A tense is any of the forms of a verb that may be used to show the time of the action or state expressed by the verb. Thus we have two tenses in English language; Present tense and Past tense.
There is no future tense in English because there are no inflectional endings or verb forms that can signal future tense as in present and past tenses. However, we can still talk about future time in English.
Aspect is the form of a verb that shows, for example, whether the action happens once or repeatedly, is completed or still continuing. Thus we have simple aspect, perfective aspect and progressive aspect.
The form of a verb that expresses an action that is happening now or at the time of speaking. Present tense can be divided into the following aspects.
- Simple Present
- Present Progressive
- Present Perfect
- Present Perfect Progressive.
Simple present tense is used to describe the present or past tense of a verb that is formed without using an auxiliary verb. It is marked by the base form of the verb. Look at the following table.
|Base form/ infinitive form|
|– s, – es, – ies is added to the base form.|
(a) -es added to the verbs ending in the following letters; ss, sh, ch, x, o, zz. For example
|Base form||-es form|
(b) -ies is added to all verbs ending in y preceded with a consonant. ‘y’ changes into ‘i’ then –es is added.
|Base form||-ies form|
Compare the following
|Base form||-s form|
These verbs end in a ‘y’ letter but they are preceded with a vowel sound, so we simply add ‘-s’
(c) ‘-s’ is added to all the rest forms of verbs including those ending in ‘y’ preceded with a vowel.
|Base form||-s form|
Adverbs of frequency that are used with simple present
Often, always, usually, never, sometimes, occasionally, normally, seldom, rarely, constantly, frequently. These are used to describe how many times someone does something.
Uses of Simple Present Tense
- To show habitual actions
I teach English
I walk to school daily.
We go to church every Sabbath.
- To express a general/scientific truth
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
Water boils at 100oC and freezes at 0oC
Magnet attracts iron.
- To show a future plan
The president addresses the nation tomorrow.
He arrives today from Nairobi.
We start our project next week.
- To commentate on a game or event. (sports commentary)
Mbwana Samata passes the ball to Simon Nsuva, he dribbles the ball and kicks a long pass to Mrisho Ngasa, Mrisho Ngasaaaaa, scores a fantastic and brilliant goal.
- To introduce proverbs, sayings and quotations.
There is an English proverb which goes/states that “A stitch in time saves nine”
Charles Jones says “You are the same today as in five years except for two things; the books you read and the people you meet”
- In exclamatory sentences beginning with here or there.
Here comes Mr. Tchetgen!
There leaves the bus!
PRESENT PROGRESSIVE TENSE
Present continuous tense is used for actions happening now or at the time of speaking. We form present continuous tense by using be + ing (present participle)
The forms of be used in present continuous tense “am, is, and are”.
|He, She, It
|You, We, They
I am going to school.
He is reading a novel
We are doing the Midterm exams.
They are working in the city.
Some verbs have double consonants before –ing is added to the verb. For example.
|Base form||-ing.||Base form||-ing.|
Uses of Present Progressive Tense
- To talk about actions going on at the time of speaking.
She is cooking the evening meal in the kitchen now.
They are reading books in the library.
I am going to the Headmasters office.
- For a temporary action/situation not necessarily at the time of speaking.
My brother is studying at the University of Dodoma.
He is teaching English at Heritage Secondary school.
My mother is working with NBC.
He is writing a grammar book.
- For a future planned action.
We are leaving next week.
We are starting our National exams in November.
Marwa is getting married next month.
Some verbs are not used in the progressive tenses, for example need, want, know, agree, seem, appear, understand, smell, hear, etc. These verbs refer to a state, not an action.
I need some oranges.
He wants to go home.
Do you know Tania Smith?
They love Japanese food.
She hates her job.
This the form of a verb that expresses an action done in a time period up to the present, formed in English with the present tense of have and the past participle of the verb.
It is also used to express actions completed by the present or a particular point in the past or future. It shows the finished actions and events which have some present importance.
It is used in some reports, letters and conversation.
The government has built a public library.
I have eaten.
The children have finished their food. (There is no more food left)
In forming the present perfect tense we use have+ past participle.
|Subject||Form of have||Past participle|
|Have||Past participle –ed
|He, She, It
|Has||Past participle –ed, – en|
I have written two books.
She has built a nice house.
You have cheated me twice.
They have gone to school.
The uses of Present Perfect Tense.
- To talk about something or an action which started in the past and is still going on. We often use the word for or since with this verb.
I have lived here since 1990. (still living here)
She has worked in this place for ten years. (still working)
Christians have waited for Jesus for centuries. (still waiting)
We have been students for three years. (And we still are)
- To talk about something/an action that has just finished.
My brother has just finished his meal.
They have recently been married.
I have already told you.
- To express past actions whose time is not specified.
