Monday Grammar & Teacher Journal

In Grammar on October 5, 2009 at 10:00 am

stack of books GRAMMAR: VERB TENSES

Last week, we talked about the importance of subject/verb agreement, when it comes to grammar. Another aspect of verbs that you’ll want to notice is the verb tense. Tenses are one way to show the passage of time in English. Some languages (like French) have lots of tenses, while others don’t. From what I hear from my students, English has lots of tenses!

  • simple past
  • progressive past
  • past perfect
  • simple present
  • progressive present
  • present perfect
  • simple future
  • progressive future
  • future perfect

There’s a tense for talking about the past (I ate lunch), a tense for talking about the past of the past (I had eaten lunch) and a one for talking about the process in the past (I was eating lunch). There’s even a tense that describes an event that, at some point in the future, will have already happened and will then be past (will have eaten lunch). Complicated, isn’t it? The people who helped develop the English language must have really cared about time.

If you think too much about tenses, you’re bound to drive yourself crazy. “Am I in the past of the past?” you might ask yourself. “Maybe this is really the continuing past or just plain old, regular past.” The more you ponder the nature of time, the further you’re likely to get from knowing the best tense to use. As long as you’re speaking English relatively comfortably, it’s best to just go with your gut.

Once you’ve settled on the past or present in your writing, keep your verbs in that time frame as long as possible. If he ATE an apple, then he probable WENT to work afterward and SAW a parade going down the street. We stay in past tense as long as possible.


This week is the first week of the fall quarter for me, so I’m back to school, with a fresh stack of syllabi, new pencils, and that fall excitement about the start of a new school year. I work with The Bridge Program at Antioch, and this week is the first for a new group of Bridge students as well. I’m gathering new student orientation materials, maps of the school, and school supplies for everyone.

My writing is going all right. Lately, I have more ideas than I have time to implement. An interview I saw on TV inspired a new idea, which turned into a long outline, which is now filed away somewhere. A book I was reading sparked more ideas, and conversation sparked another. Where do you get your inspiration?


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