What Are the Complete Tenses? (with Examples)
The Complete TensesComplete 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 TenseHere are some examples of verbs in the complete tense:
The Complete Perfect Tense
- I had gone.
- He had seen.
- I have gone.
- He has seen.
- I will have gone.
- He will have seen.
Slider Showing Verbs in the Complete TensesThe following slider shows all 12 tenses. Each infographic shows how the tense is formed, the role of the tense, and some examples. The complete tenses (i.e., those in the complete aspect) are highlighted with a yellow background.
Forming the Complete TensesThe complete tenses are formed using a form of the auxiliary verb "to have" and the past participle. For example:
Forming the Past Complete Tense
- He had worked.
Forming the Present Complete Tense
"has" or "have"+
- He has worked.
- We have worked.
Forming the Future Complete Tense
- She will have worked.
The Complete Tenses in the Past, Present, and FutureHere 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 tense||I 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|
Verb Tense WidgetUse this widget to learn about the different tenses. How do you use this widget? Well, if there's a button, a drop-down menu, or a , then you can click it!
The Complete AspectThe 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.
Why Should I Care about the Complete Tenses?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)