Master Verb Tenses With This Sentence Structure Chart

Positive, Negative, and Questions in All 13 English Tenses

holding pen and paper
(James McQuillan/Getty Images)

Learning English verb tenses can be challenging for non-native speakers because there are so many rules to remember. By using a chart, you can simplify the task of learning all 13 tenses by breaking them down into different sentence structures. The following tips will also help you improve your English skills as you practice tenses.

Change Auxiliary Verbs

Remember that each tense changes in the auxiliary verb, rather than the main verb. The main verb is either in its simple form (do/did, play/played, make/made), the present participle (going, playing, watching, eating) or the past participle (had, done, thought, etc.).

  • I am watching TV right now.
  • You are watching TV right now.
  • He is watching TV right now.

Be Careful with Present Simple and Past Simple Positive

The only tenses that do not take an auxiliary verb are the present simple and past simple.

  • She teaches Russian on Tuesdays.
  • They played soccer yesterday.

Use Time Expressions

In order to choose the correct tense, make sure to check the time expressions used before you conjugate. You need to know when something happens before you can decide which tense to use. In this first example, "right now" implies the present continuous tense.

  • We're learning English right now.

In the second example, the phrase "for three years" indicates duration of time in the present perfect tense.

  • He has lived in New York for three years.

Keep Verbs Together

Keep the auxiliary and main verb together in positive and negative sentences. The only word that should ever come between the auxiliary and main verb is in a question (the subject) and adverbs of frequency.

  • She has worked her for a long time.
  • Peter didn't understand the question.

Exceptions:

  • What were they doing at 7 p.m.?
  • He hasn't often traveled abroad. 

Differences Between Action and Stative Verbs

Only action verbs are used in continuous and perfect continuous tenses. Stative verbs, verbs that state how something is or appears, are not used in the continuous and perfect continuous tenses. In the first example, the verb "playing" indicates action.

  • They are playing tennis at the moment.

In this second example, "want" implies a state of being (not "wanting").

  • They want to play tennis at the moment. 

Learn Tense Types

There are four types of tenses: simple, continuous, perfect, and perfect continuous. It's helpful to learn groups of tenses together based on the principal function of each type. Here's an overview:

  • Simple tenses focus on complete events.
  • Continuous tenses focus on action at a specific moment in time and cannot be used with stative verbs.
  • Perfect tenses focus on what has been completed from one time to another.
  • Perfect continuous tenses focus on how long something has been happening from one time to another. 

Check Your Understanding

 Decide whether the following statements about tenses in English are true or false. 

  1. Each English tense has an auxiliary verb.
  2. Positive, negative, and questions always include an auxiliary verb.
  3. Continuous tenses focus on completed events.
  4. It's possible to place an adverb of frequency such as 'usually' between the auxiliary and main verb.
  5. Perfect tenses focus on an action or a state that begins at one point in time and continues to the next.
  6. Perfect continuous tenses focus on how long an action or continues from one point to the next.

Answers

  1. True: All tenses in English have an auxiliary verb. However, auxiliary verbs are dropped in the positive form of the present simple and past simple.
  2. False: Drop auxiliary verbs in present simple and past simple positive sentences.
  3. False: Continuous tenses focus on actions happening at a specific moment in time.
  4. True: It's possible to place adverbs of frequency between the auxiliary and main verb.
  5. True: Perfect tenses focus on events and states over periods of time.
  6. False: Stative verbs are not used in continuous forms.  

Tense Tables

Need more review? These tables outline the positive, negative, and question forms of the 13 verb tenses.

