Sentence Structure Chart

Positive, Negative and Questions in all 13 English Tenses

Writing Cause and Effect Essays
Writing Cause and Effect Essays. James McQuillan / Getty Images

At times learning the various tenses in English can become very confusing. Here are a few tips on learning tenses:

  • 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.) 
  • The only tenses that do NOT take an auxiliary verb are the present simple and past simple.
  • 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.
  • Keep verb tenses together. The only word that should ever come between the auxiliary and main verb is in a question (the subject) and adverbs of frequency.
  • Learn groups of tenses together:
  1. Simple tenses focus on complete events.
  2. Continuous tenses focus on action at a specific moment in time and cannot be used with stative verbs.
  3. Perfect tenses focus on what has been completed from one time to another.
  4. Perfect continuous tenses focus on how long something has been happening from one time to another. 

Sentence Structures

The following chart provides the structure for each tense in English. Notice how each element (subject, auxiliary verb, main verb, objects) changes, but that the structure remains the same. Try to follow these structures no matter which tense you use.

Positive Sentences

TenseSubjectAuxiliary VerbMain VerbObjects
Present SimpleI workin the city.
Present ContinuousYouarestudyingmath at the moment.
Past SimpleWe flewto Germany last month.
Past ContinuousTheywerewatchingTV at three o'clock yesterday afternoon.
Future with WillMarywillhelpthe students.
Future with Going toYouare going tomoveto New York.
Future ContinuousAnnawill beworkingat three o'clock tomorrow.
Present PerfectWehavelivedin Seattle for a long time.
Present Perfect ContinuousHehas beenplayinggolf for two hours.
Past PerfectWehadeatendinner before he arrived.
Past Perfect ContinuousShehad beenstudyingfor three hours when he arrived.
Future PerfectIwill havefinishedthe job by tomorrow.
Future Perfect ContinuousWewill have beenworkingfor eleven hours by ten o'clock.

Negative Sentences

TenseSubjectAuxiliary Verb + NotMain VerbObjects
Present SimpleIdon'tworkin the city.
Present ContinuousTheyaren'tworkingon the project at the moment.
Past SimpleMarydidn'tgoon vacation last year.
Past ContinuousJackwasn'tworkingwhen I arrived.
Future with WillWewon'tvisithim next week.
Future with Going toYouaren't going toplaygolf this weekend.
Future ContinuousTheywon't beworkingon Saturday afternoon.
Present PerfectSusanhasn'tvisitedPuerto Rico yet.
Present Perfect ContinuousHehasn't beeneatingdinner for very long.
Past PerfectTheyhadn'tspokento Peter for a long time.
Past Perfect ContinuousJoehadn't beenstudyingfor a long time when she came home.
Future PerfectAngelawon't havefinishedthe project by tomorrow.
Future Perfect ContinuousThe teacherwon't have beenteachingfor long at ten in the morning.


Tense(Question Word)Auxiliary VerbSubjectMain Verb(Objects)?
Present SimpleWheredoyoulive?
Present ContinuousWhatareyoudoingwith that?
Past SimpleWhendidhemoveto Chicago?
Past ContinuousWhatweretheydoingwhen he arrived?
Future with WillHowwillshetravelto Seattle?
Future with Going toWhereareyougoing to stayon vacation?
Future ContinuousWhat timewillhebe givinghis presentation?
Present PerfectHow oftenhaveyoubeento France?
Present Perfect ContinuousHow longhasshebeen playingtennis?
Past PerfectHow muchhadshecompletedbefore it was due?
Past Perfect ContinuousHow longhadtheybeen sleepingwhen he woke them up?
Future PerfectHow many bookswilltheyhave readby the end of the month.
Future Perfect ContinuousHow longwillTomhave been playinggolf by the end of the day?