Verb tenses and timelines

I am not sure I ever really learned verb tenses in English. I just sort of *know* it because I have heard so much all my life, but when someone starts rattling off terms like “Past Continuous” and “Future Perfect” my eyes cross.  See an overview of English tenses in chart below.

Englishpage.com has a verb tutorial for English.  I add reviewing verb tenses in English to my list.

Something I had never heard of before is Verb Tense Timelines.  This intrigues me.  I’ll show an example of verb tense timelines below.

Verb Tense Timeline - simple past duration

Verb Tense Timeline – simple past duration

 

 

Verb Tense Overview with Examples

Simple Present Simple Past Simple Future
I study English every day. Two years ago, I studied English in England. If you are having problems, I will help you study English.

I am going to study English next year.

Present Continuous Past Continuous Future Continuous
I am studying English now. I was studying English when you called yesterday. I will be studying English when you arrive tonight.

I am going to be studying English when you arrive tonight.

Present Perfect Past Perfect Future Perfect
I have studied English in several different countries. I had studied a little English before I moved to the U.S. I will have studied every tense by the time I finish this course.

I am going to have studied every tense by the time I finish this course.

Present Perfect Continuous Past Perfect Continuous Future Perfect Continuous
I have been studying English for five years. I had been studying English for five years before I moved to the U.S. I will have been studying English for over two hours by the time you arrive.

I am going to have been studying English for over two hours by the time you arrive.

Verb Tense Timelines

verb_tense_timeline

 

Simple Past Tense Timelines

Simple Past

FORM

[VERB+ed]

USE 1 Completed Action in the Past

Use the Simple Past to express the idea that an action started and finished at a specific time in the past. Sometimes, the speaker may not actually mention the specific time, but they do have one specific time in mind.

Example:

  • I saw a movie yesterday.

USE 2 A Series of Completed Actions

We use the Simple Past to list a series of completed actions in the past. These actions happen 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on.

Example:

  • I finished work, walked to the beach, and found a nice place to swim.

USE 3 Duration in Past

The Simple Past can be used with a duration which starts and stops in the past. A duration is a longer action often indicated by expressions such as: for two years, for five minutes, all day, all year, etc.

Example:

  • I lived in Maine for two years.

USE 4 Habits in the Past

The Simple Past can also be used to describe a habit which stopped in the past. It can have the same meaning as “used to.” To make it clear that we are talking about a habit, we often add expressions such as: always, often, usually, never, when I was a child, when I was younger, etc.

Example:

  • Did you play a musical instrument when you were a kid?

USE 5 Past Facts or Generalizations

The Simple Past can also be used to describe past facts or generalizations which are no longer true. As in USE 4 above, this use of the Simple Past is quite similar to the expression “used to.”

Example:

  • She was shy as a child, but now she is very outgoing.
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