How Many Verb Tenses Are There in English?

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In English grammar, verb tenses or forms indicate the moment when something happens, such as the past, present, or future. These three primary forms can be subdivided further to add detail and specificity, such as whether the action is ongoing or to describe the order in which events occurred. For example, the present simple verb tense concerns actions that happen every day, while the past simple verb tense refers to something that happens in the past. In all, there are 13 tenses.

Verb Tense Chart

Here are simple explanations of the tenses in English that give the most common use of each tense in English. There are a number of exceptions to the rules, other uses for certain tenses in English and so on. Each tense has examples, a link to a page that goes into detail for each tense in English, as well as a visual tense chart and a quiz to check your understanding.

Simple present: things that happen every day.

He usually goes for a walk every afternoon.

Petra doesn't work in the city.

Where do you live?

Simple past: something that happened at some time in the past.

Jeff bought a new car last week.

Peter didn't go to the meeting yesterday.

When did you leave for work?

Simple future: paired with "will" to express a future act.

She will come to the meeting tomorrow.

They won't help you.

Will you come to the party?

Simple future: paired with "going to" to indicate future plans.

I'm going to visit my parents in Chicago next week.

Alice isn't going to attend the conference.

When are you going to leave?

Present perfect: something that began in the past and continues into the present.

Tim has lived in that house for 10 years.

She hasn't played golf for long.

How long have you been married?

Past perfect: what happened before something else in the past.

Jack had already eaten when he arrived.

I hadn't finished the report when my boss asked for it.

Had you spent all your money?

Future perfect: what will have happened up to a point in the future.

Brian will have finished the report by five o'clock.

Susan won't have driven far by the end of the evening.

How many years will you have studied by the time you get your degree?

Present continuous: what is happening at the moment.

I'm working at the computer at the moment.

He isn't sleeping now.

Are you working?

Past continuous: what was happening at a specific moment in the past.

I was playing tennis at 7 p.m.

She wasn't watching TV when he called.

What were you doing at that time?

Future continuous: what will be happening at a specific moment in the future.

I will be lying on the beach this time next week.

She won't be having any fun this time tomorrow.

Will you be working this time tomorrow?

Present perfect continuous: what has been happening up to the present moment in time.

I've been working for three hours.

She hasn't been working in the garden for long.

How long have you been cooking?

Past perfect continuous: what had been happening up to a specific moment in the past.

They had been working for three hours by the time he arrived.

We hadn't been playing golf for long.

Had you been working hard when he asked for it?

Future perfect continuous: what will be happening up to a specific moment in the future.

They will have been working for eight hours by the end of the day.

She won't have been studying for very long when she takes the test.

How long will you have been playing that game by the time you finish?

More Resources

If you want to continue your studies, this tense table will help you learn more about verb tenses. Educators can find activities and lesson plans in this guide to teaching tenses.

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "How Many Verb Tenses Are There in English?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Beare, Kenneth. (2023, April 5). How Many Verb Tenses Are There in English? Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "How Many Verb Tenses Are There in English?" ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).