Let’s begin checking what you know about the tenses you have in this Unit.
As you remember we in English use the tenses in a very different way as we do in
Spanish, that is why most of the time it is not a good idea to compare the structures of
the two languages.
Here we must follow the rule that says (verb To Be (am, is, are) + principal verb ended
When do we use this tense? In what moment we use it?
Now let’s see this example:
Sofia is playing soccer right now.
The example indicates that the activity of this person in this moment is the action of
playing a sport. We also observe a time referent that says “right now”, this can also help
us to determine the kind of activity.
On the other hand, in this tense the activity indicates an action that is repeated during a
period of time in the present. The rule says that you need to use the verb after the
subject and in the case of the third person singular you need to add an “s” or “es” to the
verb as in: She (sees), He (plays), It (goes), etc. Remember to check the rules to add
these endings to the different verbs.
We have for instance this:
Those people work from Monday to Friday.
My best friend studies at home every day.
Here the activities indicate that the action happens day after day like a routine.
Besides we can use the present tense with verbs that does not show action or the ones
called non-action verbs. These ones are for example: want, like, know, etc. For example
if you say:
They like soccer very much.
Bob wants the red shirt.
The activities here show that the people have these feelings about something in
particular and these cases soccer and shirt. But these verbs can not be used for instance
They are liking soccer very much.
Bob is wanting the red shirt.
The examples are not correct because in the continuous tense the non-action verbs are
As well in the present we can narrate a story that happened in the past, but be careful
because sometimes people can misunderstand the situation.
George says: Maria tells me about her family in Spain – she misses them a lot; we go to
my house and have the idea of calling them there and finally she talks to them.
The rule here says that we use a verb in the past after the subject, remember to consider
that there are regular and irregular verbs. We use this tense to say that the action
happened some time ago and the activity finished at that time. For instance:
Robert gave a present to his mom.
This action happened only once and finished in that moment.
We also can see next a time referent that indicates the past, for example:
They traveled to Quito yesterday.
The word yesterday is the referent, as well we can use other referents like: in 1995, last
week, two years ago, the day before yesterday, etc.
This tense indicates that the actions of the activity started in the past and has duration in
time until the moment that we are speaking, for example:
My brother has gone to New York.
As you observe we use this tense to express that something happened in the past but this
idea does not say the time in which that situation occurred. In the example, that person
went to New York, we do not know when but it happened. As well, this person - in the
future - can continue going to New York; so use this tense in the present to refer to
something that happened in the past and might continue in the future.
Let’s see other examples:
Those people have played soccer for 4 years.
Here you see the use of this tense with the preposition FOR; this indicates that During
this time these people have this habit, they may continue in the future.
Bob has studied French since 1998.
Now, we have an action that indicates that this person has this habit which started in
that year and here we use since; this refers to a static time or starting point in the past
from which something begins.
Also with this tense we can use words such as: already, yet, just, recently and lately.
I have already done my homework.
She’s not seen that movie yet.
They have just gone to the movies.
Present Perfect Continuous
This tense explains that an action started in the past and continues to the present, to the
moment in which the speaker is talking. For example:
Sofia has been living in France during one year.
One of the most common ways to talk about the future is with will, for example: I will
call you tonight. We often call this the "future simple tense", but technically there are no
future tenses in English. In this construction, the word will is a modal auxiliary verb.
Here are the three main ways that we use will to talk about the future.
We use will when there is no prior plan or decision to do something before we speak.
We make the decision at the time of speaking. Look at these examples:
• Hold on. I'll get a pen.
• We will see what we can do to help you.
• Maybe we'll stay in and watch television tonight.
In these examples, we had no firm plan before speaking. The decision was made at
the time of speaking.
We often use will with the verb think:
• I think I'll go to the gym tomorrow.
• I think I'll have a holiday next year.
• I don't think I'll buy that car.
We often use will to make a prediction about the future. Again, there is no firm plan.
We are saying what we think will happen. Here are some examples:
• It will rain tomorrow.
• People won't go to Jupiter before the 22nd century.
• Who do you think will get the job?
The verb be is an exception with will. Even when we have a very firm plan, and we are
not speaking spontaneously, we can use will with be. Look at these examples:
• I will be in London tomorrow.
• There will be 50 people at the party.
• The meeting will be at 9.30 am.
The verb be is always exceptional!
We use the special going to construction when we have the intention to do something
before we speak. We have already made a decision before speaking. Look at these
• I have won $1,000. I am going to buy a new TV.
• We're not going to see my mother tomorrow.
• When are you going to go on holiday?
In these examples, we had an intention or plan before speaking. The decision was
made before we spoke.
We often use going to to make a prediction about the future. Our prediction is based on
evidence. We are saying what seems sure to happen. Here are some examples:
• The sky is very black. It is going to snow.
• It's 8.30! You're going to miss the train!
• I crashed the company car. My boss isn't going to be very happy!
In these examples, the present situation (black sky/the time/damaged car) gives us a
good idea of what is going to happen.
A tag question is a special construction in English. It is a statement followed by a mini-
question. The whole sentence is a "tag question", and the mini-question at the end is
called a "question tag".
We use tag questions at the end of statements to ask for confirmation. They mean
something like: "Am I right?" or "Do you agree?" They are very common in English.
The basic structure is:
Positive statement, negative tag?
