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Uses of Tenses


Tense shows the time of action. The different tenses are identified by their associated verb forms.

There are three main tenses in English: past, present, and future.

Each of these tenses can be sub- divided as: simple, perfect, continuous (progressive), and perfect continuous. The perfect type of tense is formed using the verbs of ‘to have’ while the continuous type of tense is formed using the verbs of ‘to be’ with ‘-ing’ form of the verb.

There are twelve tenses in English. These tenses are used in a different situations. See the Uses of Tenses with examples below.

Uses of Tenses

1) Simple present tense


A) To show habitual action :


1. He goes to school.

2. Dogs bark.

3. Mother gets up early.

B) To show daily or regular activities :

(Use of Adverbs:- Daily, always, often, usually, generally, never)

(Use of Adverbial phrase:- every day, every week, every month)


1. He takes exercise every day.

2. She visits her parents often.

3. They always bring him present.

C) To express a general statement :


          1. Sachin Tendulkar plays cricket well.

          2. Seeta likes mangoes.

D) To show preplanned future action :


          1.We leave Pune next month.

          2. My brother returns to Mumbai in June.

E) To show eternal truth :


          1. The earth revolves round the sun.

          2. Two plus two is four.

F) Conditional clauses :


          1. If it rains, I shall stay at home.

          2. Unless he returns my home, I will not see him.

G) Time clause :


          1. We shall go to Pune when my brother returns from Nashik.

          2. I shall wait till you finish your work.

H) In Commentaries :


          1. Sachin comes, he runs, he bowls.

          2. Pele defends himself, passes the ball, kicks the ball and goal.

I) To introduce quotations :


          1. He said, “Money is what money does.”

          2. Napoleon said, “Nothing is impossible in the world.”

2) Present Continuous Tense


A) To express an action in progress at the time of speaking :         


          1. The baby is playing with the dog.

          2. The boys are playing cricket.

          3. It is raining.

B) To express a temporary action that may not be actually taking  place at the time of speaking.


1. My sister is reading a novel.

2. He is teaching English in the school.

3. She is doing research in the university.

C) To express immediate plans :


1. I am leaving for Pune tonight.

2. My uncle is arriving tomorrow.

3. The prime minister is flying to Pakistan tomorrow.

3) Present Perfect Tense

Uses :

A) To express recent past action which is completed in any indefinite present time :


1. I have done the job.

2. Raju has never seen her to be humble.

3. Miss Rekha has been to America.

4. She has killed a cat.

B) To express a recently completed action with just :


1. He has just gone out.

2. My sister has just finished cooking.

3. The train has just left.

C) To express actions which happened in the past, provided the action could be repeated in the present :


1. I have seen crocodiles in that lake.

2. She has written a number of books.

3. My father has seen the Ajanta Caves.

4) Present Perfect Continuous Tense

A) To show an action which began at some time in the past and is still continuing in the present :


1. They have been building the bridge for several months.

2. We have been reading since four o’clock.

3. She has been missing since last Friday.

5) Simple Past Tense

A) To express an action completed in the past :


          1. She left the college last year.

          2. I received her letter a week ago.

          3. She met her old friend yesterday.

4. I learned English in England.

B) To express a past habit :


          1. Every morning Gandhiji went for a walk.

          2. She always took exercise at that time.

6. Past Continuous Tense

Uses :

A) To denote an action going on at some time in the past :


          1. I was reading a novel.

          2. It was raining heavily.

          3. They were asking many questions.

B) To express a continuous action interrupted by another action with simple past tense :


1. He was returning home late when a dog bit him.

2. The boy was riding a bicycle when a truck dashed him down.

3. When I reached there, the people were coming out of the hall.

7. Past Perfect Tense

Uses :

A) To show an action completed before a certain moment in the past : (Of the two past actions; earlier action is in past perfect tense and the other is in simple past tense)


1. After she had taken her lunch, she went to the theatre.

2. When I reached the station, the train had departed.

3. Before we reached the bus – stop, the bus had left.

4. After we had reached the bus stop, the bus arrived.

Special Note :- The past perfect tense is never used with adverbs of past time but simple past tense is used.


          1. I had met him yesterday (Wrong).

              I met him yesterday (Correct).

          2. She had come here last day (Wrong).

              She came here last day (Correct).

8. Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Uses :

A) To denote the action that began before a certain point in the past and continued up to that time :


          1. They had been building that bridge since 1980.

          2. At that time, we had been practicing for two years.

          3. She had been reading a novel for two weeks.

4. My grandfather had been growing plants in our field since 1960.

Special Note :-

Since – denotes a particular point of time e.g. since 1980

For – denotes a period of time e.g. for two years

9. Simple Future Tense

Uses :

A) To express actions in the future i.e. action that has still to take place :                    


          1. I shall meet you tomorrow.

          2. They will arrive soon.

          3. The doctor will examine the patients in the evening.

B) To express habitual action in the future :


          1. The rainy season will come.

          2. The birds will come in the next summer.

10. Future Continuous Tense

Use :

A) To express an action which will occur in the usual course of events.


1. She will be staying here till Sunday.

2. I will be meeting him tomorrow.

3. The children will be playing here this evening.

B) To express future without intention :


1. He won’t be staying long.

2. The lady will be coming back this way.

3. The Government will be opening a children’s park in our area.

11. Future Perfect Tense

Use :

A) To indicate the completion of an action by a certain future time:


           1. They will have built the bridge by March next year.

           2. I shall have finished the job by 10 a.m. the day after tomorrow.

           3. By the end of the year, we shall have completed the repairs.

           4. In the five years’ time Seema will have taken her degree.

12. Future Perfect Continuous Tense

Use :

A) To show an action going on over a period of time that will end in the future.


          1. By 1988, she will have been ranking the first.

          2. By next week, we shall have been doing this job for six weeks.

3. When he gets his degree, he will have been studying in Cambridge for four years.

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Online Test on Tenses

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