Published: Jul 27, 2023 | By: Lucas Weaver
I’ve asked many English learners over the years what the most challenging part of learning English for them is. Over 90% of people have told me the tenses.
It’s not a surprising answer. Especially given the fact that I’ve started almost every one of my English courses I’ve ever taught with teaching the English tenses.
But it’s also not surprising because learning the tenses can be quite difficult. Don’t believe any of the YouTube videos or blog posts promising you can “learn English tenses in 10 minutes”, or even 30.
These people need to look up the definition of “learn” before they start trying to teach other people.
“Learning” something doesn’t just mean hearing or seeing an explanation or new information. It’s an actual process in your brain that takes time for your brain to complete.
Those YouTube videos should change their titles to “Listen to me tell you what the tenses are for 30 minutes”, but I imagine that wouldn’t get them as many clicks for their channels.
Learning English tenses can certainly be a challenging task for many English learners. But it doesn’t have to be difficult.
My English teaching history is 100% with adult professionals.
Adult language learners learn languages differently than children, and it requires more effort when you’re past the age of 26 to learn new languages or improve your language skills in a language you already know.
The challenge all of my students have had in the past is that despite this need for more time and effort, they all had the same thing in common: they were all busy.
When you’re busy, you can’t afford to do things that don’t work or take more time than they should.
You need someone to tell you what works and how to do it so that you can do it as quickly as possible.
Here’s my definition of quick: spend the appropriate amount of time you need to actually learn the tenses and have the ability to use them without thinking.
Here’s my definition of easy: follow a step-by-step outline for learning the information and practicing it without having to do any extra effort or thinking. Just follow the plan and everything will fall in place.
So how can we put these two things together to make the process of learning the tenses quick and easy? Well, I’m so happy you asked 🙂
I created two courses called “Master the English Tenses” and “Master the English Tenses (Business English)”.
Each of these courses has 4 video lessons from 20-30 minutes explaining each tense fully, in a simple and easy-to-understand way.
I provide numerous real-world examples of the use of each tense and also explain the difference between each use.
Each lesson also has two online exercises and a quiz. It may sound like extra work, but I designed these exercises specifically for each tense to help you learn the material in a long-term way, so you can use the tenses correctly when you need them without thinking about them.
By the time you finish the quiz in each lesson, you will have a firm grasp of that tense before you move on to learning the next one.
I promise that if you take this course you will feel comfortable and confident using the English tenses when you finish.
And on top of that, I promise that you won’t spend any more time than you need learning them.
If you’re interested in learning more about the tenses in general and want an overview of what we’ll cover in the course, continue reading the rest of this post for a high-level overview of what each of the English tenses are and how they’re used.
One of the fundamental aspects of English grammar is understanding and using different tenses correctly. Tenses help us express actions in different time frames, allowing effective communication with others.
English verb tenses not only convey the timing of an action but also influence the overall meaning of a sentence. For instance, using the present tense implies current actions, while the past tense refers to actions that have already occurred.
The simple present tense is used to describe routine activities, general truths, and permanent situations. It is formed by using the base form of the verb and adding 's' or 'es' for third-person singular subjects.
The present continuous tense is used to describe actions that are happening at the moment of speaking. It is formed with the present tense of the verb 'to be' (am, is, are) and the present participle of the main verb.
The present perfect tense is used to talk about past actions with a connection to the present. It is formed using the present tense of the verb 'to have' and the past participle of the main verb.
The present perfect continuous tense is used to describe actions that started in the past and are still continuing. It is formed using the present perfect tense of the verb 'to have' and the present participle of the main verb.
The simple past tense is used in the English language to describe completed actions in the past. It is formed by using the past form of the verb.
The past continuous tense is used to describe actions that were ongoing in the past at a specific moment. It is formed with the past tense of the verb 'to be' (was, were) and the present participle of the main verb.
The past perfect tense is used to talk about an action that happened before another action in the past. It is formed using the past tense of the verb 'to have' and the past participle of the main verb.
The past perfect continuous tense is used to describe ongoing actions that were completed before a certain point in the past. It is formed using the past perfect tense of the verb 'to have' and the present participle of the main verb.
The simple future tense is used to describe actions that will happen in the future. It is formed by using 'will' or 'shall' before the base form of the verb.
The future continuous tense is used to describe actions that will be happening at a specific time in the future. It is formed with 'will be' and the present participle of the main verb.
