Understanding and Using English Grammar – Tenses

English Grammar Tenses form an important element of the English language. They are really the building blocks of the language and help explain situations and the “when” of actions. Everybody has learned these tenses in school but to remember them now may be somewhat grim. So here we’ll dig a little deeper into understanding and using English Grammar – Tenses.

The English Language has 12 tenses. The present tense tells about the current or the existing situation. Some examples are ‘I do’, ‘they do’ etc. Another tense is the present continuous and an example is ‘she is going’ or ‘they are going’.

In the present perfect tense, the sentence should be ‘I have done’. Past tense tells about the things of the past. Here, the situation which has already happened can be considered and the example is: He already did. This tense also includes other subtenses like past continuous, past perfect and past perfect continuous. Future tense tells about the future and directs a situation which is going to happen. An example is: I will do it. It also includes subtenses like future perfect, future continuous and future perfect continuous.

Some languages do not have these tenses. They are used without tenses but if you do the same in the English language, your grammar will go wrong and you will never learn English perfectly. In some tenses, you can use present and future both. For example, present simple tense. It is not very easy to form a sentence by mixing all these tenses. Students find it difficult when it comes to forming a sentence in the active or passive voice and storytellers must have a perfect understanding of how to use the tenses correctly in English.

Focus on the English grammar tenses and verbs which are used repeatedly. Simple verb forms are generally used. When writing a long essay, you will need a number of tenses. So, in an introduction, present tense will be used and it will conclude with simple past. Present perfect continuous, past perfect continuous, future perfect tenses are used hardly in essay writing. You can look into details to check out how to begin essay writing.

Possibly, you have to start with present simple tense in the introduction. Do not get confused between past and perfect tenses and keep the tense broadly reliable. Some of the sentences related to historical events are normally used in the past tense. In the English language, there cannot be historic present tense like in other languages like German, French or other European languages.

Another methodology is if it is related to social sciences or engineering then use past tense. You are describing what has happened and so it becomes past tense. When you have to speak about the analysis of results then be sure to use past and present tense both. You should write about the previous years in the past tense and of current years in the present tense. Newspapers, that by the way should be read with caution as the newspaper content may be shocking for kids, make tense mistakes on a regular basis as well.

Use English grammar tenses in the same way as they are and do not change the tenses in the sentences which do not match. At last, the conclusion part comes where you have to use the proper past tense. An example is: ‘In this essay, my aim was to………’.This tells about the past. You can even use the future tense in the last sentence like ‘I hope that this study will be good for future’.

In summary, English grammar tenses are forms of verbs that refer to time – present, past, and future which indicate an action’s completeness, incompleteness, or in continuation in relation to the time. There are all together just twelve English grammar tenses one need to know to master your English as follows:

1) Simple Present Tense – I write
2) Simple Past Tense – I wrote
3) Simple Future Tense – I will [or shall] write
4) Present Perfect Tense – I have written
5) Past Perfect Tense – I had written
6) Future Perfect Tense – I will have written
7) Progressive Tense or Present Continuous – I am writing
8) Past Progressive Tense or Past Continuous Tense – I was writing
9) Future Progressive Tense or Future Continuous Tense – I will be writing
10) Present Progressive Tense or Present Perfect Continuous Tense – I have been writing
11) Past Perfect Progressive Tense or Past Perfect Continuous Tense – I had been writing
12) Future Perfect Progressive Tense or Future Perfect Continuous Tense  – I will have been writing

What Tense To Use When Writing A Diary?

When writing a diary, what English grammar tense should we use? Here’s an example:

“… I woke up early this morning though I stayed up till 3 am last night. Strange though it may sound, I’m not an early bird … It was now time to be off to Adam’s house … It is always cold on Christmas day …” (quoted from my diary)

1. I wish to say that I am still not an early bird at the time of writing this diary, but that event (me getting up in the morning) actually happened this morning, which is already in the past.

2. Do I write “was now” or “is now”?

3. Is it “It is always cold …” or “It was always cold …”?

I wish to say that at the time of writing this diary (which is the night of Christmas, i.e. Dec 25), it’s still cold. In fact, it’s been cold on Christmas every year. 4. Which sentence is correct?

“We chatted away while we were having dinner” or “We were chatting away while we were having dinner.” I think the first sentence is correct, but the word “while” is used there. And according to the dictionary “while” means at the same time as something else is happening. So, I think the present continuous English grammar tense should be used in both of the clauses and many teachers would agree.


1. Events that occurred in the past at the time you are writing the diary should be written about in the past English grammar tense. For example, you were right in writing “I woke up early this morning …”

And you were also right in using the simple present English grammar tense in writing about personal habits or conditions that occur regularly, as you did in “I’m not an early bird” and “It is always cold on Christmas day.”

2. You should write “is now” if, at the time of writing, you were about to go to Adam’s house. If you wrote about it later, then you should write “was then”.

3. I have answered this question in 1. You should write “It is always cold…”

4. Both actions – “chatting away” and “having dinner” – continued over the same period of time, so they should both be in the past continuous English grammar tense. But the sentence would read better if you don’t repeat “we were”, and write: “We were chatting away while having dinner.”