- 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.
- Future tense: things that will be true after the words are spoken or written.
- Example: She will go to school. In this sentence, will shows that it is a future tense.
Tense can be shown by changing the spelling of a verb. For example, be can become am, is, and are in present tense, and was and were in past tense. In English, future tense is shown by adding will before the verb. For example, be becomes will be in future tense.
Note: These tenses can be subdivided further (see below).
There are also different kinds of tense within each main tense. They are formed by adding "helping words" or "auxiliary words", such as be and have, before 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.
Other languages have different ways of showing tense. For example, Latin usually shows tense by changing the verb, like English. However, Chinese and Indonesian show tense by adding new words, instead of changing 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