stated in parenthesis.

1. She                                all afternoon. (study-past perfect progressive)

2. Susan                           for two hours by 9 a.m. (work-future perfect progressive)

3. Diane                              us a folk tale. (tell-present perfect progressive)

4. Reggie                                    a heavy course load this year. (carry-present perfect progressive)

5. I was very relieved because I                      a much lower grade. (expect-past perfect progressive)

6. He                                  for two hours by noon. (swim-future perfect progressive)

7. Nick                              second thoughts about the concert. (have-present perfect progressive)

8. We                       the dancer carefully all evening (watch-past perfect progressive)

 

Self-Check: Exercise 6
Check your answers using the sentences below.

1. She had been studying all afternoon. (study-past perfect progressive)

2. Susan will have been working for two hours by 9 a.m. (work-future perfect progressive)

3. Diane has been telling us a folk tale. (tell-present perfect progressive)

4. Reggie has been carrying a heavy course load this year. (carry-present perfect progressive)

5. I was very relieved because I had been expecting a much lower grade. (expect-past perfect progressive)

6. He will have been swimming for two hours by noon. (swim-future perfect progressive)

7. Nick has been having second thoughts about the concert. (have-present perfect progressive)

8. We had been watching the dancer carefully all evening (watch-past perfect progressive)

 

Verb Tense Final Review

Review 1
Identify the tense of each of the following verbs.

1. will be going

2. ride

3. was bringing

4. had kept

5. had been leaving

6. wrote

7. will have written

8. has given

9. will ride

10. will have been crying

 

Review 2
Conjugate the following regular and irregular verb using the given pronouns as the subject.

visit (with he)
     Ex. He visits

Present:
Past:
Future:
Present Perfect:
Past Perfect:
Future Perfect:
Present Progressive:
Past Progressive:
Future Progressive:
Present Perfect Progressive:
Past Perfect Progressive:
Future Perfect Progressive:

begin (with they) Present:

Past:
Future:
Present Perfect:
Past Perfect:
Future Perfect:
Present Progressive:
Past Progressive:
Future Progressive:
Present Perfect Progressive:
Past Perfect Progressive:
Future Perfect Progressive:

 

Review 3

Some of the verbs in this paragraph are in the wrong tense. Decide which verbs must be changed, then rewrite those sentences, correcting those verbs.

1) Last year for my birthday, my parents took me to New York City. 2) We visit the Empire State Building and take a boat to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. 3)I will like best the boat ride through the harbor to the Statue and Ellis Island. 4)It made me think of the boat ride my great‐grandfather took to come to Ellis Island as an immigrant. 5)My father says he remembers his grandfather telling him the story of the ocean voyage. 6)When great‐grandfather arrives in New York, he sees the statue. 7)I am sure that I had always remembered that story too.

 

Final Review Answers

Review 1

1. will be going: Future Progressive

2. ride: Present

3. was bringing: Past Progressive

4. had kept: Past Perfect

5. had been leaving: Past Perfect Progressive

6. wrote: Past

7. will have written: Future Perfect

8. has given: Present Perfect

9. will ride: Future

10. will have been crying: Future Perfect Progressive

 

Review 2

visit (with he) Present: He visits

Past: He visited

Future: He shall/will visit Present Perfect: He has visited Past Perfect: He had visited

Future Perfect: He will have visited

Present Progressive: He is visiting

Past Progressive: He was visiting

Future Progressive: He will/shall be visiting Present Perfect Progressive: He has been visiting Past Perfect Progressive: He had been visiting

Future Perfect Progressive: He will have been visiting

begin (with they) Present: They begin

Past: They began

Future: They will/shall begin

Present Perfect: They have begun

Past Perfect: They had begun

Future Perfect: They will/shall have begun Present Progressive: They are beginning Past Progressive: They were beginning

Future Progressive: They will/shall be beginning Present Perfect Progressive: They have been beginning Past Perfect Progressive: They had been beginning

Future Perfect Progressive: They will have been beginning

 

Review 3

1) Last year for my birthday, my parents took me to New York City. 2) We visited the Empire State Building and took a boat to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. 3)I liked best the boat ride through the harbor to the Statue and Ellis Island. 4)It made me think of the boat ride my great-grandfather took to come to Ellis Island as an immigrant. 5)My father says he still remembers his grandfather telling him the story of the ocean voyage. 6)When great‐grandfather arrived in New York, he saw the statue. 7)I am sure that I will always remember that story too.