Issuu on Google+

COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUES- I ENGLISH GRAMMAR 3. TENSES (PART 1) After having completed lessons one and two you will now be learning about various tenses in this lesson and in lesson 4. You will see how the correct use of tenses increases understanding. We have given many examples to support the theory along with exercises to make you practice applying what you have learnt.


Objectives By the end of this lesson you will:


Identify the Simple Present, Present Continuous, Present Perfect, Present Perfect Continuous, Simple Past, Past Continuous, Past Perfect, Past Perfect Continuous Tenses in written and spoken language ii. Correctly use the appropriate tense in spoken and written language


Introduction Tense is a term or expression which tells about the time or in other words when the action in a verb happens. All the principles or rules discussed in each variation of a Tense would be applicable to all the tenses except, of course, the form of the verb/auxiliary would change according to the tense it is used in. It is suggested that you should be conscious of the usage of the topics covered in this unit and try to apply them immediately. Encourage people who are comfortable with the language to interact with you in English. They will automatically help you correct yourself. Do not be afraid of speaking in English.


Present Tense The present tense refers to the form that verbs take when we talk of an action that takes place in the present time. In Present Tense we use only Auxiliary cum verbs that apply to ‘now’. The auxiliary cum verbs are ‘is’, ‘am’, ‘are’, ‘has’, ‘have’. Examples: 1

I am late. She is tall. We are hungry. I have a scooter.

Or Or Or Or Or He has a home theatre. Or Or

I am not late. She is not tall. We are not hungry. I have no scooter. I haven’t a scooter. He hasn’t a home theatre. He has no home theatre.

In the examples given above, you will observe that the auxiliary cum verbs can be used in an affirmative way or in a negative way where the word ‘no’ or ‘n’t’ come after the verb.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.


Let us look at some examples in question and answer form to understand the use of auxiliary cum verbs in present tense. Q. Where are you? A. I am at home. Q. Are you angry? A. I am not angry. Q. Where are Ramesh and Anand? A. Ramesh and Anand are in Delhi. Q. Why is Sunita unhappy? A. Sunita is unhappy because she is sick. Q. Has Ramesh any books? A. Ramesh has some books. Q. Have you any fear of snakes? A. I haven’t any fear of snakes. Or I have no fear of snakes.

Simple Present Tense Simple Present Tense is used in the following manner:

1. 2. 3. 4.

to state a thing that happens regularly to talk about permanent situations to state a fact or theory to talk about a pattern of habits Examples:

1. 2. 3. 4.

She goes to bed at 9.00 p.m. We live in Chennai. The sun rises in the east. She goes for a walk every morning. As you may have observed, the structure of the verbs would be as follows:

1. to indicate a positive action ------ verb or verb + ….s (or + es if the verb is go) 2. to indicate a negative action--------- do/does not + verb 3. to indicate a question ------- do/does ……+ verb 2

More examples of simple present tense: 1. She works in a bank. (verb + ….s) 2. She does not work in a bank. (does not + verb) 3. Does she work in a bank? (do/does ……+ verb)


Present Continuous Tense The present continuous tense relates to an action that is happening now. Present continuous tense describes an action that talks about:

1. 2. 3. 4.

the present moment an action that has begun but not finished a changing situation an action that is temporary ___ here we use words like ‘now’, ‘at the moment’, ‘at present’, or ‘just’ which follow the verb either immediately or after the object.

Examples: The following examples are based on the rules given above: 1. I am wearing a coat. 2. I am drinking Coca Cola. 3. The kids are becoming naughty. 4. You are always making fun of me. 5. I am always missing the bus. 6. She is eating now. 7. She is recovering at present. 8. We are not going to the function. 9. She is not returning to India. 10. Am I looking tired? You would have observed that the structure of the verbs is as follows: 1. to indicate a positive action : am/is/are + verb + ing e.g.: I am going. 2. to indicate a negative action: am not/is not/are not + verb + ing e.g.: I am not going. 3. to indicate a question: am/is/are +verb + ing e.g.: Am I going?


Present Perfect Tense Present Perfect Tense is basically a combination of the present and the past tenses. Some examples will illustrate what we mean by this. Look at the following sentences.


