Entries Tagged as 'Verb Tenses'

The Present Perfect Tense and Having Experience

When you use the perfect perfect tense, one of the meanings implied is that you have experience.

Example:  I have driven a stick shift. 

In this sentence, you imply that in all your driving experience, you can include driving a stick shift.

Keep this in mind when if you say, “I have had experience driving a stick shift.”  If you’re interviewing for a job where the experience required includes driving a stick shift, such as a valet, using the present perfect with the word “experience” is fine.

In other contexts, however, you can just use the present perfect.

Forming the Past Simple – a quick reminder

When you form the past simple, typically you add an -ed to regular verbs.  However, it might be worth it to spend time reviewing irregular verbs because many common verbs are irregular (eat, sleep, drink, be, see, hear, etc.).

When you use the auxiliary to form the negative in the past, or to ask a question in the past, use “do” in the past:  did.  With the auxiliary (did) in a question or negative, go back to the base form of the main verb.  Because you’re using “do” in the past, you don’t need the main verb in the past.

Here are some examples:

  • incorrect:  didn’t found (did + find in the past)
  • correct: didn’t find
  • incorrect:  didn’t called (did + call in the past)
  • correct:  didn’t call

See or Watch: It’s a stative thing

Whether to use see or watch is another question regarding stative or active verbs.

See in the stative form (meaning it can’t be progressive) refers to a mental rather than a deliberate activity, such as experiencing the sense of sight (I see the monument every day on my way to work), or declare understanding (Do you see what I mean?).

You can use see in the active form (meaning it can be progressive), when you are referring to a meeting or appointment that is organized at a set time (such as noon tomorrow, or later this evening).

What to do: When you feel like using see in the active form, ask yourself if the action takes place at a set time. If so, go ahead and use any verb tense that fits your meaning. If the action is deliberate, using watch is better.

Look at these examples:

  • We’re seeing a movie tonight. (correct)
  • We saw a movie last night. (correct)
  • We watched a movie last night. (correct)
  • While we were watching a movie, we heard a noise from the kitchen. (correct)
  • While we were seeing a scary movie, we heard a noise from the kitchen. (incorrect)

One more example might help.   Sally is seeing Tommy.  This means they have had several meetings with possible romantic intentions.   They are dating each other.  If you say, “Sally is watching Tommy,” that would be creepy.

The -ing Ending: Gerund or Present Participle?

You may notice that -ing appears after verbs sometimes.  When the -ing is affixed to a verb, the verb is in a progressive form if the verb to be is also used.  This -ing form is called the present participle.

Sometimes the -ing ending appears after a verb, but the verb to be doesn’t appear in the sentence.  This is one way you can identify the difference between a progressive verb tense and a gerund.  Gerunds look like verbs, but they function as nouns.

Which of these sentences contain the gerund?

a) I like eating.

b) I am eating.

Sentence A contains the gerund.  Sentence B contains the verb to be (am) before the -ing form.  Now you try:

  • Why is the microwave oven glowing?  Are you cooking something?
  • Cooking at home instead of eating out is a good way to save money.

Activity: Past Simple vs. Past Progressive

Here’s an activity you can use to practice the difference between the Past Simple and the Past Progressive.  Remember: use the past simple if the action happened once in the past;  use the past progressive if the action happened over a period of time in the past.

Past Simple and the Past Progressive

This activity is also available in PDF.

An all around good tool for English learners

I have always interpreted this song as it might pertain to students learning English, especially the younger ones.

I am posting this song for those of us who need an uplifting start to one of the last weekends of summer as the new school year looms in the near distance.  Sometimes you have a blank page before you, but you have an assignment to complete.  Where does your inspiration come from?

Open up the dirty window, feel the rain on your skin…are just a few of the suggestions from Natasha Bedingfield as she explains that this upcoming year or school year is the beginning of whatever you want your life to be.

If you like studying English in non-traditional ways, I recommend going back to the lyrics of the song and listen for the variety of verb tenses presented here.  How many can you hear?  The song also contains the passive voice, complex sentences, and English phrases that you adopt as your own:

  • Can’t read my mind
  • I’m just beginning
  • Staring at the…
  • Open up the…
  • Reaching for…
  • in the distance
  • So close…
  • you can almost…
  • No one else can …
  • Only you can…
  • The rest is…

If you really want to challenge yourself, go back and read the lyrics and count the missing apostrophes!

Have a great weekend!

Future Tense Activity: “will”

In my experience, it’s always been easier to teach the future with will after a couple of grueling semesters of drilling irregular past forms and mastering the verb to be with the present participle for the present progressive.  The ease of this verb tense is a welcome change.

Learning the future with will is like a vacation!  So, as summer comes to an end, and you think about your future classes, here’s an activity to help you practice changing verbs from the present simple tense to the future tense.

Future Tense Activity: will

Present Perfect Progressive ESL Activity

Although it’s not the most frequently studied verb tenses, the present perfect progressive is used quite frequently in speech.

It is used to describe the beginning of an ongoing action in the past that is continuing now and will continue into the future.  Here is an activity to help you recognize how it is used in everyday speech.

Past Simple or Past Progressive? ESL Activity

When deciding whether to use the past simple or the past progressive, consider this:

The past simple is used to describe an action that happened once and now it’s finished.  The past progressive describes an ongoing action in the past that is now finished.

Read this dialogue and decide which verb tense fits the context better:

Past Simple vs. Past Progressive

This activity is also available in PDF.

Now or Later? Activity with the Present Progressive

Students learning English tend to use only will or going to to express the future, but did you know that the present progressive can also be used to express events in the near future?

The present progressive form of the verb (to be + ___-ing) stays the same;  all you have to do is add context, and you’re finished!  Until you get comfortable using the present progressive to express the future, you can become familiar with the form and meaning with this activity:

This activity is also available on a combined PDF document.