The most common tenses in English

Tense Signal words Use Form Examples
Simple
Present
every day
sometimes
always
often
usually
seldom
never
first ... then
something happens repeatedly

how often something happens

sequence of actions

things in general

after the following verbs (to love, to hate, to think, etc.)

future meaning: timetables, programmes
infinitive
he/she/it + -s
I work
he works
I go
he goes
Present
Progressive
now
at the moment
Look!
Listen!
something is happening at the same time of speaking or around it



future meaning: when you have already decided and arranged to do it (a fixed plan, date)

to be (am/are/is) + infinitive + -ing I'm working
he's working
I'm going
he's going
Simple
Past
last ...
... ago
in 1990
yesterday
action took place in the past, mostly connected with an expression of time (no connection to the present) regular:
infinitive + -ed
irregular:
2nd column
I worked
he worked
I went
he went
Past
Progressive
  an action happened in the middle of another action

-

someone was doing sth. at a certain time (in the past) -
you don't know whether it was finished or not
was/were + infinitive + -ing I was working
he was working
I was going
he was going
Simple
Present
Perfect
yet
never
ever
already
so far,
up to now, zum Teil: since
for
recently
you say that sth. has happened or is finished in the past and it has a connection to the present

action started in the past and continues up to the present

have/has +

past participle (infinitive + -ed)
or
(3rd column)

I've worked
he's worked
I've gone
he's gone
Present Perfect
Progressive
 

emphasis: length of time of an action

action began in the past and has just stopped

how long the action has been happening
have/has + been + infinitive + -ing I've been working
he's been working
I've been going
he's been going
Simple Past
Perfect
  mostly when two actions in a story are related to each other: the action which had already happened is put into Past Perfect, the other action into Simple Past

the past of the Present Perfect
had + past participle (infinitive + -ed)
or
(3rd column)
I had worked
he had worked
I had gone
he had gone
will - future   predictions about the future (you think that sth. will happen)

you decide to do sth. spontaneously at the time of speaking, you haven't made a decision before



main clause in if clause type I
will + infinitive I'll work
he'll work
I'll go
he'll go
going to - future   when you have already decided to do sth. in the future



what you think what will happen
be (am/are/is) + going to + infinitive I'm going to work
he's going to work
I'm going to go
he's going to go

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