How to Learn English Grammar Tenses

Written by andrea snow
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How to Learn English Grammar Tenses
Good dictionaries can aid students learning grammar tenses. (dictionary image by Ben Higham from

In any study of a language, learning verb tenses can be extremely challenging. The English language, in particular, has many irregular verbs that break the rules of establishing tense. As a result, students of English grammar must be prepared to both learn the rules of establishing verb tense and learn the many words that stand as anomalies to those rules. This is best done with repetition, memorisation, and practice of verb usage in a variety of tenses.

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  1. 1

    Study how the simple past and simple future tenses are formed in regular English verbs. Form many past tenses by adding the suffix "-ed" to the simple present form of the verb, and form the future tense by preceding the simple form of the verb with the words "will" or "shall;" for example, the regular verb "talk" is "talked" in the simple past tense and "will talk" in the simple future tense.

  2. 2

    Memorise how the past perfect, present perfect, and future perfect tenses are formed. Form these tenses with the use of auxiliary verbs and, in the case of the past perfect, a past participle: In the case of the verb "talk," the past perfect would be "had talked," the present perfect would be "have talked," and the future perfect would be "will talk."

  3. 3

    Memorise how the past progressive, present progressive, and future progressive tenses are formed. Use a form of "to be" and the suffix "-ing" for these tenses. Use the example of the verb "talk," for which the past progressive would be "was/were talking," the present progressive would be "is/are talking," and the future progressive is "will be/shall be talking."

  4. 4

    Memorise how the past perfect progressive, present perfect progressive, and future perfect progressive tenses are formed. Form these tenses by preceding the "-ing" form of the verb with "had been," "has been," or "will have been," respectively, as in "had been talking," "has been talking," and the future perfect progressive "will have been talking."

  5. 5

    Create flashcards for irregular verbs and look up how tenses are formed with each of these verbs. Separate the flash cards based on how easily you remember the verb conjugations for that particular verb; you should have an easy deck and a hard deck. Refer to English grammar websites or books for lists of common English irregular verbs to use as a starting point.

  6. 6

    Use the verbs you have learnt in writing and speech as much as possible to solidify your understanding of their usage. Practice writing journal entries entirely in the past or future tense.

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