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Sentence Structure Chart

Positive, Negative and Questions in all 13 English Tenses

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At times learning the various tenses in English can become very confusing. I have often noticed how students will start making mistakes in basic sentence structure each time they learn a new tense. However, it shouldn't be that difficult, although I understand why it can be difficult! The good news is that structure does not change no matter the tense. The only thing that changes is the verb used. Remember that each tense changes in the auxiliary verb, rather than the main verb. The main verb is either in its simple form (do - did, play - played, make - made), the present participle (going, playing, watching, eating) or the past participle (had, done, thought, etc.) The only tenses that do NOT take an auxiliary verb are the present simple and past simple.

The following chart provides the structure for each tense in English. Notice how each element (subject, auxiliary verb, main verb, objects) changes, but that the structure remains the same. Try to follow these structures no matter which tense you use.

Sentence Structure Chart

Positive Sentences

Tense Subject Auxiliary Verb Main Verb Objects
Present Simple I work in the city.
Present Continuous You are studying math at the moment.
Past Simple We flew to Germany last month.
Past Continuous They were watching TV at three o'clock yesterday afternoon.
Future with Will Mary will help the students.
Future with Going to You are going to move to New York.
Future Continuous Anna will be working at three o'clock tomorrow.
Present Perfect We have lived in Seattle for a long time.
Present Perfect Continuous He has been playing golf for two hours.
Past Perfect We had eaten dinner before he arrived.
Past Perfect Continuous She had been studying for three hours when he arrived.
Future Perfect I will have finished the job by tomorrow.
Future Perfect Continuous We will have been working for eleven hours by ten o'clock.

Negative Sentences

Tense Subject Auxiliary Verb + Not Main Verb Objects
Present Simple I don't work in the city.
Present Continuous They aren't working on the project at the moment.
Past Simple Mary didn't go on vacation last year.
Past Continuous Jack wasn't working when I arrived.
Future with Will We won't visit him next week.
Future with Going to You aren't going to play golf this weekend.
Future Continuous They won't be working on Saturday afternoon.
Present Perfect Susan hasn't visited Puerto Rico yet.
Present Perfect Continuous He hasn't been eating dinner for very long.
Past Perfect They hadn't spoken to Peter for a long time.
Past Perfect Continuous Joe hadn't been studying for a long time when she came home.
Future Perfect Angela won't have finished the project by tomorrow.
Future Perfect Continuous The teacher won't have been teaching for long at ten in the morning.

Questions

Tense (Question Word) Auxiliary Verb Subject Main Verb (Objects)?
Present Simple Where do you live ?
Present Continuous What are you doing with that?
Past Simple When did he move to Chicago?
Past Continuous What were they doing when he arrived?
Future with Will How will she travel to Seattle?
Future with Going to Where are you going to stay on vacation?
Future Continuous What time will he be giving his presentation?
Present Perfect How often have you been to France?
Present Perfect Continuous How long has she been playing tennis?
Past Perfect How much had she completed before it was due?
Past Perfect Continuous How long had they been sleeping when he woke them up?
Future Perfect How many books will they have read by the end of the month.
Future Perfect Continuous How long will Tom have been playing golf by the end of the day?

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