The future perfect tense is used to talk about actions that will be completed before a specific point in the future. It is formed using 'will have' and the past participle of the main verb.
The future perfect continuous tense is used to describe ongoing actions that will be completed before a certain time in the future. It is formed using 'will have been' and the present participle of the main verb.
Learning the tenses requires practice, and the key is to make it a regular part of your routine. Dedicate a few minutes each day to review and practice different tenses. You can start with simple exercises and gradually progress to more complex ones.
Consistency is crucial, as it helps reinforce your understanding and familiarity with the tenses over time.
Flashcards are a handy tool to help you memorize verb forms for each tense. On one side, write the tense or the sentence context, and on the other side, the correct verb form. Quiz yourself regularly using the flashcards to reinforce your memory and grasp the appropriate verb usage for each tense.
Take advantage of the many online resources and mobile apps available for learning the tenses in English interactively. These resources often offer quizzes, exercises, and games to engage you actively in practicing the tenses. They can make the learning process more enjoyable and effective while catering to various learning styles.
Applying what you learn in real-life situations is essential for mastering English tenses. Engage in conversations with native speakers or language exchange partners to put the tenses into practice.
The more you use them in real-life scenarios, the more natural they'll become in your speech and writing. Don't be afraid to make mistakes; learning from them will only enhance your understanding of the tenses.
Confusing present and past tenses: One common mistake to avoid is mixing up present and past tenses. Pay close attention to the time frame of your sentence. Use the present tense for actions happening now or regularly, and the past tense for actions that occurred in the past. Keep in mind that clear communication relies on using the appropriate tense to convey the correct timeframe of events.
Irregular verbs can be tricky, but it's essential to learn their various forms in different tenses. Unlike regular verbs, irregular ones don't follow the standard pattern, so memorization is key. Regular practice with irregular verbs in different tenses will help you use them accurately and confidently in your writing and conversations.
Context is vital in choosing the right tense. Consider the situation, time, and sequence of events before selecting a tense. Different tenses convey different meanings, so being mindful of the context will prevent misunderstandings. Be clear about whether you're discussing past, present, or future events to ensure your tenses align with the intended message.
To reinforce your understanding of tenses in English, here are some valuable exercises to try. Write short paragraphs about your daily routine, using various tenses to describe different activities.
Create a dialogue between two people discussing past experiences, present situations, and future plans. Additionally, take existing texts and rewrite them in different tenses to practice transforming sentences effectively. Regularly practicing these exercises will improve your command of English tenses and boost your overall language proficiency.
To reinforce your understanding of English tenses, here are a few exercises to try:
Fill in the Blank: Complete sentences with the correct tense. For example, you can have a worksheet testing your knowledge of the past simple vs the past continuous, or one testing continuous tenses vs perfect tenses.
Conversational Practice: Engage in role-play using various tenses.
Narrative Writing: Create a short story using different tenses.
Immersive Learning with English Media: Immerse yourself in English media like movies, TV shows, and podcasts. This exposure will familiarize you with natural language usage.
Seeking Support from Language Partners: Finding language partners or joining language exchange programs can provide valuable opportunities to practice English tenses with native speakers.
Learning the tenses is vital for effective communication and fluency in English. By understanding the nuances of each tense and practicing regularly, you can confidently express yourself in various situations.
It shouldn’t surprise you that I’m going to mention my online English course for “Mastering the Tenses” once again. Why wouldn’t I? I created it myself to make sure that the students I teach can learn the tenses as quickly and easily as possible.
Do yourself a favor and make sure to check it out.
Yes, understanding all English tenses is crucial for expressing yourself accurately and comprehending others in different contexts.
Create a list of irregular verbs and practice their past forms regularly. Use them in sentences to reinforce your memory.
Using tenses interchangeably can lead to confusion or miscommunication. It's essential to use the appropriate tense based on the context.
While there are no magic shortcuts, consistent practice, and immersive learning can expedite the learning process.
Engage in regular conversations with native speakers or language partners. Practice using different tenses in real-life situations.
Lucas Weaver founded The Weaver School in 2016. He's passionate about using the latest learnings in neuroscience and education to create the best language learning experience possible for our students, so they can quickly build effective language learning habits that will last for years. Lucas is a graduate of Texas A&M University and after 7 years of living in the Netherlands, he is currently traveling through Southeast Asia while learning their languages along the way.