Verb Tense

Kristin Fracchia
Lesson by Kristin Fracchia
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This English lesson is about verb tense, which is a very, very important topic to focus on, because there are so many questions on the test that have to deal with verbs, and with making sure you pick the appropriate tense, and making sure your verbs match with other verbs in a sentence, or even in a paragraph. So what we're going to do is we're going to break down the three basic categories of verb tense in the English language, present, past, and future.

And I'm going to be throwing some terminology at you for what these various tenses are called, that's really just to help organize it in our mind, but I'm gonna point out specifically what you need to know for the test. And, and know that you don't necessarily need to know what all the tenses are called, but you do need to know how to recognize them, and what they do. So let's go ahead and go through some simple examples.

And let's start with present tense. So we have a basic sentence here, I walk to school everyday. I have just walked to school. I am walking to school today. And, I have been walking to school everyday. Now, all of these sentences are in present tense, but they're all slightly different.

So, let's ahead and go through specifically what each of them are doing. So this first sentence is in what's called simple present, or sometimes present simple, and simple present is used to describe actions that are habitual, or to express general facts like, the earth is round, or I walk to school everyday. Now this one gets a little bit more complicated. The second one, we have a helper verb here.

I have just walked to school. So, this is what's called present perfect. It, it, it expresses something that has just happened, something has happened at a nonspecific time in the past. So, I have traveled a ton. I have just walked to school.

I have recently finished the assignment. Now, you don't need to know it's called present perfect, but what you do need to know is that if you see this helper verb, if you see this particular verb phrase I have walked or I have done something, and a question is testing parallel structure, which means making sure that all of the verbs are listed in the same way, you wanna make sure that they all have this helper verb, that you're not switching tense, even within present tense.

So, for example, I have just taken the exam, and I have passed it. You want to make sure that you're looking for those, matching up those helping verbs. Now this third sentence is in what's called present progressive. So this is when we start seeing those ing, or gerund verb forms, coming into play. I am walking to school today.

Progressive, think, we want to highlight the ongoing nature of an event. She is pacing around her office. I am walking to school today. Something is in progress. And then finally, this one's got lots of helpers. I have been walking to school every day.

This is what's called present perfect progressive, and this is for events that started in the past and are continuing into the present. So I have been doing something. I have been walking to school every day. All right let's take a look at past tense. Okay so here's more simple examples.

I danced all night. I had already danced in the recital before the fire alarm went off. I was dancing when the fire alarm went off. And, I had been dancing when the fire alarm went off. Okay, so again these are all in past tense, but they're all doing something a little bit different.

Simple past, that's just something happened in the past, and it's completed, it's finished. I danced all night. I went to the ball game. It's done, it's in the past. Our second sentence is in what's called past perfect.

I had already danced in the recital before the fire alarm went off. This one's a little interesting. This is when we're trying to indicate that something happened in the past before something else happened, or before some other some other event. So, don't worry too, too much about that one but again, if you see it on the test, just remember, pay attention to those helping verbs, make sure you're matching them up.

This third sentence is in past progressive. So just like present progressive, it's when we want to indicate that something was happening over a course of time. But, this was something that was happening over a course of time in the past. So, I was dancing when something happened, when the fire alarm went off. And, finally, past perfect progressive.

I had been dancing when the fire alarm went off. So again, we have a continuing action that began in the past, again, focus on those helping verbs. So we have for the progressive tenses, we often see those gerund forms, the ing. And we have our helping verbs before the main verb. And finally, let's talk about future tense.

I will go to college is our first sample sentence. I will be going to college. I will have gone to college before my sister graduates high school. I will have been going to college for two years when my sister graduates high school. So will, that is a key word indicating future.

I will dance tomorrow, I will go to school tomorrow. Will, big future term. So this first sentence is in future, simple future, or future simple. And it's just expressing something that generally will happen in the future. I will go to college, and yes you will, cuz you're going to do great on this test. I will be going to college.

This is a little bit more interesting because we have, you know, we want to indicate that something will be progressing. So, I will be playing in the game for three hours. I will be going to college. There will be a progressive action, college, verb, about four years. I'm gonna be going to college for about four years.

Future perfect is this third sentence here. I will have gone to college before my sister graduates high school. And this is to indicate an action that will be completed in the future, before something else begins. So, we'll often see something like before, or when, here to indicate that. It's rare that you're gonna see a sentence that will just say, I will have gone to college, without any context to place in context, in relation to another event.

And future perfect progressive again, got these helper verbs going on. I will have been going to college for two years when my sister graduates college. So this is a continuing action, that's the progressive part of it, that will be finished at a specific time, or when a specific event occurs. The specific event here is, when my sister graduates high school, I will have been going to college for two years.

All right, so lets just re, real quickly, go over verb tense consistency, and then we will look at a test question. So we want to make sure that the verb is consistent with the other verbs in the sentence, as I mentioned, or in previous sentences. So sometimes, you're going to have a sentence that is connected to the previous sentence, maybe it just has one verb in it.

Make sure you look at the sentence that came before it, and you want to make sure it's consistent with that, unless there's a reason to change it. So let's look at our first sample sentence here. I went to the mall, and select or selected, two outfits to wear for the first day of school. So we have went here.

That is in past tense, and so we need the past tense of this verb. I went to the mall and selected two outfits. Now, we have some time indicators in our sentence, and this is what I always think is really important for students to look for. I always tell people to look for this. Yesterday, tomorrow, last year, last week.

Those tell us really important clues about when something happened, and that gives us really important clues about what verb tense we should choose. So yesterday, I went to the mall to shop. Okay, so we need past tense, because it was yesterday. But tomorrow, woo hoo, key term there. Tomorrow is in the future, so we need the future tense here.

Tomorrow, I blank all my shopping online, I will do, will, for the future. All right, here's a test example. What made Angelina and Sarah unique and defined within abolitionist circles is their ability to imbue their commanding speeches with personal experience. So, we have a couple things changing in the answer choices.

We have the verb changing, and we have ability and abilities. So, let's first look at whether it should be ability or abilities, and then we'll deal with the verb. Is there ability to imbue their commanding speeches with personal experience? Or is their abilities to imbue their commanding speeches with personal experience?

Well they're just doing one thing, they have one ability. Listen to this sentence and we can eliminate B, and we can eliminate D. Now we need to decide whether it's is or was, and so when we're trying to determine verb tense, we want to look for other verbs in the sentence. And we wanna make sure we match up our verb with those, unless there's a reason to change it.

I don't see a reason to change it here, it's all connected. So, made and, that's the, that's the primary verb there, we have divine too, but that's a little bit, a little bit different. What made them unique, so we need was. We need to the past tense, made is in past tense. So, our answer needs to be C.

What made Angelina and Sarah unique and defined within abolitionist circles was their ability to imbue their commanding speeches with personal experience. So there you have it. There's verb tense. Make sure you're watching out to match your verbs on the test.

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