What Is Verb Tense? (with Examples)

What Is Verb Tense? (with Examples)

The tense of a verb is determined by when the action took place. The three tenses are:

Examples of Tenses

Here are some examples of verbs in different tenses:
  • I walked to work.
  • (The verb walked is in the past tense.)
  • I walk to work.
  • (The verb walk is in the present tense.)
  • I will walk to work.
  • (The verb will walk is in the future tense.)
Remember, verbs do not just express actions. They can also express a state of being. For example:
  • I was happy.
  • (The verb was is in the past tense.)
  • I am happy.
  • (The verb am is in the present tense.)
  • I will be happy.
  • (The verb will be is in the future tense.)

Examples of Verbs in Different Tenses

Here are some more examples of verbs in the past, present, and future tenses:
  • The hardest that I have laughed at a movie was probably Team America. I laughed 'til I thought I was going to throw up. (Ron White)
  • (The shaded verbs are in the past tense.)
  • You laugh at me because I'm different. I laugh at you because you are all the same. (Jonathan Davis)
  • (The shaded verbs are in the present tense.)

  • Nobody will laugh long who deals much with opium; even its pleasures are of a grave and solemn complexion. (Thomas de Quincey)
  • (The shaded verbs are in the future tense.)
You will notice that some of the verbs in the past tense example about Team America are made up of more than one word (have laughed, was going). We need these different versions of the tenses because the tenses are further categorized depending on whether the action (or state of being) they describe is in progress or completed. For example, the different versions of the verb to laugh are:
  • Past Tense: laughed, was/were laughing, had laughed, had been laughing
  • Present Tense: laugh, am/is/are laughing, has/have laughed, has/have been laughing
  • Future Tense: will laugh, will be laughing, will have laughed, will have been laughing

The Full List of Tenses

The table below shows the full list of the tenses:

The 4 Past Tenses Example
simple past tense I went
past progressive tense I was going
past perfect tense I had gone
past perfect progressive tenseI had been going
The 4 Present Tenses Example
simple present tense I go
present progressive tense I am going
present perfect tense I have gone
present perfect progressive tense I have been going
The 4 Future Tenses Example
simple future tense I will go
future progressive tense I will be going
future perfect tense I will have gone
future perfect progressive tense I will have been going

An Quick Explanation of the Tenses with an Example

The Past Tenses

The simple past tense is used to describe a completed activity that happened in the past.
  • I ran to the shops.
The past progressive tense is used to describe an on-going activity in the past. Often, it is used to set the scene for another action.
  • I was running to the shops when I saw Bruno.
The past perfect tense is used to emphasize that an action was completed before another took place.
  • I had run to the shops, but they were closed.
The past perfect progressive tense is used to show that an on-going action in the past has ended.
  • I had been running to the shops, but I have now started walking.

The Present Tenses

The simple present tense is mostly used to describe facts and habits.
  • I run daily.
The present progressive tense is used for an on-going action in the present.
  • I am running to your house at the moment.
The present perfect tense is used for actions began in the past. (Often, the actions continue into the present.)
  • I have run for 5 miles so far.
The present perfect progressive tense is used for a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present, or a continuous activity that began in past but has now finished (usually very recently).
  • I have been running for hours.

The Future Tenses

The simple future tense is used for an action that will occur in the future.
  • I will run to the shops tomorrow.
The future progressive tense is used for an on-going action that will occur in the future.
  • I will be running to the shops every day after today.
The future perfect tense is used to describe an action that will have been completed at some point in the future.
  • I will have run to work by 12 o'clock.
The future perfect progressive tense is used for an on-going action that will be completed at some specified time in the future.
  • I will have been running for 3 hours by 12 o'clock.

See Also

What is the past tense? What is the present tense? What is the future tense? What is verb aspect? Glossary of grammatical terms