The past, the present and the future walk into a bar….

It was tense. -Jokes only grammar nerds would understand.

In English, verbs are divided into three main tenses which are related to time: past, present and future. Each of these is further divided into subcategories: simple tense, progressive tense and perfect tense. The subcategories tell us when a particular action has been done, is being done or will be done. Let’s examine each subcategory individually and with examples.

The Simple Tense:

The simple present tense tells an action that is usual or repeated.
For example: I write a blog post every day.

The simple past tense tells an action that both began and ended in the past.
For example: I wrote a blog post yesterday.

The simple future tense tells an upcoming action that will occur.
For example: I will write a blog post tomorrow.

So, write, wrote, will write are the simple present, past and future tenses of the verb write.

The Progressive Tense:

The present progressive tense shows action that’s in progress at the time the statement is written.
For example: I am writing my blog post right now.
Present progressive verbs are always formed by using am, is or are and by adding –ing to the verb.

The past progressive tense shows action that was going on at some time in the past.
For example: I was writing my blog post last night before bed.
Past progressive verbs are always formed by using was or were and adding -ing to the verb.

The future progressive tense shows action that will continue on into the future.
For example: I will be writing my blog post long after everyone else has gone to bed.
Future progressive verbs are always formed by using will be or shall be and adding –ing to the verb.

So am writing, was writing and will be writing are the progressive present, progressive past and progressive future tenses of the verb write.

Here’s where it get’s tricky…

The Perfect Tense:

The present perfect tense conveys action that happened sometime in the past or that started in the past but is ongoing in the present.
For example: I have written blog posts for over a year.
Present perfect verbs are formed by using has or have and the past participle form of the verb.

The past perfect tense indicates past action that occurred prior to another past action.
For example: I had written blog posts for over a year before I understood the rules of grammar.
Past perfect verbs are always formed by using had and the past participle form of the verb.

The future perfect tense can be used to illustrate future action that will occur before another action. For example: I will have written blog posts for over a year before understanding the rules of grammar.
Future perfect verbs are always formed by using will have and the past participle form of the verb.

So have written, had written and will have written are the present perfect, past perfect and future perfect tenses of the verb write.

Even trickier…

The Perfect Progressive Tense:

The present perfect progressive tense illustrates an action repeated over a period of time in the past, continuing into the present and possibly carrying over into the future!
For example: For the past year I have been writing blog posts.
Present perfect progressive verbs are always formed by using has been, have been and adding –ing to the verb.

The past perfect progressive tense illustrates a past continuous action that was completed before some other past action.
For example: Before I learned the rules of grammar, I had been writing blog posts for over a year.
Past perfect progressive verbs are always formed by using had been and adding –ing to the verb.

The future perfect progressive tense is used to illustrate a future continuous action that will be completed before some future time.
For example: Next month, I will have been writing blog posts for over a year.
Future perfect progressive verbs are always formed by using will have been and adding –ing to the verb.

So have been writing, had been writing and will have been writing are the present perfect progressive, past perfect progressive and future perfect progressive tenses of the verb write.

“Ok, great,” you say. “My head just exploded and for what?”

I admit this is a subtle thing, but if you pay attention to it you will realize that when tense is shifted in a sentence or a paragraph it throws the flow of the writing off. Therefore, follow this rule: Pick a tense and stick with it. Keep the past in the past, even if its not perfect…

Image courtesy: Message to Eagle

52 thoughts on “The past, the present and the future walk into a bar….

      1. Oh that’s hilarious! I made him get a twitter for when we were in Ireland. Sometimes the texting doesn’t work but data always goes through, so I could at least twitter message him if I needed to. He will be thrilled to have a second follower!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Ya know, I have always tried to make sure grammar was used appropriately, but I have noticed some of my posts are so laced with raw emotion that the use of language escaped me…
    But this post is a good reminder. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In my brain, it’s not subtle!

    There was a BBT episode where they were talking about time travel and the tense issue got very complicated. It was hilarious.

    Also… Me:
    “I will be writing my blog post long after everyone else has gone to bed.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I will print this out for my kids! πŸ˜€ Excellent! I am pretty sure I use tense correctly but I couldn’t name them for nothin’. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

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