Past, Present, and Future Tense
Whenever you use a verbA part of speech that refers to what is happening, the action, what the subject is doing, or how it is “being.” Examples include: sleep, to be, think. in a sentence, you need to be sure that it agrees with the subjectIn grammar, a part of speech that refers to the “doer” in the sentence (who or what). A subject is usually a person, place or thing., meaning that the subject and verb match each other in both number and person, and is the correct tenseThe form of a verb that tells when an action occurs. Verb tenses include past, present, and future. Example: to live: past: lived; present: lives, future: will live.. Tense refers to time. For example, at what time did something happen, is happening, or will happen? There are different types of verb tenses; each one of them focuses on a specific element of time. This lesson focuses on the three tenses most often referred to—pastA verb tense that refers to situations that have already happened. Verbs that are written in past tense often end in –ed. Example: The children jumped into the pool., presentA verb tense that refers to situations that are happening right now. These may be verbs that end in an –s or an –ing. Example: The children are jumping into the pool., and futureA verb tense that refers to situations that will happen at a later time. These often use the helping verb will. Example: The children will jump into the pool..
Past tense refers to situations that have already happened. Verbs that are written in past tense often end in –ed like showed and laughed, although there are verbs that are classified as irregular like ran or sang that are past tense but do not end in –ed. Past tense verbs are also created when a verb is combined with a helping verbA verb used with an action verb to show what is happening and to provide a tense (past, present, future) for the situation. Examples include: can, may, should. like were, was, has, have, had, or did.
Examples: He showed her his schedule. / He has shown her his schedule.
Present tense refers to situations that are happening right now. These may be verbs that end in an –s or an –ing. They may also include a helping verb like "to be" verbs such as is and are.
Examples: He shows her his schedule. / He is showing her his schedule.
Future tense refers to situations that will happen sometime in the future. These often use the helping verb will or the verb phrase is going to (verb) or are going to (verb).
Examples: He will show her his schedule. / He is going to show her his schedule.
As you can see, each of these tenses shows when something happens. It is very important to be consistent with the verb tense that you choose to use when communicating to your readers. Readers create a timelineA sequence of things that happen in order, from the first event to the last event. in their heads of the events described in a reading; the verb tense helps them keep track of the sequence of events being described. Using consistent verb tense will help you create coherenceThe quality of a writing that is well-organized and where events make sense. Coherence occurs when the ideas in a passage or in an entire piece “stick together,” allowing the reader to make sense of the information. in your writing.+ PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Audiences use verb tenses to create a timeline of the sequence of eventsA series of things that happen, one right after the other, that typically make up a story line. described in a reading. Writers must not only choose the correct tenses when writing, but they must also be consistent with their verb tenses because not doing so confuses readers. Imagine if someone told you that he really enjoyed going to the movies with you – past tense – and then said that he will buy popcorn and you will buy the soda – future tense. Is he talking about going to the movies again? Or did he just use the wrong verb tense? Which did he mean - the last time you went to the movies together or the next time you go to the movies together? It can be confusing in conversation, but it is even more so in writing because the writer is not there to answer questions.
Review the following sentences and notice which tense they are showing.
1. John worked on his speech last night.
Worked is a past tense verb.
2. He is studying for his math final now.
The phrase is studying shows present tense.
3. He will prepare for his oral presentation tomorrow.
The phrase will prepare shows future tense.
Now consider the word choices and think about the verb tense that best completes the following sentences.
Took and passed are correct because the test happened in the past (last Friday).
Correct: He took the test last Friday and passed with flying colors.
This sentence uses two verb tenses because of the phrase as soon as, which makes the action in the first clauseA group of words in a sentence that contains a subject and a predicate. conditional to the completion of the action in the second clause. So, will go is future tense dependent upon something happening in the present are done.
Correct: He will go to Disney World as soon as his final projects are done.
Studied is correct because prepared is used in the second clause and the same tense should be used in both clauses.
Correct: While he studied for his math final, he also prepared for his trip.
Review the following sentences and identify which tense they are showing.
are going to need is future tense
wants is present tense
used to be required is past tense
Choose the correct tense for the following sentences. Explain why the tense you chose is correct. Then, write the corrected sentences.
decide and select, because the past tense at the end of the sentence does not work and the tenses need to match
Correct: When students decide to go away to college, they must select where they want to live.
live, because the past tense does not work with the conditional tense at the end of the sentence (may not need to move)
Correct: However, some students who live close enough to college may not need to move away at all.
go because the present tense, live, is used in the first part of the sentence and the tenses need to match
Correct: Students who already live on their own usually go to a nearby school.
Why would understanding verb tense make a difference when filling out a job application?
Since consistent verb tense makes it easier for the reader to know when things happened that you are describing, using the right tense in a job application would make it easier for a potential employer to know if you are currently working or need a job right away.
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