1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

I have completed my homework. She has gone to Delhi. Ratan has written the letter. They have shifted to Chennai. The train has arrived on time. When you study the italicised words you will find that the auxiliaries i.e. ‘have’ and ‘has’ (or their negative forms ‘haven’t and hasn’t) are in the present tense while the verbs are in the past tense. Another feature is that the auxiliary and the verb have to go together while forming the sentence. However, the correct form of the verb in the past tense has great significance as we shall see in the coming paragraphs. Let us take a closer look at the verbs, in the past tense, used in these sentences and write them in their present tense form. Present Perfect Tense Form

Present Tense Form

have completed


has gone


has written


have shifted


has arrived


Now, we can make another interesting observation. The actual past tense form of the verbs a) ‘go’ and b) ‘write’ should be a) ‘went’ and b) ‘wrote’. In that case what definition can we give to the words ‘gone’ and ‘written’? Such words are called past participle which is another form of the verb. Now we can understand the significance of the correct form of the verb we were talking about earlier. Thus a verb has a present form, a past form and also a past participle form. It is therefore necessary to learn all the three forms of the verb. But then, verbs like complete, shift and reach are those whose past form and past participle forms are one and the same. The spelling also does not require much effort as the past tense and past participle is formed by adding ‘ed’ or‘d’ or to the present tense form. In present perfect tense therefore, the auxiliary should be followed by the Past Participle. It is therefore absolutely necessary for us to know all the three forms of many verbs so that they are used correctly. This can be done through practice i.e. reading, writing and listening. A few verbs which have a distinct past participle form are given below.


eat bite shake

eaten (the past form is ‘ate’) bitten (the past form is ‘bit’) shaken (the past form is ‘shook’)

There are many such verbs in the English language where the spelling and pronunciation differ in all the three forms. They are called irregular verbs. You learnt about irregular verbs in Lesson two. Do remember to go through the list regularly. The more you read the words, the more familiar you will get with them and then you will start becoming aware of them as you listen and speak the English language. There are many irregular verbs in the English language and you will need to go through them and remember them. There are also some verbs which have the same form whether they are in the present or past tenses or past participle; e.g. read, shed, spread, put, cut. There are some more such verbs and again you will need to go through them and remember them. Let us now rework the examples given at the beginning this section, to form questions. The examples are already in the form of answers in the affirmative. Q.1. Q.2. Q.3. Q.4. Q.5.

Have you completed your homework? Has she gone to Delhi? Has Ratan written the letter? Have they shifted to Chennai? Has the train arrived on time?

In case the answers are to be given in the negative, the auxiliary ‘have’ and ‘has’ will be followed by ‘not’ or the auxiliaries will be written as haven’t or hasn’t.Also, the past participle will not immediately follow the auxiliary. Note how these questions are answered in the negative:A.1. A.2. A.3. A.4. A.5.

No, I have not completed my homework. No, she has not gone to Delhi. No, Ratan has not written the letter No, they have not shifted to Chennai? No, the train has not arrived on time.

Thus, we can see that the present perfect tense tells about: 1. an action completed very recently, even a few minutes back 2. an action completed where we don’t know when it happened.


Present Perfect Continuous Tense Present perfect continuous tense is basically a combination of the past tense and the present continuous tense. Let us examine the following sentences to try and understand what present perfect continuous tense actually relates to and how it is used. 5

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Hansa has been learning music. Has Hansa been learning music? Hansa has not (hasn’t) been learning music. I have been cooking dinner. Rajesh and Vinod have been studying for the examinations. When we look closely at the structure of the sentences, we find that the auxiliaries are, ‘has been’ and ‘have been’ which are used together except when a question is being is asked. The auxiliary is also followed by the present form of the verb whose basic form is changed by adding ‘ing’. The sentences would also indicate to us that present perfect continuous tense would apply to actions which have:

1. started in the past and which are still continuing 2. which were completed recently where we want to focus on the time taken for completion of the actions.


Past Tense Just as present tense talks of something that is happening now, past tense gives information of something that has already taken place, that is, in the time relating to the past. The verb forms in past tense are ‘was’, ‘were’ and ‘had’. Examples:

Hema was sick last month. The friends were happy. The family had a problem last year. The same examples if written in a negative form are as follows: 1. Hema was not (or wasn’t) sick last month. 2. The friends were not (or weren’t) happy. 3. The family had no (or hadn’t any) problem last year. When the word ‘never’ is used to give a negative answer, the tone becomes strong or emphatic. Let us rewrite the examples in emphatic mode. Hema was never sick last month. The friends were never happy. The family never had a problem last year.



Simple Past Tense

We use past simple tense when we talk of an action or activity completed in the past. The rules for simple past tense are: Affirmative: Negative: Interrogative:

verb + ed did not + verb did + verb?

e.g. e.g. e.g.

