Let’s take a quick look at verb tenses, shall we? In their simplest form, they’re quite, well, simple.
- Present Tense: This is the easy one. If it’s happening right now, taking place in the present, the verb is in present tense. Repeat after me: “I am reading Deb’s blog.” See? It’s happening right now.
- Past Tense: If the sentence is describing something from the past, you need past tense. “Deb wrote many excellent posts last month.” It doesn’t matter how far in the past the event of the sentence occurred.
- Future Tense: If it’s going to happen in the future, you need a future tense. “I will come back tomorrow to see what else she has to say.” Future-tense verbs always need to be expressed with a verb phrase, since no verb has a built-in future tense format. Will and Shall are the auxiliaries you will need to use to express a future tense.
Once you get past the simple versions, though, things get interesting.
The Perfect tense of a verb are “completed” (perfected), and have fixed ending points. They use have or has along with the past participle.
- Present Perfect: I have written many posts. (A statement about the present.)
- Past Perfect: I had written many posts. (I wrote them in the past but am not writing them now.)
- Future Perfect: I will have written many posts. (By the time we get to the future, I will have written even more posts.)
Progressive verbs describe an action that is ongoing. They use a form of the verb to be plus the verb’s present participle (ending with -ing).
- Present Progressive: I am writing. (Really, I’m doing it right now.)
- Past Progressive: I was writing. (Yes, I’ve been doing this a while now.)
- Future Progressive: I will be writing. (Forever and ever and ever!)
It’s even possible to combine the progressive and the perfect forms, though I admit it sounds counterintuitive. It describes an action that will be completed at some specific point in time, and uses both “have” and “be” to determine its tense (present, past, or future).
- Present Perfect Progressive: I have been writing for an hour. (…And I still am.)
- Past Perfect Progressive: I had been writing for an hour. (At the time I stopped.)
- Future Perfect Progressive: I will have been writing for an hour. (If I keep going and stop after 60 minutes have elapsed.)
Confusing? Clear? Questions? Thoughts? Did I answer all your questions, or are you suddenly thinking of examples that you’re not sure of? (Is “I will have you know that I think you’re a wonderful person,” a future perfect-progressive verb, or future progressive?) Did I just enlighten you or completely confuse you?