HOW MANY TENSES IN ENGLISH ?

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As a learner of English, it is useful to think that there are three times in English; present, past and future.  These three times have 4 grammatical types: simple, continuous, perfect and perfect continuous.

ACTIVE TENSES SIMPLE CONTINUOUS PERFECT PERFECT CONTINUOUS
PRESENT PRESENT SIMPLE PRESENT CONTINUOUS PRESENT PERFECT PRESENT PERFECT CONTINUOUS
Example I work I'm working I've worked I've been working
PAST PAST SIMPLE PAST CONTINUOUS PAST PERFECT PAST PERFECT CONTINUOUS
Example I worked I was working I'd (had) worked I'd (had) been working
FUTURE SIMPLE CONTINUOUS PERFECT PERFECT CONTINUOUS
I will work I will be working I will have worked I will have been working

Thinking about time and tense in this way can make the tenses in English seem less confusing.  Once you understand the function of the Simple, Continuous, Perfect and Perfect Continuous Forms, you will find that the tenses in English really aren’t that complicated.  The continuous (also called the progressive) form is generally used for an unfinished or incomplete action in the past, present or future.  So, for example:

Present Continuous / Progressive: I am writing

Past Continuous / Progressive: I was writing (but didn’t finish my work).

Future Continous / Progressive: I will be writing (at this time tomorrow).

In this list, you will find 12 tenses.  The list is for learners of English rather than linguists.  In fact, nowadays, linguists argue that the English language has only 2 tenses: the present and past.   Unlike other languages, the future in English does not change the form of the verb itself and is therefore not a tense!

 

So, in answer to the question, ‘How many tenses in English?’.  Well, it really depends how you count them!

Learn more about the tenses in English