When you are writing, maintaining verb tense cohesiveness is important. However, understanding the different types of tense can make you, well, tense.
At the most fundamental level, there are three tenses: past tense, present tense and future tense. Each of these tenses has four sub-categories (or aspects) which better describe the tense used within the writing. These aspects are simple, perfect, progressive, perfect progressive. Confused yet?
Simple Past: Simple past is used to describe an action or event that has happened in the past, sometime before writing, or reading. E.g. I went to the shop. The “went” in this statement is a verb in the past tense.
Other examples include:
Sophie ripped the letter in half.
The frog jumped to the shore.
Tom went for a run along the beach.
Past Perfect: Past perfect is used to describe actions that began and were completed in the past. E.g. I had gone to the shop and bought some chips.
Other examples include.
After she had read it from start to finish, Sophie ripped the letter in half.
The frog had jumped from the lilypad to the shore.
Tom had gone for a run along the beach.
Past Progressive: this tense describes actions that were ongoing actions in the past but were completed at some point before the writing of the clause. I was going to go to the shop to fulfil my chip cravings.
Other examples include:
Sophie was satisfied just tearing the letter in half without reading it.
The frog was jumping from lily pad to lily pad to reach the shore.
Tom was going running along the beach.
Past Perfect Progressive: Past perfect progressive essentially describes two actions, where an ongoing action began before or interrupted another action. I had been going to go to the shop to buy some chips before I searched my pantry and found a packet behind the noodles.
Other examples include:
At first, Sophie was reading the letter carefully, and then she tore it in half.
The frog had been jumping from lily pad to lily pad to reach the shore before it realized it could just swim there instead.
Tom had been running along the beach before he was attacked by a golden retriever.
Present Simple: This tense describes an event that is happening at the time of writing or speaking. E.g. I go to the shop to buy some chips.
Some other examples include:
Sophie rips the letter in half.
The frog jumps from the lily pad to the shore.
Tom runs along the beach.
Present Perfect: This describes an action that began in the past or continues or is completed upon utterance. E.g. I have gone to the shop to buy some chips.
Sophie has decided to rip the letter in half.
The frog has made the jump to the shore.
Tom has run along the beach for five miles.
Present Progressive: This is somewhat similar to present simple tense. However, the present progressive tense highlights the continuing nature of the action. E.g I am going to go to the shop to buy some chips.
Sophie enjoys ripping the letter in half.
The frog is jumping from the lily pad to the shore.
Tom is running along the beach.
Present Perfect Progressive: This tense is used to stress the ongoing nature of a present perfect act. E.g I have been walking around the shops all afternoon, but I still haven’t bought any chips.
Sophie has been contemplating ripping the letter since she started reading.
The frog has been jumping from lily pad to lily pad for fifteen minutes trying to make his way to shore.
Tom has run along the beach for five miles trying to beat his personal best time.
Future Simple: This refers to actions that will take place after the speaking/writing. E.g. I will go to the shop and buy some chips.
Sophia would rip up the letter after she reads it.
The frog will jump from lily pad to lily pad to make its way to the shore.
Tom will go for a run along the beach tomorrow.
Future Perfect: This tense describes an action that will be completed sometime in the future before another action takes place. E.g I will have gone to the shop to buy chips ten times before I go on a diet.
Sophia reads the entire letter twice, before tearing it in half.
The frog jumps from lily pad to lily pad before it reaches the shore.
Tom will go for a run along the beach tomorrow, so he can be ready for next week’s marathon.
Future Progressive: This is used to describe ongoing or continuing actions in the future. E.g. I will be going to the shop several more times over the next month, just to buy chips.
Sophia will continue ripping up the letter until it creates confetti.
The frog will keep jumping around the pond until it finds its way to the shore.
Tom will be running along this stretch of beach until he can get his time under four minutes per mile.
Future Perfect Progressive: This tense indicates some ongoing action that will be completed at some point in the future. If I wasn’t served next, I will have been standing in line at the shop for forty minutes waiting for my chips.
Sophia will reread the letter over and over for at least an hour before she tears it in half.
The frog will have jumped on every lily pad in the pond before he finally reaches the shore several minutes later.
At the end of summer, Tom will have been running this same path along the beach for ten years.
That’s all folks. Now, I need a drink. I will need a drink. I needed a drink. Arrgghh!