- Verbs are an important part of speech. They are the action heroes of language because they describe the action that takes place in sentences. This is why primary school teachers call them “doing words” or “action words”.
- A verb is the minimum requirement for a sentence. A sentence cannot be a sentence without a verb.
What do verbs do?
We hear people talking about verb tenses, but what exactly do we mean when we say that verbs have tense? Tense relates to time. In other words, tense relates to when the action in a sentence takes place. Time is categorised into the present, the past or the future.
- Present tense verbs tell us about actions taking place now.
- Past tense verbs tell us about actions that took place in the past.
- Future tense verbs tell us about actions that will take place in the future.
The three tenses – the present, the past and the future – are further divided into the simple tenses, the perfect tenses, the continuous tenses and the perfect continuous tenses.
The simple tenses
Examples of the simple tenses are given below:
- Ravi studies Geology. (present simple)
- Ravi studied Geology. (past simple)
- Ravi will study Geology. (future simple)
The perfect tenses
Examples of the perfect tenses are given below:
- Ravi has studied Geology. (present perfect)
- Ravi had studied Geology. (past perfect)
- Ravi will have studied Geology. (future perfect)
The continuous tenses
Examples of the continuous tenses are given below:
- Ravi is studying Geology. (present continuous)
- Ravi was studying Geology. (past continuous)
- Ravi will be studying Geology. (future continuous)
For a detailed explanation of the continuous tenses, see www.chapter2blog.com/the-continuous-tenses/
The perfect continuous tenses
Examples of the perfect continuous tenses are given below:
- Ravi has been studying Geology. (present perfect continuous)
- Ravi had been studying Geology. (past perfect continuous)
- Ravi will have been studying Geology. (future perfect continuous)
For a detailed explanation of the perfect continuous tenses, see
The verb timeline
As tenses can get confusing, even for mother-tongue speakers, you may find it useful to use a verb timeline when learning about or comparing verb tenses. In this way, you can place the tenses on a time continuum like the one here. This will help you to visualise how all the tenses fit together.
|Past perfect continuous||John had been texting a friend.|
|Past continuous||John was texting his friend.|
|Past perfect||John had texted a friend.|
|Past simple||John texted a friend.|
|Present perfect continuous||John has been texting a friend.|
|Present continuous||John is texting a friend.|
|Present perfect||John has texted a friend.|
|Present simple||John texts a friend.|
|Future perfect continuous||John will have been texting a friend.|
|Future continuous||John will be texting a friend.|
|Future perfect||John will have texted friend.|
|Future simple||John will text a friend.|
For instance, you will be able to see that the past perfect continuous tense is further back in time than the past perfect tense. In the same way, the past perfect tense is further back in time than the past simple tense and the past continuous tense. You will be able to reach similar conclusions for the present tense and the future tense.
It’s a good idea to refer to the timeline when you are learning about verbs.
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