ENGLISHMain English Grammar

Tenses

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See these sentences:

a) They play hockey. b) They played hockey. c) They will play hockey.

We see that the verb in every sentence is PLAY. But its form is different everywhere. In the first sentence the verb is PLAY itself (V1), in the second sentence it is PLAYED (V2). Remember the third form of the verb PLAY is also PLAYED. But in the sentence it’s the 2nd form, not the third as the third form of a verb always takes a helping verb with it; see the verb here is without a helping verb, hence it’s the 2nd form of the verb. In the third sentence the helping verb WILL is there with the main verb PLAY.

Always remember that the first form of a verb is always the PRESENT TENSE; the second form of a verb is always the PAST TENSE, and when WILL or SHALL is the helping, it’s generally the FUTURE TENSE. Therefore we can say the tense of the first sentence is PRESENT TENSE, the tense of the second is PAST TENSE, and the tense of the third sentence is FUTURE TENSE.

In conclusion we can say we have three tenses in all namely

1. Present Tense
2. Past Tense
3. Future Tense

Now we have known that the tense of a sentence is only known by theV1, means when we want to know the tense of a sentence we only see the verb, nothing else.

We have learnt the main tenses; now we’ll know the parts of a tense. Study the following sentences:

a) They play hockey.
b) They are playing hockey.
c) They have played hockey.
d) They have been playing hockey for half an hour.

Again we see the verb of each sentence is PLAY. But we also see the form of the verb PLAY in each sentence is different; they are: Play, Are playing, Have played, Have been playing. So what is the tense in each sentence? As you know the tense of a sentence is known only by the form of the verb. How will you know it here as they are very different from the ones that are given above?

Here, I want to say that the tense of a verb is known only by the helping verb, not the main verb. But if there is no helping verb we know it by the main verb itself. Again if the helping verb of a verb has two words like HAVE BEEN, we know the tense by the first helping verb.

In the first sentence there is no helping verb, so we can know the tense by the main verb only i.e. PLAY. In the second sentence the helping verb is BE (are), in the third the helping verb is HAVE and in the fourth sentence the helping verb is HAVE BEEN, so we can know the tense by the first helping verb i.e. HAVE. So our words to know the tense in each sentence are PLAY, BE, HAVE, HAVE.

Now have a look at three forms of these verbs:

I II III
Play Played Played
Be
(is/am/are)
Was
(was/were)
Been
Have
(has/have)
Had Had

We see that each of the verbs listed above is the first form; therefore all the above four sentences are in the PRESENT TENSE.

Again we see that all of these present tense verbs are in different forms, then what the difference is there between them! Let’s look at that. To understand it well, we begin from sentence number 2.

1.  Present Continuous Tense, Past Continuous Tense and Future Continuous Tense

In sentence number 2 the helping verb is BE and the main verb is in the ING form, means BE+VERB (ING). When such is the structure of the verb, the action denoted by the verb is always in CONTINUATION. So we can say:

BE + VERB (ING) ———— CONTINUOUS TENSES

As the helping verb of the sentence is in the first form, our tense here is Present Continuous Tense. So Hindi translation of sentence number 2 is वे हॉकी खेल रहे हैं. To change the tense we now need to alter the form of the helping verb only, not the main verb. For example, if we want this sentence in the Past Continuous Tense, just choose the appropriate past form of BE here. Obviously it is WAS. So Past Continuous Tense of the sentence: They were playing hockey. (वे हॉकी खेल रहे थे)

Similarly, to make its future continuous tense, just convert BE into the future form. Future form of a verb is always WILL/SHALL + V1; so future of BE will be WILL BE or SHALL BE. When THEY is the subject we use WILL in the future tenses. We’ll discuss it in detail in a further chapter when we’ll be using WILL and when SHALL. So Future Continuous Tense of the sentence: They will be playing hockey. (वे हॉकी खेल रहे होंगे.)

2. Present Perfect Tense, Past Perfect Tense and Future Perfect Tense

Now we take the sentence number 3 THEY HAVE PLAYED HOCKEY. Here the helping verb is HAVE and the main verb is in the third form, means HAVE+V3. When such is the structure of the verb, the action denoted by the verb is always PERFECT. So we can say:

HAVE + V3 ———— PERFECT TENSES

 As the helping verb of the sentence is in the first form, our tense here is Present Perfect Tense. So Hindi translation of it is वे हॉकी खेल चुके हैं, Or उन्होंने हॉकी खेल लिया है. Now we know how to change the tense; we just need to change the form of the helping verb, not the main verb. For example, if we want this sentence in the Past Perfect Tense, just choose the second form of HAVE here. Obviously it is HAD. So Past Perfect Tense of the sentence will be: They had played hockey. (वे हॉकी खेल चुके थे, Or उन्होंने हॉकी खेल लिया था.)

