Verb tenses and the three major verbs in English
Like all languages, English verb tenses (times) are the future, the present and the past. Each of these times can be specified in terms of simple, continuous, perfect and perfect progressive. Let us identify each of theses time references.
Present simple means that the action happens regularly. We use time words that will show that. Some of these words are: always, often, seldom, sometimes, never, usually, and frequently. Example: I seldom go to the movies.
Past simple means that the action happened once in the past. Time words that will show such meaning may include: yesterday, last night, last week, last year and any other word that indicate past. Example: I watched a movie on television last night.
Future simple means that the action will happen once in the future. Time words that will indicate such tense may include, tomorrow, next week, next year, later and any other word that will show future. Example: I will go to the movies tomorrow.
Verb forms change to indicate the time in which the verb occurs. In the present, the verbs do not change unless the subject is a singular third party: he, she and it. To illustrate this, let us look at verb to work. In the present time we will say:
- Notice that the verb 'work' has not changed. It remains in the same form.
- But look at the following:
Notice that the verb ends in (s) to reflect that singular third part he, she and it.
In the past, the verb form changes to reflect the past. Most verbs in English end in (-ed) when used in the past.
Let us consider the same verb 'work' in the past:
Notice that the verb ends in (-ed) every time regardless of the subject.
In English, however, we have many verbs that take different forms. We call these verbs 'irregular verbs' because their forms are irregular. A good example of these verbs is 'to eat' which in the past changes to 'ate'.
I ate breakfast this morning.
Later in the course we shall examine some of the most confusing irregular verbs. Meantime, it is a good idea to try to watch for such verbs as you are studying.
The future is the easiest. All we do is add 'will' before the verb. For example: I will work tomorrow.
Three Major Verbs in English:
When I was learning English as a third language, I found that there are three very unusual yet very important verbs. These verbs are unusual in their usage as well as in their meaning. Similar to some languages, and unlike many others, the English verbs
“to be”, “to do” and “to have” are very peculiar. They are used on one hand as main verbs with their own meanings, for example:
- I do my homework every day.
On the other hand, they function as helping verbs without a meaning of their own but they add to the meaning of the verb. They are helping, for example:
I am studying
What did you say? I have done my homework.
Let me try to clarify the meaning and usage of these verbs.
The verb to be:
Similarly to most languages on this planet, the verb to be is the backbone of the linguistic structure of English. It does not indicate an action. It describes a state of being; it is a verb of existence. It is what I am, what you are or what one is
not what one does, but what one is. However, this verb may be used to assist other verbs in creating a special tense (time) or a special structure. In order for one to be able to manipulate this verb, one must learn conjugate it with the various nouns and/or pronouns. Here are the possible forms that verb to be may appear in:
Present Simple Tense:
Past Simple Tense:
Future Simple Tense:
- I will be at school tomorrow.
- You will be at school tomorrow.
- We will be at school tomorrow.
- They will be at school tomorrow.
- He will be at school tomorrow.
- She will be at school tomorrow.
- It will be sunny tomorrow.
Present Progressive Tense:
I am being- you are being
we are being they are being Â– he is being she is being
it is being
p.s. pay attention to this form; it is most confusing to learners of English.
Past Progressive Tense:
I was being - you were being
we were being they were being he was being she was being
it was being
Future Progressive Tense:
It is awkward to use, thus never used- however, just to know the rule, you add will for the future.
Present Perfect Tense:
- I have been a student for one year.
- You have been a student for one year.
- We have been students for one year.
- They have been students for one year.
- He has been a student for one year.
- She has been a student for one year.
- It has been sunny all week.
Past Perfect Tense:
I had been - you had been
we had been they had been he had been she had been it had been
Future Perfect Tense:
I will have been - you will have been
– we will have been – they will have been he will have been
she will have been it will have been