Learn English Tenses: An Intermediate Course

English tenses are one of the most difficult aspects of learning English. In these English lessons you will learn the function of each tense, as well as when it is used.

Present simple and continuous tenses

The first two English tenses to compare are present simple and present continuous. Here is an intermediate lesson which explains the difference. The most important thing to remember is that we use present simple for things which happen regularly (I start school at 9:00 am), and present continuous for things which are happening now (At the moment, I am teaching you English). Please pay attention to ‘state verbs’, and remember that we can only use them in simple forms.

And here is a quiz which will test how much you have learned from the lesson

PRESENT SIMPLE AND CONTINUOUS EXERCISE 

Past simple and continuous tenses

Now let’s look at the same two aspects, but in the past. Here, we should remember that past simple is always finished. We often use it when we say ‘when’ something in the past happened. For example ‘I went to bed at 7:00pm. Past continuous is an unfinished action. We use it when a process was interrupted by another action, or it was unfinished at that moment in time. For instance ‘at 7:30, I was sleeping’

And here is another quiz. Check that you understand!

PAST SIMPLE AND CONTINUOUS

 

Summary of all English tenses

We should remember that there are 3 forms of time: the past, present and future. And each form of time has 4 aspects (simple, continuous, perfect simple and perfect continuous). Here is a lesson which deals with all 12 tenses. I think it helps to have a brief glance at all of them, before we deal with each tense in detail.

And here is a table which summarizes the tenses

ASPECT/TIME PAST PRESENT FUTURE
Simple (finished action) went to bed at 17:00 eat breakfast every day at 8:00 I’ll come with you later
Continuous (unfinished action) was waiting for the bus when the phone rang You are studying English at the moment When you arrive at the airport  I’ll be waiting for you
Perfect simple (action completed before another moment)  He told me he had studied it at university Have you already had your exam? Will you have finished your homework before the weekend?
Perfect continuous (duration before another moment) He told me he had been waiting for 30 minutes How long have you been waiting? By the time you are 70, how long will you have been studying English?

All the present tenses

Now, we need to look at all four aspects of the present tense in greater detail. Please remember signal words for perfect simple and continuous (yet, already, just, for, since, ever, never, how long, recently, so far, etc…). They will make it much easier to become fluent in using these difficult tenses.

ALL PRESENT TENSES EXERCISE

All the past tenses

 Now let’s turn to the past tenses. I hope you will see that the 4 present tenses are related to the 4 past tenses. The main thing to remember is that past perfect simple is for when we speak about an action which is earlier than another moment. We often need it when we report speech. For example, ‘he said that he had never been abroad’. Use the continuous form when you want to stress duration. Never use the continuous form for state verbs.

ALL PAST TENSES EXERCISE

The perfect tenses

So, what do the past perfect tenses and the present perfect tenses have in common? Well, they function the same in both past and present. I hope this lesson will make this very clear. Also, what are the main differences between perfect simple (have done) and perfect continuous (have been doing)? Perfect simple focuses on the result, while perfect continuous focuses on the duration.

PERFECT TENSES EXERCISE

The future tenses

Now, to finish our journey through English tenses, we must meet the future tenses, which I feel are easier than past and present. Please remember to use the perfect aspects with ‘by + time expression’. For example ‘by the end of the week, I will have finished my homework’.

ALL FUTURE TENSES EXERCISE

Why not practise your fluency with my TV show lessons?

Learn English online with Father Ted: intermediate level
Learn English online with IT Crowd: intermediate level
Learn English online with Sherlock (UK): upper intermediate level
Learn English online with Sherlock (UK): advanced level
Learn English online with Willy Fogg: pre intermediate level

 

Revise your tenses

You won’t improve, unless you constantly practise using sentences in all the different tenses. Practical examples and advice are offered in the following videos. Firstly, a general reminder of how to use all the tenses:

How to use present perfect tense

Now refresh your understanding of the present perfect tenses. Don’t forget to answer my questions to activate the grammatical construction.

How to use past perfect tense

And lastly, revise how to use the past perfect tense with the following advice.

 

Please test your tenses with the following exercises:

PRESENT SIMPLE AND CONTINUOUS EXERCISE 

PAST SIMPLE AND CONTINUOUS

ALL PRESENT TENSES EXERCISE

ALL PAST TENSES EXERCISE

PERFECT TENSES EXERCISE

ALL FUTURE TENSES EXERCISE

PAST SIMPLE IRREGULAR

PAST SIMPLE V PRESENT PERFECT