I reached at night. I did not eat food. Did you eat food?

Past Form of Verbs All verbs will not acquire past form merely by adding ‘-ed’. There are many verbs that are different in form in the simple past tense. You will once again need to refer to the list of Irregular Verbs in Lesson Two. Here are some to help you remember what we are talking about. Present form write ride sleep throw leave read shake do go become meet

Past form wrote rode slept threw left read shook did went became met

There are many more verbs like those mentioned above. It will help if you do a lot of reading of stories/passages/English newspapers and magazines in order to familiarize yourself with past forms of such verbs for use in sentences. Tenses in Conversation Let us look at a conversation between a father and son, using the various forms of the past tense we have learnt till now. Sample Conversation Father:

Where were you last night, Mohit? I was awake till 10.00 pm.


Dad, I went to Rahul’s house. We were studying till late night. I then ate my dinner and slept at his place. I had informed Mummy over the phone at around 10.30 pm.


I hope you answered the mathematics paper well. Last time, you assured me of a better performance.


I did well, Dad. I had prepared well this time. Last time I was also not keeping good health.




I told your teacher about the problem. I was worried about you.


Don’t get worried, Dad. I was taking extra precautions to ensure I didn’t get sick this time.


Good. Do well.

Present Continuous Tense When an action or activity had begun, continued for some time and completed in the past, it refers to the past continuous tense. The rules for formation of verbs in the past continuous tense are: Affirmative: was/were + verb + ing They were eating.

e.g. I was eating


e.g. She was not eating.

was not/were not + verb + ing They were not eating.

Interrogative: was/were……. + verb + ing?

e.g. Was she eating? Were they eating?

Let us now examine more examples of structure of sentences in past continuous tense. 1. Rajesh was running very fast. 2. The boys were working hard for their exams. 3. Where was Radha teaching? 4. Radha was teaching in college. 5. Radha wasn’t (or was not) teaching in college. 6. Was John playing for India? 7. Were the boys working hard for their exams? 8. John was playing for India. 9. Wasn’t Jim playing with his friends? 10. Jim was playing with his friends. 11. Weren’t they working in a restaurant? 12. They weren’t (or were not) running a restaurant.

3.10 Past Perfect Tense Past Perfect Tense basically relates to… 1. an action that started and completed in the past (the definition sounds similar to simple past tense) e.g: She had (or hadn’t) reached Delhi. Ratan had (or hadn’t) written the letter 2. two actions that occurred in the past- (one earlier than the other) e.g: By the time we discovered the theft, the criminal had (or hadn’t) escaped. 8

When she arrived at the airport, she found the flight had (or hadn’t) departed. 3. indirect speech (also known as reported speech) where we report what someone had already said (in present perfect tense) e.g: Radha said that she had (or hadn’t) tasted Mexican food. Akshay said that he has (or hasn’t) always disliked cold weather Radha said, “I have (or have not) tasted Mexican food.” Akshay said, “I have (or have not) always disliked cold weather.” 4. a situation where we seek a confirmation of an action of the past.(This goes with the ‘tag-along” questions as you learnt in Lesson Two.) e.g: Ram had (or hadn’t) gone abroad, hadn’t (or had) he? The children had (or hadn’t) watched a movie, hadn’t (or had) they?

3.11 Past Perfect Continuous Tense The past perfect continuous tense is very similar to the past perfect tense, except that there is more importance given to the continuous aspect of the action. The construction of the sentence should be as follows: The subject followed by 1. the auxiliary ‘had been’ (either in positive or negative form) and 2. the verb form in simple present tense + ‘ing’ Please go through the following examples (the negative forms of the auxiliary are used in the same way as in past perfect tense). 1. She had been studying the whole afternoon, so she decided to go for a movie in the evening. 2. Ram had been working very hard in his new job. Yet, he got fired. 3. Sita had been suffering from health problems for a long time. 4. Margaret hadn’t been keeping well for the whole year before she passed away. 5. Usha had been cooking the whole afternoon, hadn’t she? Exercise in Conversation Two friends are discussing the wedding of their friend Usha. One of them was unable to go to the wedding. Read the following sample conversation. Understand how the past perfect and past perfect continuous tense is used by paying close attention to the underlined words. Sample Conversation Hema:

Gita, I didn’t see you at Usha’s wedding! She had sent you the invitation, hadn’t she?



Hema, I had been suffering from fever for a long time. Do tell me about the wedding celebrations.


