Tense and time shifts. Verb tenses
1. Verb TensesCreated by Janet Chan & Yang Ying
2. Forms of Verb TensesPast
3. Uses of Verb TensesUse correct tenses according to the context.
Be sure about the meaning you would like to
E.g. Did you go to China? (Context?)
Have you been to China? (Context?)
4. Uses of Verb TensesUse different verb tenses for different
meanings but be consistent
E.g. The Singapore culture is a diverse one.
Yet, the people in Singapore live in harmony
despite the diversity.
5. Uses of Verb TensesUse tense shifts only when there is a need to
do so. Think about meaning before you
decide to make a tense shift.
e.g. The assignment workload for FOE
students at NUS is extremely heavy. I still
remember in the first semester I was here, I
had to cope with three projects at the same
6. Simple Presentnow
To express habitual actions or a Every student comes to class
condition that is true at any time on time.
The library is open until 8 in the
evening every day.
To express general truths
The sun rises in the east and
sets in the west.
7. Simple Presentnow
To report what is in print e.g.
In her article, Vicky claims that
renewable energies are viable
alternatives in the long run.
1. Base form of the verb.
2. Add -s or -es for third person singular.
8. Present Progressivenow
To express that an action or
activity that is currently
happening or is still happening.
The student is preparing for her
final year project.
To express that an action is
happening at present and is
The trainees are undergoing
To express that an action is
already in progress at a
specified point of time in the
At 8:30am, most of the
employees are working at their
9. Present ProgressiveFormation
am/ is/ are + present participle (-ing).
I am writing an academic essay for this module.
They are doing some research on nanotechnology.
He is preparing the lab set up for the next class.
10. Verbs not usually used in progressive tenseWe usually use the following verbs with simple tenses only (not
hate, like, love, need, prefer, want, wish
believe, imagine, know, mean, realize, recognize, remember,
belong, concern, consist, contain, depend, involve, matter, need,
owe, own, possess
appear, arrive, resemble, seem,
11. Simple Pastnow
To indicate that an action took
place at a specific time in the
The students did this project last
To indicate that an action
occurred in the past and is no
longer true in the present
He majored in engineering in
Regular verbs: base form + d/-ed
12. Past Progressivenow
To express that an activity was
in progress at a specific point in
time in the past.
The professor was lecturing
when the alarm went off.
To show that an activity lasted
for a period of time in the past
(emphasis on the duration).
The auditors were checking the
accounts while the assets were
was/ were + present participle (-ing)
13. Present Perfectnow
To express an action or state
that began in the past and
continues to the present.
The twins have worked in the
same company for four years
To show that an event occurred
in the past although the exact
time is not specified or
They have already completed
14. Present Perfectnow
To express an action or state
The mathematician has just
has happened in the very recent proven a complicated theory.
To indicate that an event has
occurred more than once in the
past (specific times are not
given or important).
has/ have + past participle
EG1471 AY 2008/09/10 JChan
The students have approached
their tutor several times for
15. Past Perfectnow
To indicate an event that was
completed by a definite time or
before another action was
completed in the past.
By the time the rescue team
arrived at the scene, the waters
had reached 1.5 metres.
Nobody had dreamt that cloning
was possible in the 1900s.
had + past participle
16. Past Perfect Progressivenow
To stress the duration of an
activity that was completed
before another action or time in
The students had been
struggling with the problem for
an hour before they found a
had + been + present participle (-ing)
To express an action, event or state They will complete their assignment
that will occur in the future.
will + base form (no -s or -es)
See Lane and Lange
(1999) p. 14 for
Future time can also be expressed in
• am/is/are + going to + base form
• simple progressive or present progressive
18. Future Progressivenow
To express an action that will
occur over a duration at some
specific point in the future.
The final year students will be
doing their internship overseas
for the month of December.
To emphasize the duration of an The professor will be going on
action in the future.
sabbatical during the long
will + be + present participle
19. Future Perfectnow
To indicate that an activity will
be completed before another
event or time in the future.
The postgraduate students will
have finished their thesis by the
end of this semester.
The experts will have
discovered the cause of the
explosion in a week’s time.
will + have + past participle
20. Future Perfect Progressivenow
To indicate that an activity has
been in progress for a period of
time before another event or
time in the future.
By March next year, the
engineers will have been
working on the project for three
will + have + present participle
21. Practice(1) “I am writing these words in English because I am needing
the practice. (2) At this moment I have been on an airplane over
the Pacific ocean, en route to a year of study at New York
University in the United States. I am looking forward to being
there, but I am also a little afraid. (3) What will I find when I will
get to America? Will the Americans be arrogant and violent? (4)
Would I make friends? (5) Am I happy?”
airplane last month. (7) When I arrived at John F. Kennedy
Airport, I used to be timid and nervous. (8)I have heard a lot
about crime before I left Japan, (9) so I am very scared when I
arrived. (10) People in Japan had also told me that Americans
will be rude, unfriendly, and unhelpful. For this reason, (11) I was
very surprised when the taxi driver from the airport would carry
my luggage and spoke kindly and slowly to me. (12) He even
asked if there was anything else he can do. (13) And when I had
been arriving at the college, everyone seemed concerned about
me. I found that the majority of people here are friendly and are
going out of their way to help you if you need it.
events like accidents, murders, diseases, and fights. But I
don’t see as much violence in my life as I do on television.
(15) I had not been mugged, and I don’t worry all the time
about my safety.
however, seem to be true. One is that Americans don’t seem
to pay much attention to rules. One of my best American
friends says, in fact, “Rules are made to be broken.” The
other idea I had that seems to be true is about the American
family. In Japan, the family is very important, but some (17)
Japanese people are thinking that the family (18) is meaning
nothing in the United States. Anyway, I am going to have a
chance to see a real American family. (19) I will have been
going with my roommate, Susan, to spend Thanksgiving
break with her family in Pennsylvania. (20)When I see her
family, I will have understood more!
26. SourcesEnglish Club. (1997-2010). Verbs not Used with Continuous Tenses. Retrieved
March 8, 2010 from http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/verbsm_vmwct_1.htm
Lane, A. and Lange, E. (1999). Writing Clearly: An Editing Guide (2nd ed.). USA:
Heinle and Heinle Publishers.
Oshima, A. and Hogue, A. (2006). Writing Academic English (pp3-15) (4th ed.). New
York: Pearson Education, 3-25.
Raimes, A. (2006). Grammar troublespots: A guide for student writers (3rd ed.).
New York: Cambridge
University Press, 41-45.
Hanson, G. (2006). The English verb tense system: a dynamic presentation using
the Cuisenaire Rods. Une Education Pour Demain. Retrieved Feb 25, 2010 from
Jay Maurer. (1995). Focus on grammar: An advanced course for reference and
practice (p15). Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc