Verb Forms and Tenses Help (page 2)
Verb forms may look similar to tenses, but they are not. Learning the following basic forms, or principal parts, will help you use correct verb tenses later in this lesson.
The present form of a verb is usually the first entry you find in a dictionary (e.g., care, forgive, mean, etc.). Sometimes an -s is added to the end of the present form of the verb when it is used in conjunction with a singular noun: she cares, he forgives, it means.
The present participle is made by adding the suffix -ing to the present form; it is always accompanied by a be verb, which acts as a helping verb, forming what is called a verb phrase: am caring, is forgiving, were thinking. Notice that this verb form expresses action that is ongoing.
The past form of a verb shows action or existence that has already taken place at a point in time before now (e.g., she cared, they forgave, he thought). Remember that all regular verbs end in -ed in the past tense, whereas irregular verbs end in a variety of ways.
The past participle of a verb consists of its past form, accompanied by the helping verb have, has, or had (e.g., have cared, has forgiven, had thought, etc.). This is true of both regular and irregular verbs.
All verb tenses are formed by utilizing one of the four principal parts of the verb. When we combine these parts with different pronouns, we can see all the different forms that a verb can take in a given tense; this is called verb conjugation.
- We are most familiar with three basic tenses:
The present tense shows present action or action that happens on a regular basis.
He writes articles for a local newspaper.
The past tense indicates that the action has already happened.
He wrote several award-winning articles.
The future tense tells us that the action has not yet happened, but will.
He will write an editorial for Time this month.
Tip: Use the present tense to discuss what you have read in a book, poem, or other text, even if it was written in the past.
In addition to the three basic verb tenses—present, past, and future—a number of tenses more precisely pinpoint the timing or progress of actions.
The present progressive tense shows action that is currently in progress. The present progressive is formed by combining the present tense of the verb be with the present participle of a verb.
Robert and Olivia are running the charity auction at the church.
The past progressive tense indicates that the action happened at some specific time in the past. The past progressive is formed by combining the past tense of the verb be with the present participle of a verb.
Jennifer was watching the lottery drawing on TV last night.
The future progressive tense denotes that the action is continuous or will occur in the future. The future progressive is formed by combining the future tense of the verb be with the present participle of a verb.
Wanda will be traveling to Provence next winter.
The present perfect tense shows that the action was started in the past and continues up to the present time. The present perfect is formed by combining have or has with the past participle of a verb.
People have used money as a means of exchange since about 1200 bce.
The past perfect tense indicates that the action happened in the past and was completed before some other past action was begun. The past perfect is formed by combining the helping verb had with the past participle of a verb.
Before that, many had bartered for the goods they wanted with shells, livestock, and agriculture.
The future perfect tense tells us that the action will start and finish in the future. The future perfect is formed by combining the helping verbs will have, would have, or will have been with the past participle of a verb.
As of 2015, the U.S. dollar will have been used by its citizens as national currency for about 230 years.
Tip: When you write, pick a verb tense and stick with it. Change tenses only if there is a real change in time. Unnecessary shifts in tense can confuse readers.
Tip: A ghastly grammatical error to avoid is interchanging the words of and have in writing. Consider the term should've, as in "I should've gone with the blue, not the green." It is a common misconception that should of, not "should have," is being said, and it is then written that way. Be careful! The terms could've and would've (wrongly assumed to be could of and would of ) fall into the same trap.
Exercises for this concept can be found at Verb Forms and Tenses Practice
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