English Grammar - The most common tenses in English

Tense

Signal words

Use

Form

Examples

Present Simple

every day

sometimes

always

often

usually

seldom

never

first ... then

something happens repeatedly

 

how often something happens

 

one action follows another

 

things in general

 

after the following verbs (to love, to hate, to think, etc.)

 

future meaning: timetables, programmes

infinitive

he/she/it + -s

I work

he works

I go

he goes

Present Progressive

Now

at the

moment

Look!

Listen!

something is happening at the same time of speaking or around it

 

 

future meaning: when you have already decided and arranged to do it (a fixed plan, date)

to be (am/are/is) + infinitive + -ing

I'm working

he's working

I'm going

he's going

Past

Simple

last ...

... ago

in 1990

yesterday

action took place in the past, mostly connected with an expression of time (no connection to the present)

infinitive + -ed

 

I worked
he worked
I went
he went

Past Progressive

 

an action happened in the middle of another action

 

 

someone was doing sth. at a certain time (in the past)

you don't know whether it was finished or not

was/were + infinitive + -ing

I was working

he was working

I was going

he was going

Present Prefect

Yet

Never

ever

already

so far,

up to now, since

for

recently

you say that sth. has happened or is finished in the past and it has a connection to the present

 

action started in the past and continues up to the present

have/has +

past participle (infinitive + -ed)

 

I've worked

he's worked

I've gone

he's gone

Present Perfect Progressive

 

emphasis: length of time of an action

action began in the past and has just stopped

 

how long the action has been happening

have/has + been + infinitive + -ing

I've been working

he's been working

I've been going

he's been going

Past Perfect

 

mostly when two actions in a story are related to each other: the action which had already happened is put into Past Perfect, the other action into Simple Past

the past of the Present Perfect

had + past participle (infinitive + -ed)

I had worked

he had worked

I had gone

he had gone

Will - future

 

predictions about the future (you think that sth. will happen)

 

you decide to do sth. spontaneously at the time of speaking, you haven't made a decision before

 

 

main clause in if clause type I

will + infinitive

I'll work

he'll work

I'll go

he'll go

Going to - future

 

when you have already decided to do sth. in the future

 

 

what you think what will happen

be (am/are/is) + going to + infinitive

I'm going to work

he's going to work

I'm going to go

he's going to go