Have you ever been a teacher?
I have never eaten a pizza.
She has always hoped for the better.
The adverbs used with present perfect are
Lately, recently, already, just, never, ever, yet,
PRESENT PERFECT PROGRESSIVE
This is a tense used to show that an action has been taking place since a point of time in the past and in progress up to now. In forming the present progressive tense we use;
Subject + have/has + been+ present participle –ing.
|Subject||Have/has been||-ing participle.|
|Have been||-ing participle|
|Has been||-ing participle.|
Uses of present progressive tense
Used to talk about the actions that began sometimes in the past and is still going on.
I have been teaching English for ten years.
They have been singing since morning.
I have been waiting for you
He has been writing a letter.
It has been raining since morning.
The form of a verb used to describe actions in the past or the time that has gone by or things that happened in an earlier time.
This is the form of the verb that describes actions that took place a long time ago. In describing or talking about past events we use the past form of the main verb without auxiliary verbs.
Auxiliary verb (to do) may be used in questions like “Did you tell him?” and in negative sentences, like “I didn’t tell him”. In both cases the –ed participle is dropped from the regular main verb and the form of irregular verb also changes. E.g. “I didn’t write that letter”.
Look at the following examples
|Positive sentences||Negative sentences||Questions|
|I loved her||I didn’t love her||Did I love her?|
|We told you||We didn’t tell you||Did we tell you?|
|They won the match||They didn’t win the match||Did they win the match?|
|He liked your care||He didn’t like your car.||Did he like your car?|
|He studied at Dodoma University.||He didn’t study at Dodoma university.||Did he study at Dodoma university?|
|She stayed for two weeks||She didn’t stay for two weeks.||Did she stay for two weeks?|
There are two kinds of verbs used to form simple past tense; regular and irregular verbs.
These are the verbs that form their past tense by adding –d or –ed to the verb. Most English verbs are regular.
From the list above it can be noted that;
Some verbs form their simple past by simply adding –d. these are the verbs that already end in letter –e.
some verbs form their simple past by simply adding –ed. These do not end in letter –e.
Some verbs form their simple past by simply adding –ied. These are the verbs that end in letter –y, preceded with a consonant. In this case the ‘y’ changes into ‘i’ then –ed is added.
There is an exception for the words like Fly –Flew-Flown
Simple past tense is used with some adverbs of time such as Yesterday, last night, last week, last year, ago, a long time, once upon a time, etc.
These are verbs that do not form their past tense by adding –d or –ed. The formation of past tense in irregular verbs is different from that of regular verbs.
These have no common rule to guide the formation of past tense. Although irregular verbs have a considerable variation in the way they behave in forming past tense, they can still be grouped in some groups depending on their similarities in the changes they undergo.
Those with two forms of past tense and past participle.
|Infinitive||Simple past||Past participle|
Those that do not change at all in simple past and past participle
|Infinitive||Simple past||Past participle|
Those with the same form of simple past tense and past participle
|Infinitive||Simple past||Past participle|
Those with different forms for simple past and past participle
|Infinitive||Simple past||Past participle|
Uses of simple past tense
To express an action completed at a specified time in the past.
I finished the assignment yesterday.
The teacher started the lesson at exactly 08:00 am.
To express a past habit with adverbs like always, never, often, usually, frequently.
He usually went shopping on Friday.
They usually ate rice in the evening
She never tolerated lateness for whatever reason.
To express a series of past actions.
They came, conquered and went
We ate and drank, we chatted, we danced, finally we went back home.
It is used in writing reports
The research involved rural communities who gave their views on the matter. The respondents agreed that…..
Put the following story in simple past by changing the words in the brackets.
One man ____(be) on a journey in the bush. As the sun ____ (set) and the night ______(fall) he ____(see) no any house. So he _______ (decide) to sleep in the bush. As soon as he _____(sleep), a wolf _______(arrive). It ______(start) dragging him away by his cloak. When he ______(woke up) and ______(see) the wolf he _____(leap) up and _______(run). He ______(came) to a house and _____(go) in. at first it was dark. Then he ______(see) two little flames. Finally a lady with two candles_______(appear)
She _____(be) very beautiful. She _______(smile) and _____(welcome) him. She _____(give) the traveler a huge meal of meat and fruits; then they _____(sleep). The man ___(spend) many weeks with the kind woman. They _____(be) very happy. At last the traveler ______(want) to go back to his home.
He ______ (become) very sad that the woman _____(understand) the changes. She ________(asked) him “Are you sick?”,
“I’m only homesick” he ______(reply). “I need to go back home”. Then he ________(say) goodbye to his hostess and _____ (enquire), “What is your name” because to find your house again I will have to ask people on the way. She ______(reply), “I am the wolf”
This expresses the action that was going on in the past. Or it expresses actions which were in progress when something else happened. This is formed by Subject +be (was/were)+-ing participle.
