Tenses are used in English to express when something happened. Each subject is conjugated depending on a tense and has a corresponding positive, negative and interrogative (question) form. For example, here are three tenses using the verb 'to go' each in a different form:
Present Simple - Positive
Tom usually goes to school on Wednesdays.
Future - Interrogative
Will he go to that store tomorrow?
Past Continuous - Negative
Alice wasn't watching TV when he arrived.
This tense chart provides a quick overview of each tense for intermediate English learners. Each tense's use is explained with examples and links to more detailed information on each tense. You may also find the visual guide to tenses useful for help in understanding tense usage.
TENSE Present Simple
She usually works until 5 o'clock.
Where does she live?
They don't speak French.
Daily routines, facts and statements about life in general. Present Simple details.
TENSE Past Simple
She went to Paris last week.
They didn't (did not) drive to work.
Where did she get that hat?
Actions happening at a defined moment in the past. Past Simple Details
TENSE Simple Future
I'll (will) meet you at the airport tomorrow.
He won't (will not) be able to come.
Will they visit us soon?
Decisions made at the moment about the future, future predictions, future promises future deailsTENSE Present Continuous
He's (is) working at the moment.
They aren't (are not) coming this evening.
What are you doing?
Actions happening at the present moment. Near future intention and scheduling. Present continuous detailsTENSE Past Continuous
I was watching TV when you called.
He wasn't (was not) working when she arrived.
What were you doing when I called?
Interrupted past action, action happening at a specific moment in time in the past. Past continuous detailsTENSE Future Continuous
I'll (will) be cooking dinner when you arrive.
They won't (will not) be living in Paris this time next year.
What will you be doing next week at this time?
Future action at a specific moment in the future. Future continuous detailsTENSE Future with Going to
He's (is) going to fly to Boston next week.
They're (are) not going to invite the Browns.
Where are you going to stay?
Future intent or planned action Future for plans detailsTENSE Present Perfect
I've (have) seen Mick three times this week.
She hasn't (has not) been to New York.
How long have you worked at Smith's?
1)To express an action that was begun in the past and continues into the present. 2) To express an action that happened in the UNspecified past. 3) To express a recent action that has a present effect. Present perfect detailsTENSE Past Perfect
I'd (had) already eaten before they came.
She hadn't (had not) been to Rome before that trip.
Had you ever seen such a crazy lady before that?
To express an action that happens before another action in the past. Past perfect detailsTENSE Future Perfect
We'll (will) have lived here for twenty years by 2005.
She won't (will not) have finished her homework by the time we arrive.
How long will you have lived in France by the end of next year?
To express what will have happened or how long something will have happened up to a certain point in the future. MoreTENSE Present Perfect Continuous
She's (has) been waiting for over three hours.
They haven't (have not) been studying for long.
How long have you been working on that problem?
To express the duration of a continuous activity begun in the past and continuing into the present. Present perfect continuous detailsTENSE Past Perfect Continuous
She'd (had) been waiting for three hours when he finally arrived.
I hadn't (had not) been sleeping for long when I heard the doorbell ring.
How long had you been playing tennis when she arrived?
To express the duration of a continuous activity begun before another activity in the past. Past perfect continuous detailsTENSE Future Perfect Continuous
He'll (will) have been sleeping for a few hours by the time we arrive.
She won't (will not) have been working for long by 5 o'clock.
How long will you have been driving by 6 o'clock?
To express the duration of an activity up to a point of time in the future. Future perfect continuous details