What Is Verb Tense? (with Examples)

Verb Tense (with Examples)

The tense of a verb is determined by when the action took place. The three main tenses are as follows: The tense of a verb can also tell us things like whether the action is habitual, ongoing, or completed. This is called the aspect of the verb, which is part of tense.

Examples of Tenses

Here are some examples of verbs in different tenses:
  • I walked to work.
  • (The verb walked is in the past tense.)
  • I walk to work.
  • (The verb walk is in the present tense.)
  • I will walk to work.
  • (The verb will walk is in the future tense.)
Remember that verbs do not just express actions. They can also express a state of being. For example:
  • I was happy.
  • (The verb was is in the past tense.)
  • I am happy.
  • (The verb am is in the present tense.)
  • I will be happy.
  • (The verb will be is in the future tense.)

Examples of Verbs in Different Tenses

Here are some more examples of verbs in the past, present, and future tenses:
  • The hardest that I have laughed at a movie was probably Team America. I laughed 'til I thought I was going to throw up. (Ron White)
  • (The shaded verbs are in the past tense.)
  • You laugh at me because I'm different. I laugh at you because you are all the same. (Jonathan Davis)
  • (The shaded verbs are in the present tense.)
  • Nobody will laugh long who deals much with opium; even its pleasures are of a grave and solemn complexion. (Thomas de Quincey)
  • (The shaded verbs are in the future tense.)
You will notice that some of the verbs in the past tense example about Team America are made up of more than one word (have laughed, was going). We need these different versions of the tenses because they help us to state whether the action (or state of being) is in progress or completed. For example, the different versions of the verb to laugh are as follows:
  • Past Tense: laughed, was/were laughing, had laughed, had been laughing
  • Present Tense: laugh, am/is/are laughing, has/have laughed, has/have been laughing
  • Future Tense: will laugh, will be laughing, will have laughed, will have been laughing

The Full List of Tenses

The table below shows the full list of the tenses:
The 4 Past Tenses Example 1Example 2
simple past tense I wentI laughed
past progressive tense I was goingI was laughing
past perfect tense I had goneI had laughed
past perfect progressive tenseI had been goingI had been laughing
The 4 Present Tenses Example 1Example 2
simple present tense I goI laugh
present progressive tense I am goingI am laughing
present perfect tense I have goneI have laughed
present perfect progressive tense I have been goingI have been laughing
The 4 Future Tenses Example 1Example 2
simple future tense I will goI will laugh
future progressive tense I will be goingI will be laughing
future perfect tense I will have goneI will have laughed
future perfect progressive tense I will have been goingI will have been laughing

An Quick Explanation of the Tenses with an Example

The Past Tenses

Simple Past Tense. The simple past tense is used to describe a completed activity that happened in the past.
  • I ran to the shops.
Past Progressive Tense. The past progressive tense is used to describe an ongoing activity in the past. Often, it is used to set the scene for another action.
  • I was running to the shops when I saw Bruno.
Past Perfect Tense. The past perfect tense is used to emphasize that an action was completed before another took place.
  • I had run to the shops, but they were closed.
Past Perfect Progressive Tense. The past perfect progressive tense is used to show that an ongoing action in the past has ended.
  • I had been running to the shops, but I have now started walking.

The Present Tenses

Simple Present Tense. The simple present tense is mostly used to describe facts and habits.
  • I run daily.
Present Progressive Tense. The present progressive tense is used for an ongoing action in the present.
  • I am running to your house at the moment.
Present Perfect Tense. The present perfect tense is used for actions began in the past. (Often, the actions continue into the present.)
  • I have run for 5 miles so far.
Present Perfect Progressive Tense. The present perfect progressive tense is used for a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present, or a continuous activity that began in past but has now finished (usually very recently).
  • I have been running for hours.

The Future Tenses

Simple Future Tense. The simple future tense is used for an action that will occur in the future.
  • I will run to the shops tomorrow.
Future Progressive Tense. The future progressive tense is used for an ongoing action that will occur in the future.
  • I will be running to the shops every day after today.
Future Perfect Tense. The future perfect tense is used to describe an action that will have been completed at some point in the future.
  • I will have run to work by 12 o'clock.
Future Perfect Progressive Tense. The future perfect progressive tense is used for an ongoing action that will be completed at some specified time in the future.
  • I will have been running for 3 hours by 12 o'clock.

Verb Tense Widget

Use 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!

Slide Show of the Tenses

This slide show gives an overview of the 12 different tenses.

Slider

Interactive Test
 

See Also

What is the past tense? Try our drag-and-drop test on verb tenses What is the present tense? What is the future tense? What is verb aspect? Glossary of grammatical terms