12 Basic English Tenses

12 Basic English Tenses

12 Basic English Tenses

English Tense System

In some languages, verb tenses are not very important or do not even exist. In English, the concept of tense is very important.

On these pages we look at how to avoid confusing tense with time, and the structure of the 12 basic tenses, with examples using a regular verb, an irregular verb and the verb “be”.

The links below are to lessons for each of the 12 basic English tenses.

For each tense we look at:

  • Structure: How do we make the tense?
  • Use: When and why do we use the tense?

Some lessons look at additional matters, and most of them finish with a quiz to check your understanding.

12 Basic English Tenses


Simple Present Tense

I do, I do do

Present Continuous Tense

I am doing

Present Perfect Tense

I have done

Present Perfect Continuous

I have been doing


Simple Past Tense

I did, I did do

Past Continuous Tense

I was doing

Past Perfect Tense

I had done

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

I had been doing


Simple Future Tense

I will do

Future Continuous Tense

I will be doing

Future Perfect Tense

I will have done

Future Perfect Continuous

I will have been doing

12 Basic English Tenses

English Tense System Quiz

You can do this grammar quiz. It tests what you learned on the English Tense System page.

1. In English, the concept of tense

 does not exist
 is not important
 is very important

2. There are _______ in the English language.

 3 basic tenses
 12 basic tenses
 21 basic tenses

3. A past simple verb such as “had” _______ refer to past time.

 must always
 does not always
 can never

4. “I hope it snows next weekend.” In this sentence, the present simple verb “snows” refers to

 the past
 the present
 the future

5. All 12 basic tenses can be used in either the active or _______ voice.


12 Basic English Tenses

6. The structure of a basic tense depends on whether it’s in the positive, negative or _______ form.


7. Which verb form always ends with -ing, as in “talking”?

 past participle
 present participle
 base V2 form

8. Which of the basic tense structures is “auxiliary + subject + main verb”?


9. When learning the structure of tenses, we learn how to use regular verbs and irregular verbs, including the highly irregular verb _______.


10. When learning the English tense system, it’s important to understand that “tense” and “time” are

 the same thing
 different things
 opposite things

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