Positive Forms

Tense Subject Helping Verb Main Verb (String) Objects / Time / Place
Present Simple I - eat breakfast at 8 in the morning.
You - eat breakfast at 8 in the morning.
He - eats breakfast at 8 in the morning.
She - eats breakfast at 8 in the morning.
It - eats breakfast at 8 in the morning.
We - eat breakfast at 8 in the morning.
You - eat breakfast at 8 in the morning.
They - eat breakfast at 8 in the morning.
Present Continuous I am learning English online right now.
You are learning English online right now.
He is learning English online right now.
She is learning English online right now.
It is learning English online right now.
We are learning English online right now.
You are learning English online right now.
They are learning English online right now.
Past Simple I - went to the store yesterday.
You - went to the store yesterday.
He - went to the store yesterday.
She - went to the store yesterday.
It - went to the store yesterday.
We - went to the store yesterday.
You - went to the store yesterday.
They - went to the store yesterday.
Past Continuous I was cooking dinner when you came home yesterday.
You were cooking dinner when you came home yesterday.
He was cooking dinner when you came home yesterday.
She was cooking dinner when you came home yesterday.
It was cooking dinner when you came home yesterday.
We were cooking dinner when you came home yesterday.
You were cooking dinner when you came home yesterday.
They were cooking dinner when you came home yesterday.
Future with Will I will come to class tomorrow
You will come to class tomorrow
He will come to class tomorrow
She will come to class tomorrow
It will come to class tomorrow
We will come to class tomorrow
You will come to class tomorrow
They will come to class tomorrow
Future with Going to I am going to fly to New York next week.
You are going to fly to New York next week.
He is going to fly to New York next week.
She is going to fly to New York next week.
It is going to fly to New York next week.
We are going to fly to New York next week.
You are going to fly to New York next week.
They are going to fly to New York next week.
Future Continuous I will be working at 5 pm tomorrow evening.
You will be working at 5 pm tomorrow evening.
He will be working at 5 pm tomorrow evening.
She will be working at 5 pm tomorrow evening.
It will be working at 5 pm tomorrow evening.
We will be working at 5 pm tomorrow evening.
You will be working at 5 pm tomorrow evening.
They will be working at 5 pm tomorrow evening.
Present Perfect I have taught English for many years.
You have taught English for many years.
He has taught English for many years.
She has taught English for many years.
It has taught English for many years.
We have taught English for many years.
You have taught English for many years.
They have taught English for many years.
Present Perfect Continuous I have been watching TV for three hours.
You have been watching TV for three hours.
He has been watching TV for three hours.
She has been watching TV for three hours.
It has been watching TV for three hours.
We have been watching TV for three hours.
You have been watching TV for three hours.
They have been watching TV for three hours.
Past Perfect I had eaten lunch before you came home yesterday.
You had eaten lunch before you came home yesterday.
He had eaten lunch before you came home yesterday.
She had eaten lunch before you came home yesterday.
It had eaten lunch before you came home yesterday.
We had eaten lunch before you came home yesterday.
You had eaten lunch before you came home yesterday.
They had eaten lunch before you came home yesterday.
Past Perfect Continuous I had been working for three hours before he arrived.
You had been working for three hours before he arrived.
He had been working for three hours before he arrived.
She had been working for three hours before he arrived.
It had been working for three hours before he arrived.
We had been working for three hours before he arrived.
You had been working for three hours before he arrived.
They had been working for three hours before he arrived.
Future Perfect I will have finished the report by three o'clock tomorrow afternoon.
You will have finished the report by three o'clock tomorrow afternoon.
He will have finished the report by three o'clock tomorrow afternoon.
She will have finished the report by three o'clock tomorrow afternoon.
It will have finished the report by three o'clock tomorrow afternoon.
We will have finished the report by three o'clock tomorrow afternoon.
You will have finished the report by three o'clock tomorrow afternoon.
They will have finished the report by three o'clock tomorrow afternoon.
Future Perfect Continuous I will have been studying English for five hours by four o'clock this afternoon.
You will have been studying English for five hours by four o'clock this afternoon.
He will have been studying English for five hours by four o'clock this afternoon.
She will have been studying English for five hours by four o'clock this afternoon.
It will have been studying English for five hours by four o'clock this afternoon.
We will have been studying English for five hours by four o'clock this afternoon.
You will have been studying English for five hours by four o'clock this afternoon.
They will have been studying English for five hours by four o'clock this afternoon.

