- Present tense: things that are true when the words are spoken or written.
- Example: She goes to school. In this sentence, goes shows that it is a present tense. It suggests that she regularly goes to school.
- Example: She is going to school. This says she is now going to school.
- Past tense: things that were true before the words were spoken or written.
- Example: She went to school. In this sentence, went shows that it is a past tense.
Tense is sometimes shown by changing the form of a verb, and sometimes by adding a helping verb. For example, be can become am, is, and are in present tense, and was and were in past tense.
Linguists generally say that English does not have a future tense. In English, the future is shown by adding will before the verb. For example, be becomes will be.
Note:These tenses can be subdivided further (see below).
There are also different kinds of tense within each main tense. In English, these are formed by adding "helping verbs" or "auxiliary verbs", such as be and have, before the verb, as well as changing the form of the verb. For example, I give, I have given, I am giving, and I have been giving are all in present tense, but have different meanings. This is called aspect.
Different languages have different ways of showing tense. For example, Latin usually shows tense by changing the form of the verb. Chinese and Indonesian show tense by adding additional words to the verb.
- Concise Oxford Dictionary, 9th ed, p1436.
- Crystal, David 1995. The Cambridge encyclopedia of the English language, p225: 'Aspects'. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-40179-8