Verb TenseUsing Verbs to Express Different Times
What is verb tense?Verb tense tells when an action happened: in the past, in the present, or in the future.Verbs change their form and use the helping verbs have or be to indicate different tenses. Present tense: Rick hikes every weekend. Past tense: He hiked ten miles last weekend. Future tense: He will hike again on Saturday.
Types of verbs Most verbs in English are regular verbs that follow standard rules about what endings to use to express time. Irregular verbs do not follow the regular pattern for endings.
Regular present-tense endings The present tense is used for actions that are happening at the same time that they are being written about (the present) and for things that happen all the time.Present-tense, regular verbs end either in –s, or they have no ending added.Use the –s ending when the subject is he, she, it, or the name of one person or thing. Use no ending for all other subjects.
Regular verbs in the present tense Singular PluralFirst person I jump We jumpSecond person You jump You jumpThird person She (he, it) jumps They jump The child jumps The children jump
Regular past-tense endingsThe past tense is used for actions that have already happened.An –ed ending is needed on all regular verbs in the past tense.
Present tense and past tense verb endings Present tense Past tenseFirst person I avoid her. I avoided her.Second person You help me. You helped me.Third person He walks fast. He walked fast.
Regular past-participle ending The past participle is a verb that is used with a helping verb, such as have.For all regular verbs, the past-participle form is the same as the past tense form. It uses an –ed ending. Past tense: I visited my cousins. Past participle: I have visited my cousins.
Irregular verbs Irregular verbs do not follow the regular pattern for endings. The following are some common irregular verbs: be, bring, do, get, give, go, have/has, make, say, see, speak, take, write.
Irregular verbsPresent tense Past tense Past participle (used with has/have)be (am/are/is) was/were beenbring brought broughtdo did doneget got gottengive gave givengo went gonehave/has had hadmake made made
More irregular verbsPresent tense Past tense Past participle (used with has/have)say said saidsee saw seenspeak spoke spokentake took takenwrite wrote writtencost cost costbegin began begunread read read
Present tense of two irregular verbsBe HaveI am We are I have You haveYou are You are You have You haveHe, she, it is They are He, she, it has They haveThe editor is The editors areBeth is Beth and Christina are
Irregular verbs in the past tense Irregular verbs do not use the –ed ending for the past-tense form. They show the past tense with a change in spelling or in some other way.
Irregular verbs in the past tensePresent tense Past tenseI begin today. I began yesterday.You sleep very soundly. You slept late this morning.I let the dog in today. I let the dog in yesterday.
The verb be, past tense The verb be is tricky because it has two different forms for the past tense: was and were. Singular PluralFirst person I was We wereSecond person You were You wereThird person He, she, it was They were The student was The students were
Irregular verbs in the past participle For irregular verbs, the past participle is often different from the past tense. It is difficult to predict how irregular verbs form the past participle. It may be helpful to refer to a chart or list of irregular past participles. Past tense Past participleRegular verb I walked home. I have walked home before.Irregular verb I drove home. I have driven home before.
Using past participlesA past participle, by itself, cannot be the main verb of a sentence.But when a past participle is combined with another verb, called a helping verb, it can be used to make the present perfect tense and the past perfect tense.
Have/has + past participle = present perfect tense The present perfect tense is used for an action that began in the past and either continues into the present or was completed at some unknown time in the past. Present perfect tense: My car has stalled several times recently. (This sentence says that the stalling began in the past but may continue into the present.) Past tense: My car stalled. (This sentence says that the car stalled once and that it’s over.)
Had + past participle = past perfect tense Use had plus the past participle to make the past perfect tense.The past perfect tense is used for an action that began in the past and ended before some other past action. Past perfect tense: My car had stalled several times before I called the mechanic. (This sentence says that both the stalling and calling the mechanic happened in the past, but the stalling happened before the calling.)
Be + past participle = passive voice A sentence that is written in the passive voice has a subject that does not perform an action. Instead, the subject is acted upon.To create the passive voice, combine a form of be with a past participle. Passive: The newspaper was thrown onto the porch. (The subject, newspaper, did not throw itself onto the porch. Some unidentified person threw the newspaper.)
Active voice Most sentences are written in the active voice, which means that the subject performs the action. Active: The delivery person threw the newspaper onto the porch. (The subject, delivery person, performed the action: he or she threw the newspaper.)
Passive vs. active voice Use the passive voice when no one person performed the action, when you don’t know who performed the action, or when you want to emphasize the receiver of the action.Do not overuse the passive voice. When you know who performed the action, it is usually preferable to identify the actor. Active: The bandleader chose Kelly to do a solo. Passive: Kelly was chosen to do a solo.(If you wanted to emphasize Kelly’s being chosen rather than the bandleader’s choice, you might decide to use the passive voice.)
Changing from active to passive voice He sent the payment over two weeks ago. First, identify the subject (he) and the verb (sent). Ask: What word in the sentence is receiving the action? Payment. Cross out the subject. Make the word that is receiving the action the subject by moving it to the beginning of the sentence. Add the correct form of the verb be in front of the main verb. You can either delete the performer of the action or put this information after the verb and the word by. The payment was sent two weeks ago by him.
Consistency of verb tense Consistency of verb tense means that all actions in a sentence that happen (or happened) at the same time are in the same tense. If all of the actions happen in the present or happen all the time, use the present tense for all verbs in the sentence. If all of the actions happened in the past, use the past tense for all verbs. When you edit your writing, make sure that any time a verb tense changes it is because the action the verb describes happened at a different time. Otherwise, the shift in tenses causes an inconsistency.
Consistency of verb tense Inconsistent: The movie started just as we take our seats. (The actions both happened at the same time, but started is in the past tense, and take is in the present tense.) Consistent, present tense: The movie starts just as we take our seats. (The actions and verb tenses are both in the present.) Consistent, past tense: The movie started just as we took our seats. (The actions started and took both happened in the past, and both are in the past tense.)