An Overview of the English Tenses | GoProfe

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Why do you want to learn English? To improve your CV? To study in an English-speaking university? To prepare for an exam like the TOEIC or TOEFL? Or do you just want to be able to communicate when you go on vacation to an English-speaking country? Regardless of reasons that you’re learning English, one of the most important aspects of any language are the many tenses that you will have to learn. To help you out, the team at has compiled a list of some of the many tenses that English has, along with some definitions and example sentences:

The Present Tense in English

In English, there are two different present tenses, the present simple and the present progressive, which is sometimes called the present continuous.  

The present simple is used to describe habits, unchanging situations, general truths, and fixed arrangements.

Example: I try to learn a new language every year.

On the other hand, the present progressive is used for actions that are unfinished or incomplete.

Example: I am learning English this year.

The Past Tense in English

Just like with the present in English, the past is also divided into two different tenses, the past simple or preterite tense and the past continuous or past progressive tense.

The past simple is used to talk about a completed action in a time before now.

Example: Last year I learned English.

On the other hand, the past continuous is to describe unfinished or incomplete actions in the past.

Example: I was learning English.

The Future Tense in English

In English, the future also has a simple and continuous tenses.  

The future simple tense is used to refer to a time later than now, and only expresses facts or certainty.

Example: I will learn English this year.

The future continuous is used to refer to an unfinished action or event that will be in progress at a time later than now.

Example: I will be travelling to many English-speaking countries this year.

The Perfect Tenses

Beyond the past, present and future tenses mentioned above, English has many perfect tenses:

Present perfect

The present perfect is used to indicate a link between the present and the past. The time of the action is before now but not specified, and we are often more interested in the result than in the action itself.

Example: I have learned other languages in the past.

Present perfect continuous

The present perfect continuous is used to refer to an unspecified time between ‘before now’ and ‘now’. The speaker is thinking about something that started but perhaps did not finish in that period of time.

Example: I have been learning English for a couple weeks.

Past perfect

The past perfect refers to a time earlier than before now. It is used to make it clear that one event happened before another in the past.

Example: I had already learned Chinese.

Past perfect continuous

The past perfect continuous corresponds to the present perfect continuous, but with reference to a time earlier than ‘before now’.

Example: I had been learning Chinese for a couple years.

Future perfect

The future perfect tense refers to a completed action in the future.

Example: I will have learned 2 foreign languages as soon as I master English.

Future perfect continuous

The future perfect continuous refers to events or actions in a time between now and some future time are unfinished.

Example: I will have been learning languages since I turned started elementary school.

The Conditionals

Conditional tenses are used to speculate about what could happen, what might have happened, and what we wish would happen. In English, most sentences using the conditional contain the word “if”.

Zero conditional

The zero conditional is used for when the time being referred to is now or always and the situation is real and possible.

Example: If you find a teacher that you like, it is easier to learn.

First conditional

The first conditional is used to refer to the present or future where the situation is real.

Example: If I find a good teacher, I will start to take private classes.

Second conditional

The second conditional is used to refer to a time that is now or any time, and a situation that is unreal.

Example: If I brought my notes with me, I could study for the exam.

Third conditional

The third conditional is used to refer to a time that is in the past, and a situation that is contrary to reality.

Example: If I had studied for the exam, I would’ve gotten a better grade.

Now that you’ve gotten a basic overview of some of the many tenses that English has, it’s time to meet up with your teacher and practice. Remember that this article is just supposed to get you started and help you clarify the tenses that you’re struggling with. Regardless of your level or whether you’re struggling with speaking, reading, writing or listening, make sure to head over to to find a teacher that works best for your schedule and learning style. Our professors come from many different English-speaking countries and can help you to understand many different accents and give you the vocabulary you’ll need to sound like a native in any business or social context. From the newest slang to the most professional business English, goprofe teachers are here to help you!

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