Engels > Grammatica > Verb tenses

Narrating tenses

Verb tenses

CONTINUOUS  was / were + verb-ing am / is / are + verb-ing will be + verb-ing
PERFECT had + past participle has / have + past participle will have + past participle
PERFECT CONTINUOUS had been + verb-ing has / have been + verb-ing will have been + verb-ing

Verb tenses (example sentences)

 SIMPLE  It rained yesterday. It rains a lot in March. The sun will rise at 6 a.m.
CONTINUOUS I was watching TV when the phone rang. I am watching TV. I will be studying at 8 p.m.
PERFECT The class had already begun when I arrived. She has been to London two times. I will have graduated by this time next year.
PERFECT CONTINUOUS I had been waiting for an hour when he finally arrived. It has been raining all week. She will have been waiting for an hour by the time he arrives.

Simple present

:: Future timetables / schedules

• My train arrives tomorrow.

• We fly to Paris on Monday.

• Classes begin next week.


:: General facts / truths

• The Earth is not flat.

• The sun rises in the east.

• Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.


:: Habits

• I always drink coffee at work.

• She gets up at 7 a.m. every day.

• They usually eat dinner at home.


:: True in the present

• He works on Wall Street.

• She is sixty years old.

• We live in New York.

Simple past

:: Completed action in the past

• John cooked dinner last night.

• She made a cake for Sue's party.


:: Duration in the past

• He stayed up all night.

• I lived in Paris for two years.


:: Habits in the past

• Joan played the piano when she was a child.

• Tom studied Spanish when he was a student.


:: Series of completed actions

• He sat down, took out a notebook and pen, and started taking notes.

• He made breakfast, drove his son to school, and went to work.

Simple future

:: Future fact (will + verb)

• The sun will rise tomorrow at 7:00 a.m.

• The sun will set at 8:00 p.m. tonight.


:: Plan or intention (be going to + verb)

• I'm going to drive to work tomorrow.

• We are going to watch the game on Sunday.


:: Prediction

• I think I will get a raise this year. (opinion: often use 'will')

• Look at those clouds. It's going to rain! (evidence: often use 'be going to')


:: Willingness (will + verb)

• The phone is ringing. I'll get it! (at the present moment)

• I will help you move tomorrow. (promise / offer)

• He won't tell me his age. (refusal)

Present continuous

:: Fixed plans (often in the near future)

• I'm meeting my friends after work.


:: Happening now

• It is raining.

• I'm eating lunch now.


:: Longer actions in progress now

• She's studying to be a doctor.

• He's training for a marathon.


:: Temporary actions

• I'm working in London this week.


:: Trends

• More and more people are using cell phones to access the Internet.


:: Remember!

• Usually stative verbs are not used in the present continuous.

Past continuous

:: Action before and after a specific time

• Yesterday at noon, I was eating lunch.


:: Interrupted continuous past action

• I was watching a film when she called.


:: Parallel actions

• I was reading while my sister was strumming the guitar.


:: Repeated action (often with 'always')

• My last roommate was always leaving dirty clothes on the floor.


:: To start a story or create an atmosphere

• While I was driving to school yesterday ...

• The sun was shining, and birds were singing ...

Future continuous

:: Action in progress at a time in the future

• She will be taking an exam at 2 p.m. tomorrow, so don't call her then.


:: Atmosphere in the future

• When I arrive to class, the teacher will be talking, some students will be taking notes, and my best friend will be trying to stay awake.


:: Emphasis on future plans and intentions

• They'll be coming to visit us next week.


:: Interrupted action in the future

• I will be waiting for you when you arrive tonight.


:: Parallel actions in the future

• She will be watching TV, and he will be cooking dinner.*


:: Remember!

• Usually stative verbs are not used in the continuous form.


*While he is cooking dinner, she will be watching TV.

• With 'while', use the present continuous in the 'while' clause and future continuous in the other clause.

Past perfect

:: A completed action before a different past action

• When we arrived, the class had already begun.

• By the time we got to the theatre, the movie had already started.


:: In the 'if' clause of the third conditional

• If it had rained, I would have bought an umbrella.

• If you had studied for the test, you wouldn't have failed.


:: Reported speech

• My student said that he hadn't done his homework.

• She told me that she had never been to the beach before.

Present perfect

:: Change over time

• Your English has improved since the last time we met.

• My niece has grown a lot in the past year.


:: Duration from the past until now

• He has been a teacher since 2002.

• I have had a cold for a week.


:: Event in the past at an unspecified time

• She has been to Paris.

• I've seen that film.


:: Repeated events in the past until now

• We have had four exams so far this semester.

• I've been to this restaurant many times since I moved next door.


:: Uncompleted action that is expected to happen

• She hasn't finished her homework yet.

• They still haven't arrived.

Future perfect

:: A completed action before something in the future

• By the time you arrive, I will have finished the project.

• By next summer, she will have graduated from university.


:: Duration before something in the future

• By Friday, she will have had my car for a whole week!

• She will have been in Paris for six months by the time she leaves.


:: Negative statements

• By this time tomorrow, she won't have had enough time to finish the essay.

• By 2017, I won't have completed my PhD.


:: Question form

• Do you think you will have finished the project before I arrive?

Will she have graduated from university by then?

• What will you have done by the end of your time here?

Present perfect continuous

:: Actions happening recently

• She has been exercising a lot recently.

• I haven't been studying English lately.


:: Actions that recently stopped

• I've been working all day. I'm tired, so I'm going to take a nap.

• It has been raining. The pavement is wet.


:: Duration from the past until now

• He has been teaching for ten years.

• They have been living in London for twenty years.


:: Temporary actions

• They've been visiting their grandmother for the past week.

• I've been filling in for my boss for the past two days.

Past perfect continuous

:: Cause of something in the past

• He went on a diet because he had been eating too much.

• The road was wet because it had been raining.


:: Duration before something in the past

• He had been waiting for an hour when she finally arrived.

• She had been working at the company for ten years before it shut down.


:: Reported speech

• She said that Joan had been helping her study for months.

• You told me that you'd been saving money for university.


:: Third conditional

• If it hadn't been snowing, we would have gone out.

• If I had been paying attention, I wouldn't have gotten into an accident.

Future perfect continuous

:: Cause of something in the future

• Her English will be excellent by the time she visits London because she will have been studying for five years.

• He will be tired by the time he arrives because he will have been travelling all day.


:: Duration before something in the future

• He will have been waiting for an hour when she finally arrives.

• She will have been working at the company for ten years by the time I retire.


:: Remember!

Stative verbs are usually not used in continuous forms.