The most common Tenses in English in a table

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: Infinitiv + -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,
  • 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
  • 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
to 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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