Complete Tenses

by Craig Shrives

What Are the Complete Tenses? (with Examples)

Complete tense is a category of verb tense used to describe completed actions. It covers the past complete tense, the present complete tense, and the future complete tense. It is more commonly called the perfect tense.

Examples of Verbs in the Complete Tense

Here are some examples of verbs in the complete tense:

The Complete Perfect Tense
  • I had gone.
  • He had seen.
The Present Complete Tense
  • I have gone.
  • He has seen.
The Future Complete Tense
  • I will have gone.
  • He will have seen.

Forming the Complete Tenses

The complete tenses are formed using a form of the auxiliary verb "to have" and the past participle. For example:

Forming the Past Complete Tense
"had"
+
[past participle]
  • He had worked.
Forming the Present Complete Tense
"has" or "have"
+
[past participle]
  • He has worked.
  • We have worked.
Forming the Future Complete Tense
"will have"
+
[past participle]
  • She will have worked.

The Complete Tenses in the Past, Present, and Future

Here are the 12 tenses again. This time, the tenses are ordered under the headings past tense, present tense, and future tense. The complete (or perfect) tenses are shaded in yellow.
The 4 Past Tenses Example
simple past tense I went
past progressive tense I was going
past complete tense I had gone
past complete progressive tenseI had been going
The 4 Present Tenses Example
simple present tense I go
present progressive tense I am going
present complete tense I have gone
present complete progressive tense I have been going
The 4 Future Tenses Example
simple future tense I will go
future progressive tense I will be going
future complete tense I will have gone
future complete progressive tense I will have been going
The tables below show all 12 tenses so you can see the complete tenses among the other tenses. (You can change the verb by clicking one of the green buttons.)

Top 10 Regular Verbs

Top 10 Irregular Verbs

All 4 Past Tenses

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

All 4 Present Tenses

PersonSimple PresentPresent Progressive TensePresent Complete TensePresent Complete Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • base form
  • base form
  • 3rd pers sing present
  • base form
  • base form
  • base form
The simple present tense is mostly for a fact or a habit.
  • am present participle
  • are present participle
  • is present participle
  • are present participle
  • are present participle
  • are present participle
The present progressive tense is for an ongoing action in the present.
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
  • has past participle
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
The present complete tense is for an action that began in the past. (Often, the action continues into the present.)
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • has been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
The present complete progressive tense is for a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present (or finished very recently).

All 4 Future Tenses

PersonSimple FutureFuture Progressive TenseFuture Complete TenseFuture Complete Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
The simple future tense is for an action that will occur in the future.
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
The future progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will occur in the future.
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
The future complete tense is for an action that will have been completed at some point in the future.
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
The future complete progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will be completed at some specified time in the future.

The Complete Aspect

The term complete aspect (or perfect aspect) is used to group all verbs (past, present, and future) in the perfect tenses. (Remember that the aspect of a verb is determined by whether its action is ongoing or completed.) Read more about aspect. Native English speakers can use all twelve tenses without giving the grammar a second thought. However, if you're learning or teaching English, you must spend time learning the tenses because expressing when something occurs is a fundamental communication skill. Remember though that tenses do not just tell us whether something is a past, present, or future action. They also tell us whether the action is habitual, completed, or ongoing (called the aspects).

The trick to learning tenses is mastering the following:
  • The verb "to be" in all its forms (am, is, are, was, were, will be)
  • The verb "to have" in all its forms (has, have, had, will have)
  • Present participles, i.e., the "ing" form of verbs (e.g., playing, thinking, eating)
  • Past participles (e.g., played, thought, eaten)

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See Also

See all the tenses What is a verb phrase? What is aspect? What is the perfect aspect? What is the past perfect tense? What is the present perfect tense? What is the future perfect tense? Glossary of grammatical terms

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