Negative Forms

Tense Subject Helping Verb + Not Main Verb (String) Objects / Time / Place
Present Simple I don't visit my friends every day.
You don't visit my friends every day.
He doesn't visit my friends every day.
She doesn't visit my friends every day.
It doesn't visit my friends every day.
We don't visit my friends every day.
You don't visit my friends every day.
They don't visit my friends every day.
Present Continuous I am not studying math at the moment.
You aren't studying math at the moment.
He isn't studying math at the moment.
She isn't studying math at the moment.
It isn't studying math at the moment.
We aren't studying math at the moment.
You aren't studying math at the moment.
They aren't studying math at the moment.
Past Simple I didn't play soccer last week.
You didn't play soccer last week.
He didn't play soccer last week.
She didn't play soccer last week.
It didn't play soccer last week.
We didn't play soccer last week.
You didn't play soccer last week.
They didn't play soccer last week.
Future with Will I won't cook dinner tomorrow.
You won't cook dinner tomorrow.
He won't cook dinner tomorrow.
She won't cook dinner tomorrow.
It won't cook dinner tomorrow.
We won't cook dinner tomorrow.
You won't cook dinner tomorrow.
They won't cook dinner tomorrow.
Future with Going to I am not going to fly to Chicago next week.
You aren't going to fly to Chicago next week.
He isn't going to fly to Chicago next week.
She isn't going to fly to Chicago next week.
It isn't going to fly to Chicago next week.
We aren't going to fly to Chicago next week.
You aren't going to fly to Chicago next week.
They aren't going to fly to Chicago next week.
Future Continuous I won't be sitting at a computer next week at this time.
You won't be sitting at a computer next week at this time.
He won't be sitting at a computer next week at this time.
She won't be sitting at a computer next week at this time.
It won't be sitting at a computer next week at this time.
We won't be sitting at a computer next week at this time.
You won't be sitting at a computer next week at this time.
They won't be sitting at a computer next week at this time.
Present Perfect I haven't seen Tom since 2008.
You haven't seen Tom since 2008.
He hasn't seen Tom since 2008.
She hasn't seen Tom since 2008.
It hasn't seen Tom since 2008.
We haven't seen Tom since 2008.
You haven't seen Tom since 2008.
They haven't seen Tom since 2008.
Present Perfect Continuous I haven't been studying for very long.
You haven't been studying for very long.
He hasn't been studying for very long.
She hasn't been studying for very long.
It hasn't been studying for very long.
We haven't been studying for very long.
You haven't been studying for very long.
They haven't been studying for very long.
Past Perfect I hadn't eaten lunch before I arrived.
You hadn't eaten lunch before I arrived.
He hadn't eaten lunch before I arrived.
She hadn't eaten lunch before I arrived.
It hadn't eaten lunch before I arrived.
We hadn't eaten lunch before I arrived.
You hadn't eaten lunch before I arrived.
They hadn't eaten lunch before I arrived.
Past Perfect Continuous I hadn't been sleeping very long when I woke him.
You hadn't been sleeping very long when I woke him.
He hadn't been sleeping very long when I woke him.
She hadn't been sleeping very long when I woke him.
It hadn't been sleeping very long when I woke him.
We hadn't been sleeping very long when I woke him.
You hadn't been sleeping very long when I woke him.
They hadn't been sleeping very long when I woke him.
Future Perfect I won't have prepared the report by Friday.
You won't have prepared the report by Friday.
He won't have prepared the report by Friday.
She won't have prepared the report by Friday.
It won't have prepared the report by Friday.
We won't have prepared the report by Friday.
You won't have prepared the report by Friday.
They won't have prepared the report by Friday.
Future Perfect Continuous I won't have been driving for very long this time tomorrow.
You won't have been driving for very long this time tomorrow.
He won't have been driving for very long this time tomorrow.
She won't have been driving for very long this time tomorrow.
It won't have been driving for very long this time tomorrow.
We won't have been driving for very long this time tomorrow.
You won't have been driving for very long this time tomorrow.
They won't have been driving for very long this time tomorrow.

