How to Conjugate "Tell" in English

by Craig Shrives

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Conjugation of "To Tell"

The verb "tell" is an irregular verb. (This means that "tell" does not form its simple past tense or its past participle by adding "-ed" or "-d" to the base form.)

The Five Forms of "To Tell"

FormtellAlternative Name
Base FormtellInfinitive Form
The -S FormtellsThird Person Singular Form
Past FormtoldSimple Past Tense
The -ING FormtellingPresent Participle Form
The Past Participle Formtold[no alternative name]

"To Tell" in All the Tenses

The tables below show how "tell" conjugates in the past, present, and future tenses.

Past Tenses

PersonSimple PastPast Progressive TensePast Perfect TensePast Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • told
  • told
  • told
  • told
  • told
  • told
The simple past tense is for a completed activity that happened in the past.
  • was telling
  • were telling
  • was telling
  • were telling
  • were telling
  • were telling
The past progressive tense is for an ongoing activity in the past. Often, it is used to set the scene for another action.
  • had told
  • had told
  • had told
  • had told
  • had told
  • had told
The past perfect tense is for emphasizing that an action was completed before another took place.
  • had been telling
  • had been telling
  • had been telling
  • had been telling
  • had been telling
  • had been telling
The past perfect progressive tense is for showing that an ongoing action in the past has ended.

Present Tenses

PersonSimple PresentPresent Progressive TensePresent Perfect TensePresent Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • tell
  • tell
  • tells
  • tell
  • tell
  • tell
The simple present tense is mostly for a fact or a habit.
  • am telling
  • are telling
  • is telling
  • are telling
  • are telling
  • are telling
The present progressive tense is for an ongoing action in the present.
  • have told
  • have told
  • has told
  • have told
  • have told
  • have told
The present perfect tense is for an action that began in the past. (Often, the action continues into the present.)
  • have been telling
  • have been telling
  • has been telling
  • have been telling
  • have been telling
  • have been telling
The present perfect progressive tense is for a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present (or finished very recently).

Future Tenses

PersonSimple FutureFuture Progressive TenseFuture Perfect TenseFuture Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • will tell
  • will tell
  • will tell
  • will tell
  • will tell
  • will tell
The simple future tense is for an action that will occur in the future.
  • will be telling
  • will be telling
  • will be telling
  • will be telling
  • will be telling
  • will be telling
The future progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will occur in the future.
  • will have told
  • will have told
  • will have told
  • will have told
  • will have told
  • will have told
The future perfect tense is for an action that will have been completed at some point in the future.
  • will have been telling
  • will have been telling
  • will have been telling
  • will have been telling
  • will have been telling
  • will have been telling
The future perfect progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will be completed at some specified time in the future.

Most Common Irregular Verbs

The two most common irregular verbs in English are "be" and "have." These pages give more details about these two verbs: Here are the next 10 most common irregular verbs in English:

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See Also

Parts of Speech Lists 200 Important Irregular Verbs

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