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Sequence of tenses may be defined as the correct relationship of tenses between clauses where time is of importance.

 

Example : Within sentences used to convey ideas about actions or conditions that take place over time

 

Given below are examples of how the various tenses can be used correctly.


The Present Tense

Add -s to make the third person singular tense. Since most writing is done in present tense, this is a very important reminder!

The boy plays well.
The teacher explains clearly.


Use the present tense

--to show present states or conditions (often with linking and state-of-being verbs):

The test is ready.

The bell sounds shrill.

I believe we have the best student.

--to show natural laws or eternal truths:

The earth rotates around the sun.

Carbon and oxygen combine to form carbon dioxide.

The shortest distance between two points is a line.

--to show habitual actions and repeated acts:

We hold a staff meeting every Tuesday.

My father sits in this chair.

I live in this house.

Hint: Look for adverbs like always, never, usually, seldom, sometimes, rarely, on occasion, every, etc. to signal this situation.

--to quote from or paraphrase published work:

Nagamichi claims that calcium inhibits the reaction.

MCI's brochure reads "We are more efficient than GE"

--to define or explain procedures or terminology:

The board fits in the lower right-hand slot.

GE stands for "General Electric Corporation."

--to show possible futures in time and conditional clauses:

Your supervisor will recommend you for promotion if

She likes your work.

The minutes of the meeting will be circulated once I

type them


The Past Tense

Make the past tense by ending the proper suffix (frequently used -ed)


Use the past tense

--for events that happened at a specific time in the past:

The fax arrived at 4:59 PM.

Kennedy died in 1963.

The engineers completed the work.

--for repeated or habitual items which no longer happen:

We used to have our department meetings on

Tuesday.

She walked 10 KM everyday.

--for changing from direct to reported speech:

Lee asked if Nesta had completed the tests.

My supervisor said that she had approved the map.

--after if or unless to write about events that are not true or are not likely to happen.


Use would in the main clause:

If we failed to produce the papers we would be liable for damages.

Unless he submitted the paperwork yesterday, we would never be able

to face the manager.


The Present Perfect Tense

Make the present perfect tense by combining the helping verb have (has in 3rd singular) with the past participle form of the verb.


Use the present perfect tense

--to show an action that began in the past and is still going on:

Tom has been in business for a decade.

The fax machine has changed the way businesses

work.

--to show an action that began in the past and was finished at an indefinite time but is closely related to the present or future:

I have just returned from vacation.

SONY has recently announced three new products.

You have been late six times in the last two weeks.


The Future Tense

Make the future tense by using shall (1st person) or will (2nd and 3rd persons)


Use the future tense:

--For newly-made decisions
 

--For orders

They will explore the mountains.

You will have the report on my desk by 2 PM.

Present progressive tense Use this construction for actions or events in the near future.

We are having lunch on Thursday.

The FDA inspectors are coming after Labor Day.

The Cubs are not playing in the championship this

year.


The Present Progressive Tense

Make the present progressive tense by combining the present tense of be and the -ing form of the verb.


Use the present progressive/continuous tense :

--to show action in process now but soon to end:

The programme is running as we speak.

We are running tests to prove the theory.

--simply to show action in progress:

It is snowing.


And use the present progressive :

--to show habitual action, usually with indications of dislike or disapproval:

He is always borrowing disks without returning them.

They are always taking time off during peak periods.

--to show future action that you are anticipating now:

I am leaving for the Bahamas on Friday.

We are going to the concert next month.

IBM is announcing a new product soon.

Given below are more examples of how the various tenses can be used correctly. One sentence is put into different tenses. You can see how the meaning changes.

The words in green are signal words. They tell you which tense you have to use.
 

Tense

Example

Explanation

Simple Present

I play football every week.

Here you want to say that it happens regularly.

Present Progressive

I'm playing football now.

Here you want to say that it is happening at the moment.

Simple Past

I played football yesterday.

You did it yesterday, it happened in the past.

Past Progressive

I was playing football the whole evening.

You were doing it in the past. It's not sure whether the action was finished or not.

Present Perfect

I have just played football.

You have just finished it. So it has a connection to the present. Maybe your clothes are dirty.

Present Perfect Progressive

I have been playing football for 2 hours.

You want to say how long you have been doing it. (You started in the past and it continues up to the present.

Past Perfect

I had played football when Susan came.

The two actions are related to each other: you had finished to play football and after that the girl arrived.

Past Perfect Progressive

I had been playing football when Susan came.

Here you want to point out how long you had been doing it before the girl came.

will-future

I will play football next week.

This is a prediction, you can probably do something else.

going to-future

I'm going to play football this afternoon.

This is a plan you've made.

Future Progressive

I will be playing football next Sunday.

You do it every Sunday (as usual)

Future Perfect

I will have played football by tomorrow.

You will have done it before tomorrow.

Conditional
Simple

I would play football.

You'll probably do it.

Conditional
Progressive

I would be playing football.

You'll probably do it. Here you concentrate more on the progress of the action.

Conditional
Perfect

I would have played football.

You'll probably have finished playing football at a special time in the future. Here you concentrate on the fact (football).

Conditional
Perfect
Progressive

I would have been playing football.

You'll probably have finished playing football at a special time in the future. Here you concentrate on the progress of playing (football).


Negations of the sentences

Tense

Example

Simple Present

I do not play football every week.

I don't play football every week.

Present Progressive

I am not playing football now.

I'm not playing football now.

Simple Past

I did not play football yesterday.

I didn't play football yesterday.

Past Progressive

I was not playing football yesterday.

I wasn't playing football yesterday.

Present Perfect

I have not played football.

I haven't played football.

I've not played football.

Present Perfect Progressive

I have not been playing football.

I haven't been playing football.

I've not been playing football.

Past Perfect

I had not played football.

I hadn't played football.

I'd not played football.

Past Perfect Progressive

I had not been playing football.

I hadn't been playing football.

I'd not been playing football.

will-future

I will/shall not play football next week.

I won't play football next week.

going to-future

I am not going to play football this afternoon.

I'm not going to play football this afternoon.

Future Progressive

I will/shall not be playing football.

I won't be playing football.

Future Perfect

I will/shall not have played football.

I won't have played football.

Conditional Simple

I would not play football.

I'd not play football.

Conditional Progressive

I would not be playing football.

I wouldn't be playing football.

I'd not be playing football.

Conditional Perfect

I would not have played football.

I wouldn't have played football.

I'd not have played football.

Conditional Perfect Progressive

I would not have been playing football.

I wouldn't have been playing football.

I'd not have been playing football.


Questions

Tense

Example

Simple Present

Do you play football?

Present Progressive

Are you playing football?

Simple Past

Did you play football?

Past Progressive

Were you playing football?

Present Perfect

Have you played football?

Present Perfect Progressive

Have you been playing football?

Past Perfect

Had you played football?

Past Perfect Progressive

Had you been playing football?

will-future

Will you play football?

going to-future

Are you going to play football?

Future Progressive

Will you be playing football?

Future Perfect

Will you have played football?

Conditional Simple

Would you play football?

Conditional Progressive

Would you be playing football?

Conditional Perfect

Would you have played football?

Conditional Perfect Progressive

Would you have been playing football?





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