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OVERVIEW: USES OF TENSES AND ASPECTS

Form

Present continuous: present of be + active participle Present simple: base form/s-form
I am reading you/we/they are reading he/she it is reading Negative I am not reading you/we/ they are not reading he/she/it is not reading Questions am I reading? are you/we/they reading? is/he/she it reading?   I/you/we they read he/she/it reads     I/you/we they do not read he/she/it does not read     do I/you/we/they read? does he/she/it read?

In present simple questions and negatives we use do/does and the base form of the verb. NOT He does not reads and NOT Does he reads?

NOTE: a) There are some spelling rules for the participle.

Leaving out e: lose ® losing

Doubling of some consonants: stop ® stopping

b) There are some spelling rules for the s-form.

Adding es after a sibilant sound: push ® pushes.

Y changing to ie: hurry ® hurries.

c) For pronunciation of the s/es ending.

 

USE

1. An action continuing for a period.

We use the present continuous for a present action over a period of time, something that we are in the middle of now. The action has started but it hasn’t finished jet.

What are you reading? ~ ‘ Macbeth’. It’s raining now, look.

Hurry up. Your friends are waiting for you. I’m just ironing this shirt

Some typical time expressions with the present continuous are now, at the moment, are present, just, already and still.

We need not be doing the action at the moment of the speaking.

I’m reading an interesting book. I can’t remember what it’s called.

We’d better get home. We’re decorating the living-room at the moment.

2. A state

We normally use the present simple for a present state: a feeling, opinion or relation.

Mr Adams loves Shakespeare. I think it’s a good idea.

Who knows the answer? This book belongs to my sister.

Silicon is a chemical element. York lies on the River Ouse.

NOTE: We use the present simple for permanent states. With temporary states, states which go on only for a short time, we can sometimes use the present continuous.

The weather looks/is looking better today.

3. Repeated actions

We use the present simple for repeated actions such as routines and habits, things that happen again and again. We see the series of actions as permanent, without end.

Bob works in Avonmouth. He usually drives to work.

We do lots of things in our spare time.

I don’t often see Sarah.

The old man takes the dog for a walk every morning.

Typical time expressions with the present simple are always, often, usually, sometimes, ever/never; every day/week etc; once/twice a week etc; on Friday(s) etc; in the morning(s)/evening(s), at ten o’clock etc.

We also use the present simple for permanent facts, things that always happen.

Food gives you energy. Paint dries quicker in summer.

But we use the present continuous when a series os actions is temporary, only for a period of time.

My car’s off the road. I’m travellingto work by bus this week.

We’re doing ‘Macbeth’ in English.

Bob’s working in Avonmought at the moment. But they may be moving him to head office in Birmingham.

NOTE: a) We use the present simple to talk about a permanent routine, whether or

not the action is happening at the moment.

You’re walking today. ~ Yes, I quite often walk to work.

You’re walking today. You usually drive, don’t you?

b) We use the present continuous to say that we are regularly in the middle of something.

At seven we’re usually having supper. (= At seven we’re in the middle of supper.)

Compare the present simple for a complete action.

At seven we usually have supper. (= Seven is our usual time for supper.)

We can talk about two actions.

Whenever I see Graham, he’s wearing a tracksuit.

I like to listen to music when I’m driving.

c) We can also use the present simple to say what is the right way to do something.

You turn left at the church. You put your money in here.

4. The present continuous with always

There is a special use of always with the continuous.

They’re always giving parties, those people next door.

I’m always losing things. I can never find anything.

Mr Adams is always quoting bits of Shakespeare.

In this pattern always means ‘very often’ or ‘too often’.

Compare these sentences.

Our teacher always gives us a test. (= every lesson)

Our teacher is always giving us test. (= very often)

5. An instant action

The present simple is also used to describe actions as they happen, for example in a commentary.

Hacker passes the ball to Short. Short moves inside, but Burley wins it back for United.

The speaker sees these actions as instant, happening in a moment. For actions over a period, we use the continuous.

United are playing really well now. The crowd are cheering them on.

We can also use the present (instead of the past) to tell a story. It makes the action seem more direct, as if happening now.

I’m standing outside the bank, and a man comes up to me and grabs hold of my arm.

We also use the present for actions in films, plays and books.

Macbeth murders the King of Scotland, who is staying at his castle.

NOTE: a) We can also use the present simple with a performative verb, e.g. promise.

I promise I won’t forget. I suggest we go. Yes, I agree.

b) For the present simple after here/there.

c) The present simple is used in headlines for a recent action: Rail fares go up.