I was brushing my shoes.
He was reading a novel.
She was cooking the evening meal.
It was raining.
Jesca was studying in the classroom.
They were playing cricket.
The baby was sleeping when I called.
Uses of the Past Progressive Tense
To show the actions which were in progress when something else happened.
We were having lunch when you called.
I was sleeping when the robbers came in.
As the teacher was leaving the classroom he collapsed at the doorway.
To show a temporary action in progress in the past.
I was teaching at heritage in 2015.
Joshua was studying at the University of Dodoma.
Jane and James were attending evening classes for three months.
To show a persistent habit in the past (with always).
He was always telling stories about monsters.
They were always thinking of burning the school.
Magoiga was always attending the night clubs in the city.
To make polite request.
I was asking for your English book.
I was wondering if you could lend me ten thousands.
This is the form of a verb that expresses an action completed before a particular point in the past, formed in English with had and the past participle.
When a tense is used to show that an action had completed earlier before another action began it is known as Past perfect tense
It is formed by Subject + had + past participle.
This is used with conjunctions of time such as , when, after, as soon as)
I had finished eating.
We had already done the exam.
When we entered the teacher had started the lesson.
They had left when we arrived.
I had finished form four when you started form one.
Uses of past perfect tense
To show that an action had completed before another.
He had died before we reached the hospital.
They had left by the time you phoned me.
We had finished the exam when it started raining.
After we had bought everything we left.
To express unfulfilled/unrealized wish or hope.
As a child I had wanted to be a doctor but I failed in physics.
They had hoped to win but they lost the match.
I had planned to visit you this December.
If I had taken a tax I wouldn’t have missed the train.
PAST PERFECT PROGRESSIVE
This is used to show that an action had been taking place for a period of time in the past before another action began.
It is formed with the structure Subject + had +been + -ing participle.
Mr Marwa had been teaching at Heritage when I was employed there.
When I got home my mother had been waiting for me since morning.
He had been drinking alcohol before he became a Christian.
Uses of past perfect progressive
with for or since to talk about an activity that started at a time further back in the past than something else:
She hadn’t been living there very long when she met Mark.
I had been visiting him regularly before he moved to Nairobi.
to talk about an activity that had a result in the past:
My hands were dirty because I had been gardening.
He had been going to bed late since you bought the TV.
Put the words in the brackets in the right tense indicated.
i. She ………….(cook) the evening meal. (past continuous)
ii. When we entered the teacher ……….. (start) the lesson. (past perfect)
iii. He ………(drink) alcohol before he became a Christian. (past perfect progressive)
iv. They ………..(leave) by the time you phoned me. (Past perfect)
v. Joshua ………(study) at the University of Dodoma. (past continuous)
vi. My mother ……( wait) for me since 1.pm. (past perfect progressive)
Future time is a period of time after now or the time that will come after the present or the events that will happen then. This is used to show that an action will take place in future.
There are various ways of expressing the future
By using will/shall + infinitive.
Traditionally, ‘shall’ is used with ‘I and we,’ while ‘will’ is used with you, he, she, it and they.
I shall travel to Mwanza next week.
We shall finish the exam on Tuesday.
You will fail if you don’t study hard.
They will be here tomorrow.
By using be + going to + infinitive
They are going to win this match.
It is going to rain.
This wall is going to collapse soon.
She is going to buy carrots
By using present progressive be + -ing (to talk about future plans where the time is mentioned)
They are going next week.
Samia is addressing the nation tonight.
They are arriving this week from London.
By using be + to infinitive.
You are to talk to him by yourself when he comes.
She is to be here at 8.30.
The guest of honour is to sit here.
By using be +about to + the infinitive ( to talk about the very near future)
Go and ask him quickly, He’s about to go out.
The meeting is about to start.
We are about to go, so hurry up.
By using The Present Simple (to refer to a future time after when, as soon as, before, until, etc.)
Ring me as soon as you hear any news.
The parliament session begins tomorrow.
Samba plays against Yanga next Saturday.
This is used to show that some actions will take place in the future.
To talk about a decision that you make as you are speaking:
‘It’s cold in here.’ ‘OK, I’ll close the window.’
I’ll have the salad, please.
To talk about what you know or think will happen in the future (but not about your own intentions or plans):
Her mother will be ninety next week.
Will he pass the exam, do you think?
This job won’t take long.
For requests, promises and offers:
Will you buy some bread on your way home?
We’ll be back early, don’t worry.
I’ll help you with your homework.
To talk about future plans where something has been officially arranged, for example on a timetable or programme:
We leave Dar-es-Salaam at 11:00 and arrive in Mwanza at 12.30.
School starts on 9 September.