Similarly, to make its Future Perfect Tense, just convert HAVE into the future form. Future form of a verb is WILL/SHALL + V1; so future of HAVE will be WILL HAVE or SHALL HAVE. When THEY is the subject we use WILL in the future tenses. So Future Perfect Tense of the sentence will be: They will have played hockey. (वे हॉकी खेल चुके होंगे. Or उन्होंने हॉकी खेल ली होगी.)

3. Present Perfect Continuous Tense, Past Perfect Continuous Tense and Future Perfect Continuous Tense

Now we take the sentence number 4 THEY HAVE BEEN PLAYING HOCKEY FOR HALF AN HOUR. Here the helping verb is HAVE BEEN and the main verb is in the ING form, means HAVE BEEN + VERB (ING). When such is the structure of the verb, some part of the action denoted by the verb is PERFECT while it is in CONTINUATION still; means PERFECT+ CONTINUOUS. So we can say:

HAVE BEEN + VERB (ING) ———— PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSES

As the helping verb of the sentence is in the first form, our tense here is PRESENT PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE. So Hindi translation of it will be वे आधा घंटे से हॉकी खेल रहे हैं. Now we know how to change the tense; we just change the form of the helping verb, not the main verb. For example, if we want this sentence in the past perfect continuous tense, just choose the second form of HAVE here. Obviously it is HAD. So Past Perfect Continuous Tense of the sentence will be: They had been playing hockey for half an hour. (वे आधा घंटे से हॉकी खेल रहे थे.)
.
Similarly, to make its future perfect continuous tense, just convert HAVE into the future form. Future form of a verb is always WILL/SHALL + V1; so future of HAVE will be WILL HAVE or SHALL HAVE. When THEY is the subject we use WILL in the future tenses. So Future Perfect Continuous Tense of the sentence: They will have been playing hockey for half an hour. (वे आधा घंटे से हॉकी खेल रहे होंगे.)

4. Present Simple Tense, Past Simple Tense and Future Simple Tense

Now, let’s discuss the sentence number 1 THEY PLAY HOCKEY. We see that the verb of this sentence is without a helping verb. When such is the case the action is said to be SIMPLE. Generally, for the Present Simple Tense or the Past Simple Sentence in negative we need the helping verb DO; but in interrogative simple sentences the helping verb DO is essential.  In the Future Simple Tense the helping verb is always SHALL/WILL in all types of sentences, not DO. Remember SIMPLE TENSES are also called INDEFINITE TENSES.

Here in the sentence THEY PLAY HOCKEY the verb PLAY is without a helping verb. So it’s a simple tense. As the verb PLAY is in its first form we can easily say that the sentence is the Present Simple Tense.  So Hindi translation of it will be वे हॉकी खेलते हैं. Now we know how to change the tense; we just alter the form of the verb. For example, if we want this sentence in the Past Simple Tense, just choose the second form of PLAY here. Obviously it is PLAYED. So Past Simple Tense of the sentence will be: They played hockey. (वे हॉकी खेले.). Here you can say that the 2nd and the 3rd form of the verb PLAY are the same i.e. PLAYED; then why PLAYED here is the 2nd form, not the 3rd. Remember it cannot be the third form as the third form of a verb when working as a verb is not used alone, means the third form of a verb always takes a helping verb.

Similarly, to make its Future Simple Tense, just convert PLAY into the future form. Future form of a verb is always WILL/SHALL + V1, so future of PLAY will be WILL PLAY or SHALL PLAY. When THEY is the subject we use WILL in the future tenses. So Future Simple Tense of the sentence will be: They will play hockey. (वे हॉकी खेलेंगे.)

NOTE: Normally we do not use the helping verb DO, DOES or DID in the affirmative sentences in the Present Simple and the Past Simple Tenses, but if we want to emphasise the action of the main verb we use them in front of that main verb. In such a case the main verb always is in the first form (V1); e.g.

a) I do go for a morning daily.
b) She does sing sometimes.
c) He did write a letter to his father yesterday.

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Maha Gupta

Maha Gupta

Founder of www.examscomp.com and guiding aspirants on SSC exam affairs since 2010 when objective pattern of exams was introduced first in SSC. Also the author of the following books:

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