Learn English tenses


tenseAffirmative/Negative/QuestionUseSignal Words
Simple PresentA: He speaks.
N: He does not speak.
Q: Does he speak?
  • action in the present taking place once, never or several times
  • facts
  • actions taking place one after another
  • action set by a timetable or schedule
always, every …, never, normally, often, seldom, sometimes, usually
if sentences type I (If I talk, …)
Present ProgressiveA: He is speaking.
N: He is not speaking.
Q: Is he speaking?
  • action taking place in the moment of speaking
  • action taking place only for a limited period of time
  • action arranged for the future
at the moment, just, just now, Listen!, Look!, now, right now
Simple PastA: He spoke.
N: He did not speak.
Q: Did he speak?
  • action in the past taking place once, never or several times
  • actions taking place one after another
  • action taking place in the middle of another action
yesterday, 2 minutes ago, in 1990, the other day, last Friday
if sentence type II (If I talked, …)
Past ProgressiveA: He was speaking.
N: He was not speaking.
Q: Was he speaking?
  • action going on at a certain time in the past
  • actions taking place at the same time
  • action in the past that is interrupted by another action
when, while, as long as
Present Perfect SimpleA: He has spoken.
N: He has not spoken.
Q: Has he spoken?
  • putting emphasis on the result
  • action that is still going on
  • action that stopped recently
  • finished action that has an influence on the present
  • action that has taken place once, never or several times before the moment of speaking
already, ever, just, never, not yet, so far, till now, up to now
Present Perfect ProgressiveA: He has been speaking.
N: He has not been speaking.
Q: Has he been speaking?
  • putting emphasis on the course or duration (not the result)
  • action that recently stopped or is still going on
  • finished action that influenced the present
all day, for 4 years, since 1993, how long?, the whole week
Past Perfect SimpleA: He had spoken.
N: He had not spoken.
Q: Had he spoken?
  • action taking place before a certain time in the past
  • sometimes interchangeable with past perfect progressive
  • putting emphasis only on the fact (not the duration)
already, just, never, not yet, once, until that day
if sentence type III (If I had talked, …)
Past Perfect ProgressiveA: He had been speaking.
N: He had not been speaking.
Q: Had he been speaking?
  • action taking place before a certain time in the past
  • sometimes interchangeable with past perfect simple
  • putting emphasis on the duration or course of an action
for, since, the whole day, all day
Future I SimpleA: He will speak.
N: He will not speak.
Q: Will he speak?
  • action in the future that cannot be influenced
  • spontaneousdecision
  • assumption with regard to the future
in a year, next …, tomorrow
If-Satz Typ I (If you ask her, she will help you.)
assumption: I think, probably, perhaps
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