The president visits our school tomorrow.
THE FUTURE PROGRESSIVE
This shows that some actions will be in progress in the future. It is formed with:
Subject+ will/shall + be+-ing.
To talk about actions that will continue for a period of time in the future:
I’ll be waiting for you near the ticket office.
I’ll be wearing a green hat.
This time next week you’ll be travelling to Lusaka.
To express or ask somebody about their plans or intentions:
How many nights will you be staying?
Will you be flying back or going by train?
What will you be doing this time tomorrow?
I’ll be doing the national exam next month.
This is the form of a verb that expresses an action completed before a particular point in the future. In English this is formed with;
Subject +will have or shall have +the past participle
They’ll have lived here for four years in May.
They will have finished the exam in December.
I will have graduated already.
This is used for completed actions in the future.
I’ll have published two books next year.
They will have left when you come.
She will have married by November
THE FUTURE PERFECT PROGRESSIVE
This is used to talk about the duration of something that you will be looking back on at a particular time in the future: this shows that an action will be going on in the future and it will continue for a period of time in the future.
This is formed with will/shall +have +been +-ing
She’ll have been working here for a year in October.
By the next august she will have been teaching for ten years.
I will have been travelling around the country by the time my contract expires.
Put the following sentences in the correct form of the tense in brackets.
i. Sir Marwa is unfortunately ill, so Chris Hunter ………(teach) you English from today. (future continuous)
ii. Next year I …………..(be) a teacher for ten years. (future perfect)
iii. By the end of the holiday I …… (cycle) nearly 500 kilometres. (future perfect)
iv. I hope I ………..(live) somewhere else this time next year. I hate this flat. (future continuous)
v. By the end of the week we ……(sell) about 3,000 tickets. (future perfect)
vi. There are only ten metres to go. He ……..(win) the gold medal!(use going to)
vii. A: Why have you bought these psychology books?
B: I ………… (study) psychology next year. (use going to)
A phrase that you add to the end of a statement in order to turn it into a question for confirmation of information or check that the statement is correct.
A question tag is made up of auxiliary verb and a personal pronoun.
If the statement is positive the question tag should be negative.
He has finished the work, hasn’t he?
They did the work as you said, didn’t they?
We shall pass the exam, shan’t we?
We are leaving now, aren’t we?
If the statement is negative the question tag should be positive.
We won’t finish this work today, will we?
Jane isn’t married yet, is she?
They never finish their food, do they?
The tense of the question tag should correspond to the tense of the statement.
He came yesterday, dint he?
He has come today, hasn’t he?
He will come tomorrow, won’t he?
A comma is placed before a question tag and a question mark after the question tag.
They have left for Mwanza, haven’t they?
It is finished, isn’t it?
You didn’t tell me the truth, did you?
We normally use the same auxiliary verb that is in the statement.
We have started the exams, haven’t we?
I will pass the exam, won’t I?
She has bought a new car, hasn’t she?
Need, am and dare in an affirmative statement are not repeated.
I need some times to finish this, don’t I?
I am reading a novel, aren’t I?
For affirmative (positive) simple past and simple present with no auxiliary verbs we use the form of the verb to do in its correct tense.
She likes banana, doesn’t she?
I love her, don’t I?
You took my pen, didn’t you?
She hates onions, doesn’t she?
In commands and sentences that begin with ‘let’ we use will/shall in form of a request.
Open the door, will you?
Let us have lunch now, shall we?
Pass me that bottle of water, will you?
Do clean the blackboard, wont you?
Don’t forget to bring my book, will you?
Don’t listen to your parents when they mislead you, will you?
Stop that behavior immediately, wont you?
Choose the best question tag for each sentences
1. They play football every Saturday,
(a) do they? (b) did they? (c) don’t they? (d) didn’t they?
2. He should write a letter,
(a) don’t he? (b) did he? (c) should he? (d) shouldn’t he?
3. He doesn’t live with his parents,
(a) did he? (b) insn’t it (c) doesn’t he? (d) does he?
4. John collects stamps,
(a) is he (b) insn’t it? (c) does he? (d) doesn’t he?
5. He will visit us tomorrow,
(a) won’t he? (b) was he? (c) should he? (d) will he?
6. It rained heavily in the night,
(a) is it (b) didn’t? (c) isn’t it? (d) wasn’t it?
7. He hadn’t been there,
(a) wasn’t he? (b) isn’t it? (c) had he? (d) hadn’t he?
8. The factory manager was a student at this school.
(a) isn’t it? (b) did he (c) was he? (d) wasn’t he?
9. The new teacher is from Mtwara,
(a) isn’t it? (b) isn’t he? (c) aren’t he? (d) is he?
10. You wouldn’t like a sweet,
(a) would you? (b) will you (c) wont you? (d) wouldn’t you?