Hone your verb tenses


Tenses are the nerve of English Language; they are an integral part of the eight elements of speech some of which are: nouns, adjectives and prepositions. If you become adept at your use of tenses you express yourself with increased facility.

The term tense as used in English language simply refers to time. Action takes place in a given time (of which time is measured in years, seasons, days, and minutes) that is why it is fitting to call them verb tenses. Verbs are words used to describe action such as: walk, play, and write.

Tenses fall into six categories inclusive of; present tense, past tense, future tense, and the perfect tense. At this moment, we will try to define and put some meaning into the type of tenses already noted above.

The tense in its present form describes action that takes place every day, in the immediate daily routine. For instance, taking the verb walk, we say: Tendai walks to school every day. Usually when dealing with the present tense in its singular form we add an s in the front of the given verb as we have already demonstrated.

The Progressive form of the present tense denotes action that is currently taking place now, and that action is ongoing. For instance, you are reading this article.

It should be noted that the progressive tense is not a separate tense form, but a type of the present tense since it describes what is happening at the present moment. It should be kept in mind that there is a progressive form for each of the 6 tenses.

The past tense is often used to describe action that took place in the past. The action was completed in the past and did not continue into the present. Usually the past tense is identified by the addition of d-or-ed .For example; Mr Mangwiro spanked the noisy class yesterday.

The third form of the tense describes action that will take place in the future. It is known as the Future tense. The words will hall are used as identifying marks of the future tense. For example, I will read diligently from now.

The other form of the tense is the present perfect tense. Usually it is used with the intention of expressing action which occurred at no definite time in the past .At other instance, though limited, it describes action that happened in the past but is still going on.

A case in point; “Dawn has been staying with us since October last year”. The present perfect tense is formed with has\have.

The past perfect tense is employed to denote action completed in the past. The action was completed before other action which preceded it. It is formed with had. The following example illustrates that; after she had worked for a certain bank for ten good years, she finally quit before joining Barclays Bank.

Used to describe action that will be undertaken in the future and completed before any other action is done , the Future Perfect tense is formed by using the phrase shall have\will have. The following example illustrates that; With Monica’s love of reading, it is clear that by the time she turns 30 she will have become an insightful and competent journalist.

Please keep in mind that consistency in using the learned tense forms is the key to be skilled in their use. For example, let’s focus on the following example that clarifies inconsistency in using a given tense in the following statement:

Luke Lunged at the volleyball and grabs it before the Mufakose High School player could reach him (mixture of past and present tense) the word grabs is in the present tense form.

Now let’s perfect the statement.

Luke lunged at the volleyball and grabbed it before the Mufakose High Player could reach him.

Now, re-write the following sentences changing the tenses of the verbs as indicated in the parenthesis rackets.

1. When the bell rings , I will finish the English Language assignment(change will finish to future perfect)

2. When I leave, will you read the article ?( change will read to future perfect)

Let’s now see if you have managed to do the assignment properly ;

1. When the bell rings, I will have finished the English Language assignment.

2. When I leave, will you have read the article?

As has been seen, when you know your tenses you gain confidence in expressing your thoughts clearly.

  • Vuso Mhlanga, the writer and teacher of English Language and Advanced Literature in English. Feedback: [email protected] / 0778674863.

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