Question Forms

Tense Question Word Helping Verb Subject Main Verb (String) Objects / Time / Place?
Present Simple How often do I eat dinner in a restaurant?
How often do you eat dinner in a restaurant?
How often does he eat dinner in a restaurant?
How often does she eat dinner in a restaurant?
How often does it eat dinner in a restaurant?
How often do we eat dinner in a restaurant?
How often do you eat dinner in a restaurant?
How often do they eat dinner in a restaurant?
Present Continuous What am I doing right now?
What are you doing right now?
What is he doing right now?
What is she doing right now?
What is it doing right now?
What are we doing right now?
What are you doing right now?
What are they doing right now?
Past Simple Where did I go last week?
Where did you go last week?
Where did he go last week?
Where did she go last week?
Where did it go last week?
Where did we go last week?
Where did you go last week?
Where did they go last week?
Future with Will When will I help me with my homework tomorrow?
When will you help me with my homework tomorrow?
When will he help me with my homework tomorrow?
When will she help me with my homework tomorrow?
When will it help me with my homework tomorrow?
When will we help me with my homework tomorrow?
When will you help me with my homework tomorrow?
When will they help me with my homework tomorrow?
Future with Going to Where am I going to stay in New York next week?
Where are you going to stay in New York next week?
Where is he going to stay in New York next week?
Where is she going to stay in New York next week?
Where is it going to stay in New York next week?
Where are we going to stay in New York next week?
Where are you going to stay in New York next week?
Where are they going to stay in New York next week?
Future Continuous Where will I be staying tomorrow night?
Where will you be staying tomorrow night?
Where will he be staying tomorrow night?
Where will she be staying tomorrow night?
Where will it be staying tomorrow night?
Where will we be staying tomorrow night?
Where will you be staying tomorrow night?
Where will they be staying tomorrow night?
Present Perfect How long have I lived in your current house?
How long have you lived in your current house?
How long has he lived in your current house?
How long has she lived in your current house?
How long has it lived in your current house?
How long have we lived in your current house?
How long have you lived in your current house?
How long have they lived in your current house?
Present Perfect Continuous How long have I been studying today?
How long have you been studying today?
How long has he been studying today?
How long has she been studying today?
How long has it been studying today?
How long have we been studying today?
How long have you been studying today?
How long have they been studying today?
Past Perfect Where had I eaten lunch before I arrived this afternoon?
Where had you eaten lunch before I arrived this afternoon?
Where had he eaten lunch before I arrived this afternoon?
Where had she eaten lunch before I arrived this afternoon?
Where had it eaten lunch before I arrived this afternoon?
Where had we eaten lunch before I arrived this afternoon?
Where had you eaten lunch before I arrived this afternoon?
Where had they eaten lunch before I arrived this afternoon?
Past Perfect Continuous How long had I been working before Tom telephoned yesterday?
How long had you been working before Tom telephoned yesterday?
How long had he been working before Tom telephoned yesterday?
How long had she been working before Tom telephoned yesterday?
How long had it been working before Tom telephoned yesterday?
How long had we been working before Tom telephoned yesterday?
How long had you been working before Tom telephoned yesterday?
How long had they been working before Tom telephoned yesterday?
Future Perfect How many books will I have finished by the end of next year?
How many books will you have finished by the end of next year?
How many books will he have finished by the end of next year?
How many books will she have finished by the end of next year?
How many books will it have finished by the end of next year?
How many books will we have finished by the end of next year?
How many books will you have finished by the end of next year?
How many books will they have finished by the end of next year?
Future Perfect Continuous How long will I have been working by the end of the day?
How long will you have been working by the end of the day?
How long will he have been working by the end of the day?
How long will she have been working by the end of the day?
How long will it have been working by the end of the day?
How long will we have been working by the end of the day?
How long will you have been working by the end of the day?
How long will they have been working by the end of the day?