English Tenses

Tense Signal words Use Form Examples affirmative Examples negative Examples interrogative
Simple Present or Present Simple
  • every day
  • sometimes
  • always
  • often
  • usually
  • seldom
  • never
  • first ... then
  • something happens repeatedly
  • how often something happens
  • one action follows another
  • things in general
  • with the following verbs (to love, to hate, to think, etc.)
  • future meaning: timetables, programmes
infinitive (he/she/it) + -s I work. I don't work. Do I work?
He works. He doesn't work. Does he work?
I go. I don't go. Do I go?
He goes. He doesn't go. Does he go?
Progressive or
Present Continuous
  • 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. I'm not working. Am I working?
He's working. He isn't working. Is he working?
I'm going. I'm not going. Am I going?
He's going. He isn't going. Is he going?
Simple Past or Past Simple
  • last ...
  • ... ago
  • in 1990
  • yesterday
action finished in the past, mostly connected with an expression of time (no connection to the present)
  • regular: infinitive + -ed
  • irregular: 2nd column of table of irregular verbs
I worked. I didn't work. Did I work?
He worked. He didn't work. Did he work?
I went. I didn't go. Did I go?
He went. He didn't go. Did he go?
Progressive or
Past Continuous
  • an action happened in the middle of another action
  • someone was doing sth. at a certain time (in the past) - you do not know whether it was finished or not
was/were + infinitive + -ing I was working. I wasn't working. Was I working?
He was working. He wasn't working. Was he working?
I was going. I wasn't going. Was I going?
He was going. He wasn't going. Was he going?
  • just
  • yet
  • never
  • ever
  • already
  • so far
  • up to now
  • 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* I have worked. I haven't worked. Have I worked?
He has worked. He hasn't worked. Has he worked?
I have gone. I haven't gone. Have I gone?
He has gone. He hasn't gone. Has he gone?
Present Perfect Progressive or Present Perfect Continuous
  • all day
  • the whole day
  • how long
  • since
  • for
  • action began in the past and has just stopped
  • how long the action has been happening
  • emphasis: length of time of an action
have/has + been + infinitive + -ing I have been working. I haven't been working. Have I been working?
He has been working. He hasn't been working. Has he been working?
I have been going. I haven't been going. Have I been going?
He has been going. He hasn't been going. Has he been going?
Simple Past Perfect or Past Perfect (Simple)
  • already
  • just
  • never
  • 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 Present Perfect
had + past participle* I had worked. I hadn't worked. Had I worked?
He had worked. He hadn't worked. Had he worked?
I had gone. I hadn't gone. Had I gone?
He had gone. He hadn't gone. Had he gone?
Past Perfect Progressive or Past Perfect Continuous
  • how long
  • since
  • for
how long something had been happening before something else happened had + been + infinitive + ing I had been working. I hadn't been working. Had I been working?
He had been working. He hadn't been working. Had he been working?
I had been going. I hadn't been going. Had I been going?
He had been going. He hadn't been going. Had he been going?
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 type I of the if clauses
will + infinitive I'll work. I won't work. Will I work?
He'll work. He won't work. Will he work?
I'll go. I won't go. Will I go?
He'll go. He won't go. Will he go?
going to - future  
  • when you have already decided to do sth. in the future
  • what you think what will happen
to be (am/are/is) + going to + infinitive I'm going to work. I'm not going to work. Am I going to work?
He's going to work. He's not going to work. Is he going to work?
I'm going to go. I'm not going to go. Am I going to go?
He's going to go. He's not going to go. Is he going to go?
Future Progressive or Future Continuous  
  • An action will be in progress at a certain time in the future. This action has begun before the certain time.
  • Something happens because it normally happens.
will + be + infinitive + ing I'll be working. I won't be working. Will I be working?
He'll be working. He won't be working. Will he be working?
I'll be going. I won't be going. Will I be going?
He'll be going. He won't be going. Will he be going?
Simple Future Perfect or Future Perfect Simple   sth. will already have happened before a certain time in the future will + have + past participle* I'll have worked. I won't have worked. Will I have worked?
He'll have worked. He won't have worked. Will he have worked?
I'll have gone. I won't have gone. Will I have gone?
He'll have gone. He won't have gone. Will he have gone?
Future Perfect Progressive or Future Perfect Continuous  
  • sth. will already have happened before a certain time in the future
  • emphasis: length of time of an action
will + have + been + infinitive + ing I'll have been working. I won't have been working. Will I have been working?
He'll have been working. He won't have been working. Will he have been working?
I'll have been going. I won't have been going. Will I have been going?
He'll have been going. He won't have been going. Will he have been going?
Conditional Simple  
  • sth. that might happen
  • main clause in type II of the Conditional sentences
would + infinitive I would work. I wouldn't work. Would I work?
He would work. He wouldn't work. Would he work?
I would go. I wouldn't go. Would I go?
He would go. He wouldn't go. Would he go?
Conditional Progressive or Conditional Continuous  
  • sth. that might happen
  • emphasis: length of time of an action
would + be + infinitive + ing I would be working. I wouldn't be working. Would I be working?
He would be working. He wouldn't be working. Would he be working?
I would be going. I wouldn't be going. Would I be going?
He would be going. He wouldn't be going. Would he be going?
Conditional Perfect  
  • sth. that might have happened in the past (It's too late now.)
  • main clause in type III of the if clauses
would + have + past participle* I would have worked. I wouldn't have worked. Would I have worked?
He would have worked. He wouldn't have worked. Would he have worked?
I would have gone. I wouldn't have gone. Would I have gone?
He would have gone. He wouldn't have gone. Would I have gone?
Conditional Perfect Progressive or Conditional Perfect Continuous  
  • sth. that might have happened in the past (It's too late now.)
  • emphasis: length of time of an action
would + have + been + infinitive + ing I would have been working. I wouldn't have been working. Would I have been working?
He would have been going. He wouldn't have been going. Would he have been working?
I would have been going. I wouldn't have been going. Would I have been going?
He would have been going. He wouldn't have been going. Would he have been going?

*(infinitive + -ed) or (3rd column of table of irregular verbs)

We sometimes use Continuous instead of Progressive. Some signal words can be found in more tenses. We have not listed signal words in the future tenses as there are no definite ones. Always remember what action is described.

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