The Writing Center

Verb Tenses

The Simple Tenses

Tense

Example

Meaning

Simple Present

  • Edward Hirsch writes a column for the Washington Post.

  • Erin writes in her journal every day.

Expresses events or situations that exist always, usually, or habitually. These situations existed in the past, exist now, and will probably exist in the future.

Simple Past

  • Lisa wrote a poem yesterday.

  • I slept for 8 hours last night.

Expresses events or situations that began and ended in the past. These situations began and ended in the past.

Simple Future

  • I will write my paper tomorrow.

  • I am going to write my paper tomorrow.

Expresses events or situations that will occur at one particular time in the future.

 

The Progressive (or Continuous) Tenses

Form: be + -ing (present participle)
Meaning: This tense conveys that an event is in progress at a particular time.

Tense

Example

Meaning

Present Progressive

  • Renee is writing a poem in her notebook.

Expresses events or situations that began in the past, are in progress at the present time, and will probably continue in the future.

Past Progressive

  • James was writing when the police arrived on the scene.

Expresses events or situations that were in progress at a particular time in the past.

Future Progressive

  • Matt will be writing his novel over the summer.

Expresses events or situations that will be in progress at a particular time in the future.

 

The Perfect Tenses

Form: have + past participle
Meaning: This tense conveys that an event takes place before now or before another time or event.

Tense

Example

Meaning

Present Perfect

  • I have already read that book.

  • Bianca has written many poems about her family.

  • They have seen that movie many times.

Expresses events or situations that occurred “before now,” at some unspecified time in the past. Also expresses activities that were repeated several or many times in the past; the exact times are unspecified

Past Perfect

  • Courtney had written several screenplays by the time she was accepted to graduate school.

Expresses events or situations that were completed before another time in the past.

Future Perfect

  • Sonja will have written her lesson plans when the school year starts.

Expresses events or situations that will be

completed before a particular time in the future.

 

The Perfect Progressive Tenses

Form: have + been + -ing
Meaning: This tense conveys that an event is in progress immediately before and up to another time or event.
It expresses the duration of the first event.

Tense

Example

Meaning

Present Perfect Progressive

  • Scott has been writing articles for the Washington Post for several years.

Expresses events or situations that are in progress through the present time.

Past Perfect Progressive

  • Eve had been writing for two years before her novel was published.

Expresses events or situations that were in progress through a particular time in the past.

Future Perfect Progressive

  • Tracy will have been writing for two hours by the time we have to leave.

Expresses events or situations that will be in progress through a particular time in the future.

 

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