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ENGLISH VERB TENSES

MEANING * FORM * AUXILIARIES * LEXICAL ASPECT


PRACTICE: Labor Day * Martin Luther King, Jr. Day * Miss America *
FIFA/Fathers' Day * Chicago

ENGLISH VERB TENSES -- TIME and ASPECT =


MEANING
There are three times that can be indicated by verb tenses in English:
• present (or "non-past" -- the "default" time)
• past
• future
These times refer to the relationship of the "story" to the speaker (or writer).
There are three "aspects" that can be expressed:
• simple (the "default" aspect -- the time of focus)
• perfect (completion -- before the time of focus)
• progressive (or continuous) (duration -- in progress at the time of focus)
(one verb phrase can indicate both perfect and progressive aspect)
These aspects refer to the relationship between the events inside the "story."
MEANING
These three times and three aspects (four, including perfect progressive) can be combined to
express 9 (or 12) "verb tenses:"
The verb tense is also affected by the meaning of individual verbs (lexical aspect), by time
expressions, and psychological factors, but the basic idea is as described above.

ENGLISH VERB TENSES -- FORMS of the VERB


There are theoretically 6 forms of the verb in English:
We like pizza
V ("no-s" form) I eat pizza
I am/ they are hungry.
He likes pizza. (simple present)
Vs ("s"-form) She eats pizza.
He is hungry.

They liked pizza.


She ate pizza.
Ved ("past" form) (simple past)
He was/they were
hungry.
like
V (simple or "dictionary" form) eat
be
liking
( "-ing form" or present (require auxiliaries
Ving eating
participle) to form finite verb phrases)
being
liked
Vdtn ( past participle) eaten
been
For most verbs the "no-s" form and the simple form are identical in form. All verbs form the
"s-form" and the "ing-form" predictably from this simple form. For "regular" verbs, the past
and past participle forms are the same, and are formed by adding "ed" to the simple form. So,
if you learn the spelling rules for adding "s" "ed" and "ing" to the simple form of verbs, and
memorize three forms of "irregular" verbs:
the simple form * * the past form * * the past participle

you will be able to form all of the verb forms. (test yourself here).
(For a few verbs, the "no-s", "simple", past, and past participle are all the same! The verb be has two different
"no-s" forms, a different simple form, and two different past forms.)

FORMS OF THE VERB and AUXILIARIES


Simple negatives and questions and all passive, progressive, and perfect verb phrases are
formed by combining one of the following three auxiliary verbs or a modal auxiliary verb
with either a simple verb form, a present participle, or a past participle. The auxiliary shows
the time (and number) and the combination of the auxiliary and the verb form show the
aspect:
+ adj + +
(main (main
+noun nou nou
(main verb) verb)
+ n n
verb)
prep.phrase
(or place) +
B + Ving = D = H Vdt
(pres.partic progressi simpl n =
E ip.) ve O (auxilia + V e AVE (auxilia (pas perfe
(auxilia ry) ry)
+ Vdtn tense t ct
ry)
(past =passive s part
particip.) .)

Therefore, each verb (including be, do and have when they


are main verbs)
can form the following verb tenses:
I/He/They _______ pizza.
F F
(F=E) | |
SIMPLE E--> | E <---->E
PERFECT PROGRESSIVE
am eating
have eaten***
is eating
eat has eaten**
are eating
PRESENT**
eats have been eating
has been eating
was eating
had eaten***
were eating
PAST** ate***
had been eating

will have eaten*** will be eating


FUTURE** will eat will have been eating

BE as a main verb
(I/He/They _______ hungry.
F F
(F=E) | |
SIMPLE E--> | E <---->E
PERFECT PROGRESSIVE*
am being
have been
am is being
has been
are being
PRESENT** is
have been being
are
has been being

was being
was had been
were being
PAST**
were had been being

will have been will be being


FUTURE** will be will have been being

* (rare for be as an active main verb)


** in relation to the speaker/writer
*** some verbs have REGULAR past and past participle forms (+ed) and others have IRREGULAR past and
past participle forms, which must be memorized.
F = focus
E = event or situation described