1 Tenses: An Overview

Past, present and future

Annapurna Madhuri


When we speak, we generally describe actions of other people or the things we do. Some actions already completed, some still going on and still some which are carried out on a regular basis and a few more that might take place some time after the present time.  That form of any action word – a verb, which shows us the time of action is known as a ‘tense’.  To emphasize the time of occurring of an event, we use verbs in various forms and these forms of verbs are tenses.  The way we use a verb tells us if the event or action had taken place before the time which it is mentioned or is taking place here and now, or if it is scheduled to some time after it is mentioned and talked about.   

This implies that tenses are an essential part of any sentence.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this chapter, all learners will be able to

  1. Identify the different action words.
  2. Distinguish between verb tenses.
  3. Relate forms of actions to the time of happening.
  4. Choose correct form of verb as per the time of happening of the event.
  5. Use different forms of verbs according to time

Quick Read!!

The Lion and the Rabbit.

A cruel lion lived in a jungle.  It would kill and eat the animals all day.  All the animals requested the lion not to kill them and eat them in this way.  They proposed a plan.  Each day one animal would come to the lion one by one, so that they would be saved from fear of being killed at random by the lion.  The lazy lion felt that this is a good way to get a tasty treat every day.  In this way, the lion had already eaten many animals.  It was finally turn of a smart rabbit to go to the lion as a meal.   It reached the lion’s den quite late.  The lion roared in anger, “Why are you late?” The rabbit replied, “There is another lion in the jungle.  It stopped me.”

It said, “I will become the king of the jungle.”

“Another lion?  I will kill it. Show me where it is,” roared the lion, angrily.  The rabbit took the lion to a well.  The lion peered into the well and roared, “Who is there?”  The roar echoed back.  It saw its own reflection in the water of the well.  It roared again, “You stupid, come out. I will kill you.”  Saying so, the lion jumped into the well and was drowned.  All the animals in the jungle felt happy and safe.

In this story, we see many actions.  Some actions took place sometime before the present time.  Some at the time of the event, and some actions are proposed or supposed to happen at a later time, as the story progressed, but have not taken place when these actions are mentioned.

The tenses give us the knowledge of the time of happening of an event.  We use tenses to define the time of happening of an action.  So, precisely, tense gives us an idea of when a particular action takes place.

Let’s see if you have understood it.

Identify the correct tense of the verb in the following sentences


As the story took place during a time much earlier than it is being narrated, the story begins in past tense.  (eg. A cruel lion lived)

While we use verbs in the past tense form, we generally use verb + ed form.  This is for regular verbs.  We also have irregular verbs which do not follow this rule, and we will be discussing more about them in the later chapters.

Rule: Regular verbs are used in past tense form by adding ‘d’ or ‘ed’ to the root verb. 

Example – play – played, study – studied, live – lived

There are irregular verbs which do not follow this rule.  The past tense forms of these verbs are formed differently.

Example – go-went, eat-ate, break-broke and so on.

Use past tense forms to complete the following paragraph.

Now, this lion would kill and eat animals – these acts are regular habits of the lion, and hence used in simple present tense.

Simple present tense for third person verbs, is formed adding ‘s’ or ‘es’ to the root verb, for singular only.

Observe this sentence, “I will become the king of the jungle.”  The action relates to something which is going to take place during time to come.  This is simple future tense.


Focus Areas:

Now we know that past tense, present tense and future tense are forms of the same verb – the same action, depicting the time when they took place.

Tense Time of happening Examples
Simple Present

Any act that happens in the present moment, a daily practice, a regular fact or a habit all are represented in present tense form.

The Sun rises in the East. (Fact)

I go to school every day. (Routine)

She goes for a walk to keep herself healthy. (habit)

Simple Past I slept well last night.
Any act that is complete and over much before it is talked about is expressed in past tense form. He went to school yesterday.

She got the job last month.

They went to Goa last year.

Simple Future  

Any act that is planned or talked about with an intention to be executed in time to come, days, months or years to come is expressed in future tense form.

I will be rich one day.

She will work hard to top the class in the next test.

He will plan a visit to Shimla next month.

Additional Exercises – Self Check

Check your understanding before you proceed.




Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Tenses: An Overview Copyright © 2019 by Annapurna Madhuri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/Effective English for Teachers

Share This Book