ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The English Language: Verb Tenses

Updated on April 2, 2013

Tenses and Forms

There are three verb tenses which can be used to describe events in the past, present and future, and are called the past, present and future tenses, respectively. There are four forms, which, when combined with tenses, paint an accurate picture of what happened, is happening, happens on a regular basis, or has yet to happen.


  • Past
  • Present
  • Future


  • Simple
  • Progressive
  • Perfect
  • Perfect Progressive


The past simple tense discusses actions which have begun in the past and ended in the past. Many of these verbs end in -ed, but there are several irregular verb forms also.

  • The Declaration of Independence was signed on July fourth, 1776.
  • Mount Vesuvius erupted in the year 79 A.D.
  • Millard Fillmore took office July 9th, 1850


The past progressive tense is used when describing two events that were occurring simultaneously.

  • As I was walking down the street, it began to rain.
  • While painting one morning, I noticed a bird fly past my window.
  • While the CD was burning, the power went out and corrupted the disk.


The past perfect tense is used to describe events that had taken place previously to another event that had taken place. This tense is formed by using the word "had" before the past simple tense of the verb.

  • Before I had a chance to make my point, the police officer had already written the ticket.
  • When I arrived at my house, I found that the door had been kicked in.
  • Unfortunately by the time that I learned that the exam was today, it had already ended.

Past/Perfect Progressive

The past perfect progressive tense describes an action that was ongoing, but completed, at a time previous to another past event. This tense is created by adding "had been" before the present progressive form of the verb (ending in -ing).

  • I had been eating ice cream before I realized I was late for work.
  • Bob had been describing his plans for retirement to me before the phone rang.
  • Before September 11th, 2001, the NSA had been looking for ways to heighten security; unfortunately, they were too late.


Verbs in the present simple tense reflect unchanging truths or recurring events. Below, the first and last statements exemplify unchanging truths, while the second statement exemplifies a recurring event.

  • Those mountains are tall.
  • Every Tuesday, I play bingo.
  • The sky is blue.


The present progressive tense is used to describe events that are occurring at the time the statement is written or spoken. Present progressive verbs are created by adding -ing to the end of a present tense verb.

  • It is raining.
  • Geologists are presently researching the causes and effects of shifts to the earth's magnetic poles.
  • Quantum physicists are currently studying the mathematical effects of extra spatial dimensions.


The present perfect tense is used for cases where something has happened at an undefined time in the past or, began in the past and continues into the present time. The present perfect tense is created by using the word "have" or "has" before the past simple form of the verb.

  • I have seen that movie before!
  • Jobecca Technology Group has provided a Comprehensive Support Plan for several years now..
  • Sadie has always enjoyed horror films.

Present Perfect/Progressive

The present perfect progressive tense is used to describe events that began in the past, are presently occurring, and may continue in the future. It is created by using "has been" or "have been" before the present progressive form of the verb.

  • I have been planning to go to Walt Disney World for ages.
  • The higher-ups have been formulating plans for the new office building for several years.
  • Scientists have been studying the properties of gravity for centuries, and have yet to unlock it's most puzzling properties.


The future tense is created by adding "will" or "going to" before the present tense verb.

  • I am going to go to the mall tomorrow.
  • The next presidential election will be held in the year 2012
  • Pizza Hut is going to change their name to "The Hut"


The future progressive tense is used to describe a continuous or ongoing action that will occur some time in the future. This tense is formed by using "will" or "shall" before the verb and adding -ing to the end of the verb.

  • U2 will be performing at the Super Bowl this year.
  • Walt Disney World shall be updating their Kim Possible Alternate Reality Game later this month.
  • Within a few years, car manufacturing companies will be manufacturing flying cars.


The future perfect tense is used to describe actions which will take place at a future point in time before another future event. This tense is created by adding "will have" before the past simple form of the verb.

  • By the time Christmas rolls around, I will have bought several dozen presents.
  • When the year 2012 passes, several people will have found relief from their Armageddon concerns.
  • Before Charlie leaves the chocolate factory, Willy Wonka will have perfected the fizzy lifting drinks.

Future/Perfect Progressive

The future perfect progressive tense describes an event that will take place in the future before another defined future event. The tense is formed by adding "will have been" before the present progressive form of the verb (ending in -ing).

  • By the time I reach age 20, I will have been working with computers for sixteen years.
  • By 2015, space tourism will have been growing for ten years.
  • Before his 150 year sentence is up, Bernie Madoff will have been given ample time to consider his crimes.

Verb Tense/Form Meaning Chart

Perfect Progressive
Something unchangeable happened.
Something was happenening, (while something else happened).
Something took place before something else that had already taken place.
Something has happened and has been completed before something else that had already taken place.
Something is always the case, or is recurring.
Something is happening presently.
Something has happened at an indefinite time or happened in the past but continues presently.
An action began in the past, is presently occurring, and continues forward.
Something will happen.
Something will be happening continuously
Something will have happened before something else happens
By a certain time frame, something will have been going on for a certain period of time.

Verb Tense/Form Examples

Perfect Progressive
I walked.
I was walking, when it started to rain.
I walked down the street only to find that the wind blew my tree down.
I had been walking with a walking group for several years, but decided to stop.
I walk regularly.
I am walking at this very moment.
A while back, I began walking regularly.
I have been walking in my walking group for several years now.
I will walk.
I will walk until I get to the beach.
I will have walked 20,000 miles before I reach age 30
By the time I'm age thirty, I will have been walking in my walking group for eight years.

Poll time!

Did you find this article to be helpful or informative?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • adam-kash profile image

      Adam Kashmiry 

      8 years ago from Scotland

      I've been looking for a simplified article to help me better understand (past, present and future tense), and this's just what I needed.. Very informative and easy to understand.. thanks


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)