Snow is white, isn't it?
Negative statement, positive tag?
You don't like me, do you?
Look at these examples with positive statements:
positive statement [+] negative tag [-] notes:
subject auxiliary auxiliary not
verb (same as
You are coming, are n't you?
We have finished, have n't we?
You do like coffee, do n't you?
You like coffee, do n't you? You (do) like...
They will help, wo n't they? won't = will not
I can come, can 't I?
We must go, must n't we?
He should try harder, should n't he?
You are English, are n't you? no auxiliary for
main verb be
John was there, was n't he? present & past
Look at these examples with negative statements:
negative statement [-] positive tag [+]
subject auxiliary main verb auxiliary pronoun
(same as subject)
It is n't raining, is it?
We have never seen that, have we?
You do n't like coffee, do you?
They will not help, will they?
They wo n't report us, will they?
I can never do it right, can I?
We must n't tell her, must we?
He should n't drive so fast, should he?
You are n't English, are you?
John was not there, was he?
Some special cases:
I am right, aren't I? aren't I (not amn't I)
You have to go, don't you? you (do) have to go...
I have been answering,
use first auxiliary
Nothing came in the post, did treat statements with nothing, nobody etc like negative
Let's go, shall we? let's = let us
He'd better do it, hadn't he? he had better (no auxiliary)
Here are some mixed examples:
• But you don't really love her, do you?
• This will work, won't it?
• Well, I couldn't help it, could I?
• But you'll tell me if she calls, won't you?
• We'd never have known, would we?
• The weather's bad, isn't it?
• You won't be late, will you?
• Nobody knows, do they?
Notice that we often use tag questions to ask for information or help, starting with a
negative statement. This is quite a friendly/polite way of making a request. For
example, instead of saying "Where is the police station?" (not very polite), or "Do you
know where the police station is?" (slightly more polite), we could say: "You wouldn't
know where the police station is, would you?" Here are some more examples:
• You don't know of any good jobs, do you?
• You couldn't help me with my homework, could you?
• You haven't got $10 to lend me, have you?
We can change the meaning of a tag question with the musical pitch of our voice. With
rising intonation, it sounds like a real question. But if our intonation falls, it sounds
more like a statement that doesn't require a real answer:
You don't know where my wallet is, do you? / rising real question
It's a beautiful view, isn't it? falling not a real question
Answers to tag questions
A question tag is the "mini-question" at the
end. A tag question is the whole sentence.
How do we answer a tag question? Often, we just say Yes or No. Sometimes we may
repeat the tag and reverse it (..., do they? Yes, they do). Be very careful about answering
tag questions. In some languages, an opposite system of answering is used, and non-
native English speakers sometimes answer in the wrong way. This can lead to a lot of
Answer a tag question according to the truth
of the situation. Your answer reflects the real
facts, not (necessarily) the question.
For example, everyone knows that snow is white. Look at these questions, and the
Snow is white, isn't it? Yes (it is). The answer is the
same in both cases -
because snow IS
Snow isn't white, is it? Yes it is! but notice the change of
stress when the answerer
does not agree with the
Snow is black, isn't it? No it isn't! The answer is the
same in both cases -
because snow IS
Snow isn't black, is it? No (it isn't).
In some languages, people answer a question like "Snow isn't black, is it?" with "Yes"
(meaning "Yes, I agree with you"). This is the wrong answer in English!
Here are some more examples, with correct answers:
• The moon goes round the earth, doesn't it? Yes, it does.
• The earth is bigger than the moon, isn't it? Yes.
• The earth is bigger than the sun, isn't it? No, it isn't!
• Asian people don't like rice, do they? Yes, they do!
• Elephants live in Europe, don't they? No, they don't!
• Men don't have babies, do they? No.
• The English alphabet doesn't have 40 letters, does it? No, it doesn't.
Question tags with imperatives
Sometimes we use question tags with imperatives (invitations, orders), but the sentence
remains an imperative and does not require a direct answer. We use won't for
invitations. We use can, can't, will, would for orders.
imperative + question tag notes:
invitation Take a seat, won't you? polite
Help me, can you? quite friendly
Help me, can't you? quite friendly (some irritation?)
order Close the door, would you? quite polite
Do it now, will you? less polite
Don't forget, will you? with negative imperatives only will is possible
Same-way question tags
Although the basic structure of tag questions is positive-negative or negative-positive, it
is sometime possible to use a positive-positive or negative-negative structure. We use
same-way question tags to express interest, surprise, anger etc, and not to make real
• So you're having a baby, are you? That's wonderful!
• She wants to marry him, does she? Some chance!
• So you think that's amusing, do you? Think again.
Negative-negative tag questions usually sound rather hostile:
• So you don't like my looks, don't you?
Verb + object + infinitive
There are a number of verbs that can take a direct object and to + infinitive.
Common examples are:
advise allow ask enable encourage force
invite order persuade remind tell warn
The lawyer advised me to read the contract carefully.
The negotiators persuaded the union to accept the pay deal.
The court ordered the company to pay compensation.
The fall in demand forced us to cut production
They invited me to speak at the conference.
Reporting what people say
Many of the words listed above can be used to report what people say
"Could you come back later?" he asked me.
He asked me to come back later.
The verb warn is usually used with not to do:
He said, "Don't put all your money in one company"
He warned me not to put all my money in one company.