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Kenneth Beare

Understand Tenses Visually

By April 18, 2013

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Understanding tenses can be challenging, especially when you hear a long string of helping verbs. For example, imagine how difficult it is for someone to understand the following sentence the first time they hear these tenses used.

We'll have finished the report by the time the conference begins.

Or this ...

We had been waiting for more than three hours by the time he finally arrived.

It seems clear if you speak English, but rather strange if it's your first time! I've found that providing visual clues can really help students understand how all of the tenses work together. There's the visual tenses gallery providing a timeline for each use of a tense with an example. For a broader overview, try the tense timeline that arranges all the tenses along a visual timeline from past to present.


April 23, 2013 at 8:27 am
(1) Chaya says:

By the time what finally arrive?? You left out the word. I assume you meant to write a bus or a train.

April 23, 2013 at 9:11 am
(2) kajoli khanna says:

agree with chaya

April 23, 2013 at 10:58 am
(3) macfan says:

Great job !
useful and convenient.

April 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm
(4) Jordy Wallz says:

I read the sentence and I thought that I was wrong. But then I realized that there was a word missing, such as they, or the bus, etc.
Thanks for the opportunity to help.

April 23, 2013 at 6:53 pm
(5) larry says:

Chaya, he finally arrived dont need to mention a train or a bus. the important is a person they are waiting for three hours finally arrived.

April 23, 2013 at 8:20 pm
(6) Gladys M. Drust Nacarino says:

I donīt really understand the suggested correction since in my opinion, the second sentence is right. It’s clearly understood that “we had been waiting.”…refers to” for him” without being necessary to mention it. The rest of the sentence clarifies it. The important point in the first part is how long “we have been waiting..”

April 23, 2013 at 10:32 pm
(7) Kelvin Phyo says:

I agree with larry, but Larry in your words you should use ‘ importance is ‘ instead of ‘ important is .. ‘, i guess .

April 23, 2013 at 11:12 pm
(8) ina says:

I think, what he meant was the person was finally arrived.

April 24, 2013 at 7:45 am
(9) neena says:

The sentence is correct.

“By the time” means “before”.

April 24, 2013 at 8:07 am
(10) Ghada says:

Thanks ,we really need such explanations

April 24, 2013 at 3:45 pm
(11) Kamel Alahmad says:

Thanks for your helpful ideas. Chaya, the sentence includes the subject “he” which makes the sentence meaningful. He didn’t forget any word.

April 24, 2013 at 10:20 pm
(12) U Aung Myint says:

I’ve read all the comments and satisfied with them.I learned more.
Thank to all.

April 25, 2013 at 2:23 pm
(13) Rie Moya says:

Doing tests on your website has really helped to improve my English at all levels.

I also understood the sample sentences you just used without any difficulty.

Very helpful website and great work thanks!

April 26, 2013 at 1:11 am
(14) manijeh says:

I must say you are wonderful.You have it all there .Whatever I had problem with I could get it from your helpful hints .Thank you indeed.God bless you .

May 14, 2013 at 8:40 am
(15) Said says:

I like English i want find a friend for learning a English i want friendship with English girl this is my Email Adress ab.walee@mod.gov.af

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