Table of Verb Tenses in English Grammar

Introduction

Verb tenses show us when an action takes place: in the present, past or future. Each of the three main tenses has a progressive, perfect and perfect progressive aspect which give us more information about the time, progression or completion of an action.

This table of tenses in English grammar provides an overview of the 12 different verb tenses with examples in the positive, negative and interrogative or question form. You will also find tips on the usage of each tense and common signal words to help you recognise the tenses. For a detailed lesson including exercises, click on the name of the tense.

tensepositive/negative/questionusagesignal words
Simple Present

Present

  • P: He speaks.
  • N: He does not speak.
  • Q: Does he speak?
  • repeated/regular action in the present
  • general validity
  • actions happening one after the other
  • confirmed future actions (time table, schedule)
always, every …, never, normally, often, seldom, sometimes, usually if-clause type I (If I talk, …)
Present Progressive

Present Continuous

  • P: He is speaking.
  • N: He is not speaking.
  • Q: Is he speaking?
  • action currently taking place
  • action limited to a particular timeframe
  • already planned or agreed-upon future action
at the moment, just, just now, Listen!, Look!, now, right now
Simple Past

Preterite

P: He spoke.
N: He did not speak.
Q: Did he speak?
  • a single or repeated action in the past
  • actions happening one after the other in the past
  • a new action that interrupts an action that was already taking place
yesterday, 2 minutes ago, in 1990, the other day, last Friday
if-clause type II (If I talked, …)
Past Progressive

Preterite Continuous
Past Continuous

P: He was speaking.
N: He was not speaking.
Q: Was he speaking?
  • emphasis on the process of an action taking place in the past
  • multiple actions taking place at the same time
  • an action that was taking place when interrupted by a new action
while, as long as
Present Perfect

Perfect

P: He has spoken.
N: He has not spoken.
Q: Has he spoken?
  • the result is emphasised
  • action that lasts to the present moment
  • action that has just been completed
  • completed action with influence on the present
  • an action that has never/once/more than once taken place up to the time of speaking
already, ever, just, never, not yet, so far, till now, up to now
Present Perfect Progressive

Perfect Continuous

P: He has been speaking.
N: He has not been speaking.
Q: Has he been speaking?
  • the action is emphasised (not the result)
  • action that has lasted until the present time
  • completed action with influence on the present
all day, for 4 years, since 1993, how long?, the whole week
Past Perfect

Pluperfect
Past Anterior

P: He had spoken.
N: He had not spoken.
Q: Had he spoken?
  • action taking place before a certain time in the past
  • sometimes interchangeable with past perfect progressive
  • emphasises only the fact that something took place before a certain point in the past
already, just, never, not yet, once, until that day
if-clause type III (If I had talked, …)
Past Perfect Progressive

Pluperfect Continuous
Past Anterior Continuous

P: He had been speaking.
N: He had not been speaking.
Q: Had he been speaking?
  • action before a certain point in the past
  • sometimes interchangeable with past perfect simple
  • emphasises the action or length of the action
for, since, the whole day, all day
Future (will) P: He will speak.
N: He will not speak.
Q: Will he speak?
  • events in the future that cannot be influenced
  • spontaneous decision
  • suppositions about the future
in a year, next …, tomorrow
if-clause type I (If you ask her, she will help you.)
supposition: I think, probably, perhaps
Future (going to) P: He is going to speak.
N: He is not going to speak.
Q: Is he going to speak?
  • pre-existing intention regarding the future
  • logical conclusion regarding the future
in one year, next week, tomorrow
Future Progressive

Future Continuous

P: He will be speaking.
N: He will not be speaking.
Q: Will he be speaking?
  • action that will be taking place at a certain point in the future
  • certain or obvious events
in one year, next week, tomorrow
Future Perfect P: He will have spoken.
N: He will not have spoken.
Q: Will he have spoken?
  • action that will have been completed by a future time
by Monday, in a week
Future Perfect Progressive

Future Perfect Continuous

P: He will have been speaking.
N: He will not have been speaking.
Q: Will he have been speaking?
  • action that will have been completed by a future time
  • emphasises the length of the action
for …, the last couple of hours, all day long
Conditional I

Subjunctive II Present
Form of Possibility

P: He would speak.
N: He would not speak.
Q: Would he speak?
  • action that could possibly take place
if-clause type II
(If I were you, I would go home.)
Conditional I Progressive

Subjunctive II Continuous (Present)
Continuous Form of Possibility

P: He would be speaking.
N: He would not be speaking.
Q: Would he be speaking?
  • action that could possibly take place
  • emphasises the action or the length of the action
Conditional II

Subjunctive II (Past)
Perfect Form of Possibility

P: He would have spoken.
N: He would not have spoken.
Q: Would he have spoken?
  • action that otherwise might have taken place in the past
if-clause type III
(If I had seen that, I would have helped.)
Conditional II Progressive

Subjunctive II Continuous (Past)
Continuous Perfect Form of Possibility

P: He would have been speaking.
N: He would not have been speaking.
Q: Would he have been speaking?
  • action that otherwise might have taken place in the past
  • emphasises the action or length of the action