In normal style we use the present perfect: Rail fares have gone up.

6. Verbs of reporting

We can report the written word with a present simple verb. We see the written statement as existing in the present.

It says/said in the paper that there’s going to be a strike.

The notice warns passengers to take care.

The letter explains everything.

We can also do this with reports of spoken words that we have heard recently.

Shakespeare is England’s greatest writer, Mr Adams says/said.

7. The future

We can use the present continuous to talk about what someone has arranged to do and the present simple for actions and events which are part of a timetable.

Sadie is coming to stay with us next week.

The ferry gets into Rotterdam at six o’clock tomorrow morning.

We also use the present simple in some sub clauses of future time.

If you need any help tomorrow, let me know.

Appendix 3

Adverbials of time with the present perfect

And past simple

Some adverbials used with both forms are just, recently, already, once/twice etc, ever/never, today, this morning/week etc and phrases with for and since.

1. With just and recently there is little difference in meaning.

I’ve just heardthe news./I just heard the news.

We’ve recently movedhouse./We recently moved house.

Compare these examples with already.

I’ve already heardthe news.(before now)

I already knew before you told me. (before then)

2. Once, twice etc with the present perfect means the number of times the action has happened up to now.

We’ve beento Scotland once/lots of times.

This is the third time my car has broken down this month.

With the simple past once usually means ‘at a time in the past’.

We went to Scotland once.

Ever/never with the present perfect means ‘in all the time up to now’. With the simple past it refers to a finished period.

Have you ever visited our showroom?

Did you ever visit our old showroom?

3. We can use this morning, this afternoon and today with the present perfect when they include the present time.

When the time is over, we use the past.

It has been windy this morning. (The morning is not yet over.)

It was windy this morning. (It is afternoon or evening.)

With today there is little difference in meaning.

It has been windy today. (The day is not yet over.)

It was windy today. (The day is over.)

Both sentences are spoken late in the day. The second must be in the evening. The speaker sees the day as over.

We use the present perfect with this week/month/year when we mean the whole period up to now.

I’ve seena lot of television this week.

We use the simple past for one time during the period.

I saw an interesting programme this week.

We might say this on Friday about something two or three days earlier.

We often use the negative with phrases of unfinished time.

It hasn’t been very warm today.

I haven’t seen much television this week.

4. We often use for and since with the negative present perfect.

I haven’t skied for years./I haven’t skied since 1988.

We can also use since with a clause.

I haven’t skied since I was twelve.

Compare the past simple.

I last skied years ago/in 1988/when I was twelve.

We can also use a phrase with for with the past simple to say how long something went on.

I skied for hours.

Appendix 4

 

OVERVIEW: THE FUTURE

Will Be going to
  A prediction Scotland will win the game. An instant decision I think I’ll buya ticket. An offer I’ll helpyou. A prediction based on the present Scotland are going to win the game. An intention I’m going to buya ticket, I’ve decided.
Present simple Present continuous
  A timetable The game starts at 3.00 pm. In a sub clause We must get there before the game starts. An arrangement I’m playing in the team tomorrow.
Future continuous  
  An action over a future period I’ll be workingall day Saturday. The result of a routine or arrangement I’ve got a job in a shop. I’ll be workingon Saturday.  
Be to Be about to
  An official arrangement The conference is to take place in November. The near future The players are on the field. The game is about to start.
Future perfect  
  Something that will be over in the future The game will have finished by half past four.  
Would Was going to
  Looking forward from the past At half time we thought Scotland would win. Looking forward from the past At half time we thought Scotland were going to win. Past intention or arrangement I was going to watch the match, but I was will.

 

Appendix 5

OVERVIEW: USES OF TENSES AND ASPECTS

 

Present continuous Present simple
  In the middle of an action I’m watching this comedy. A present state I like comedies.
A temporary routine I’m workinglate this week. A permanent routine I work late most days.
Present perfect Past simple
  An action in the period up to the present I’ve writtenthe letter. An action in the past I wrote the letter yesterday.
A series of actions up to the present I’ve played basketball a few times. A series of past actions I played basketball years ago.
A state up to the present I’ve beenhere for a week. A past state I was there for a week.
Past continuous  
  An action over a period of past time It was raining at the time.  
Present perfect continuous  
  An action over a period up to the present It has been raining all day.  
Past perfect continuous Past perfect
  An action over a period up to a past time It had been raining for hours. An action before a past time The rain had stopped by then.
  A state before a past time The weather had been awful.

EXERCISES

VERB FORMS IN THE INDICATIVE MOOD



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