The verb action can take place in the past, present or future. Tenses are the linguistic quality which expresses the time at, during or over which a state or action denoted by a verb occurs. It is interesting to note that Chinese does not use tenses. English language uses three main tenses-past, present and future. Tenses are further divided into sub-categories to represent time.
|Simple||Sleeps||Slept||W ill Sleep|
|Continuous||Is sleeping||W as Sleeping||W ill be Sleeping|
|Perfect||Has slept||Had Slept||W ill have Slept|
|Perfect Continuous||Has been sleeping||Had been sleeping||W ill have been sleeping|
• A continuous tense indicates that the action takes place over time and these tenses always use part of the verb “be” as the first part of the verb phrase and end with the main verb + ing.
• A perfect tense always uses part of “have” as the first part of the verb phrase and ends with the past form of the main verb.
• A perfect progressive tense starts with the relevant part of the verb “have” followed by “been” and ends with the main verb + ing.
Keeping these in mind let us look at the common errors:
• A Past Tense in the principal clause is followed by a Past Tense in the subordinate clause;
o He hinted that he wanted money.
o She replied that she felt better.
• A Past Tense in the principal clause may be followed by a Present Tense in the subordinate clause when the subordinate clause expresses a universal truth;
o Newton discovered that the force of gravitation made apples fall. [Incorrect]
o Newton discovered that the force of gravitation makes apples fall. [Correct]
• Universal truths are always in simple present tense.
The earth rotates from west to east.
• Clause of Time and Condition – The simple present tense will replace the future tense
If it will rain we shall get wet. [Incorrect]
If it rains we shall get wet. [Correct]
• The following verbs, on account of their meaning, are not normally used in the continuous form, they will be used in present tense only:
o Verbs of perception, e.g., see, hear, smell, notice, recognize.
o Verbs of appearing, e.g., appear, look, seem.
o Verbs of emotion, e.g., want, wish, desire, feel, like, love, hate, hope, refuse, prefer.
o Verbs of thinking, e.g., think, suppose, believe, agree, consider, trust, remember, forget, know, understand, imagine, mean, mind.
o have (= possess), own, possess, belong to, contain, consist of, be (except when used in the passive)
I am loving it – McDonalds tagline [Incorrect]
I love it. [Correct]
However, they can be used in the continuous tenses with a change of meaning:
I have loving parents.
• The Present Perfect tense when used as a just action; the simple past tense is used incorrectly.
She just entered the room. [Incorrect]
She has just entered the room. [Correct]
• When a sentence expresses two actions in the past, the earlier of the two actions is put in the past perfect tense. When we use 2 past actions together, then the action that happens earlier will have past perfect and the action that happens later will have simple past and this is immaterial of what you say first.
When I had reached the station, the train already left the platform. [Incorrect]
When I reached the station, the train had already left the platform. [Correct]
• Simple past – Due to the same word being used differently in verb forms, we tend to confuse the meaning of certain words.
The river has flown above the danger mark. [Incorrect – The River cannot ‘fly’, hence flown is incorrect]
These are the verb forms for fly and flow.
Flow flowed flown
Fly flew flown
Hence, the correct sentence would be:
The river has flowed above the danger mark. [Correct]
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