Well, the venue had been decorated in a very grand and beautiful manner. I believe that the work had been entrusted to an event manager. Rohan Mehta had designed Usha’s wedding dress. Usha said that she had loved the designs he had shown her.


Was the crowd large?


I hadn’t seen such a large gathering before. thousand people had attended the wedding.


I think about five

I am sure the catering arrangements were superb.


Of course, Gita. When I reached the dining hall at about 10.00 p.m., most of the guests had eaten. Everyone loved the food. I am sure Usha missed your presence. She had even asked me whether you would be there, when I met her about a week before the wedding.


I was also sad that I had missed the wedding of a good friend! I must meet Usha one of these days and give her my good wishes.

Self-Check Questions Are the following sentences grammatically correct? If not, then replace the italicised part with the correct part. 1. Shares of Chinese property developers fall sharply yesterday. 2. The dogs were barked throughout the night. 3. Low-cost airlines will be further slash their fares. 4. The cat died last night. 5. I will be left for Japan this Sunday. 6. Shikhar had been playing the whole time. 7. Prateet would had gone to school had he to feel better. 8. Harish is being test right now. 9. Amit will to run in the 100 meter dash tomorrow. 10. The chief guest arrive for the show on time. 11. He has been ask to leave the classroom. 12. Earnings in Britain to rise less than expected.

3.12 Summing Up In this lesson, you have learnt that


• • • • •

tense refers to the time an action takes place - i.e. in the present, past or future. there are three variations of the present and past tenses – i.e. Simple, Continuous, Perfect. the simple form of a tense refers to the commonly used form of the verb for the time the action takes place. the continuous form of a tense denotes that the action continues/continued for a while. the perfect form of a tense tells us that the action was completed during the time that is indicated by the tense.

3.13 Answers to Self-Check Questions 1. Shares of Chinese property developers fell sharply yesterday. 2. The dogs were barking throughout the night. 3. Low-cost airlines will be further slashing their fares. 4. The cat died last night. 5. I will be leaving for Japan this Sunday. 6. Shikhar had been playing the whole time. 7. Prateet would have gone to school had he been feeling better. 8. Harish is being tested right now. 9. Amit will be running in the 100 mtr dash tomorrow. 10. The chief guest arrived for the show on time. 11. He has been asked to leave the classroom. 12. Earnings in Britain have risen less than expected.

3.14 References 1. Hashemi, Louise and Thomas, Barbara. Grammar for First Certificate. Chennai: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 2. Colonel (Retd) Jayakaran, I. Everyone’s Guide To English Grammar (A New Approach). Chennai: Apple Publishing International (P) Ltd, March 2003. 3. Wren P.C & Martin H. English Grammar & Composition. New Delhi: S.Chand & Company, 2005 4. Wijesinha, Rajiva. A Handbook of English Grammar. Chennai: Foundation Books, 2004. 5. Werner, Patricia K. and Mary Mitchell Church. Interactions II A Communicative Grammar. New York: Random House, Inc., 1985. 6. Murphy, Raymond. Essential English Grammar. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 7. Azar, Betty Schrampfer and Azar, Donald A. Fundamentals of English Grammar U.S.A : Prentice Hall Regents, 1994. 8. Briggs, Sandra J. Grammar: Strategies and Practice. U.S.A: ScottForesman and Company. 1994. 9. Fogiel, M. Handbook of English. U.S.A: Research and Education Association. 1994.


3.15 Glossary •

• • • • • • • •

• •


Tense: a set of forms of a verb that indicates the timing of the action namely past, present or future; tense indicates whether the action has been completed, in the process of getting completed or has yet to be initiated Present Tense: tells about an action NOW; only auxiliary cum verbs that apply to the present are used Present Continuous Tense: relates to an action that is happening now and is continuing for some time Simple Present Tense: states a thing that happens regularly; talks about permanent situations; states a fact or theory; talks about a pattern of habits Past Tense: gives information of a happening that has already taken place in the time relating to the past Past Continuous Tense: refers to an action or activity that had begun, continued for some time and completed in the past Simple Past Tense: refers to an action or activity completed in the past Present Perfect Tense: a combination of the present and the past tenses Present perfect continuous tense: basically a combination of the past tense and the present continuous tense; applies to actions which started in the past and are continuing; were completed recently where the focus is on the time taken for the completion of the actions Past Perfect Tense: relates to an action that started and was also completed in the past; two actions that occurred in the past, one earlier than the other Past perfect continuous tense: very similar to the past perfect tense, except that there is more importance given to the continuous aspect of the action