Basic Tenses and Aspects

Tense/Aspect Basics

Basic Tenses and Aspects

How to Read this Chart

You can see three Tenses down on the left:

...and you see the four standard Aspects along the top:

Note also that two verb types are represented for each Tense/Aspect:

Finally, note the allowance for the "-s" associated with the 3rd person, singular, Simple Present ("writes" and "walks").

How to Use this Chart

This chart shows the correct forms for any tense and aspect.

Of course, you also need to know what the various tenses and aspects actually mean, but that's outside the scope of this short guide.

. Example ONE

Here's an example of a check for basic correctness. Consider this sentence:

*Bill walking his dog.

We can break this down into the standard Subject/Verb/Object structure:

Bill   walking   his dog
Subject Verb Object

Here's the important idea:

Looking at the Tense/Aspect chart, you can see that there is no Tense/Aspect which is "walking", all by itself.

So what would be the fix to the bad sentence shown above?

The -ing form of the verb (the Present Participle) is a progressive form. So assuming you do want a progressive sense, six forms are permitted. They're shaded in light green in the little chart on the right, and here's what happens if you use them to fix the sentence:

Present Progressive   Bill is walking his dog.
Past Progressive   Bill was walking his dog.
Future Progressive   Bill will be walking his dog.
Present Perfect Progressive   Bill has been walking his dog.
Past Perfect Progressive   Bill had been walking his dog.
Future Perfect Progressive   Bill will have been walking his dog.

Note, of course, that not all of these forms are desirable. You want to choose the right one; the one that best expresses what you want to say.

However, the above forms are grammatically correct.

. Example TWO

Take another example:

*Bill is walked his dog.

Again, let's break this down into the standard Subject/Verb/Object structure:

Bill   is walked   his dog
Subject Verb Object

If you look at the chart, you'll find there are four tense/aspects that use the -ed (Past Participle). The little chart on the right shows them shaded in light blue. Given that you do want to use a Past Participle, here's what the sentence looks like if you apply each of these four fixes:

Simple Past   Bill walked his dog.
Present Perfect   Bill has walked his dog.
Past Perfect   Bill had walked his dog.
Future Perfect   Bill will have walked his dog.

So now that you can tell which forms are correct, which one should you use? I'll give some ideas in another of these ClickFix pages.