The following chart shows the positive, negative and question forms of the main tenses in English with a brief description of each tense’s usage. Please note that for a better understanding of the tense forms you should follow the links to pages focusing on the specific tense. This chart is principally for comparison purposes. You may also find the visual guide to tenses useful for help in understanding tense usage.
TENSE Simple Past
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. More
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 More
TENSE 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. More
TENSE 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. More
TENSE 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.
TENSE 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 More
TENSE 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. More
TENSE 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. More
TENSE 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. More
TENSE 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. More
TENSE 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. More
TENSE 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