An Overview of Verb Tenses in English and How to Learn Them (AJ #16)

Image - English Tenses Overview

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In today’s episode of Ask Jack, I answer a question on English tenses.

More specifically, I give an overview of the different verb tenses and how to learn them.

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Hello. This is Jack from and this is Ask Jack, the free series where I answer your questions about learning English and the English language. So, today we have a question about the tenses in English. So, here it is. Dashiev from Russia asks, “Why are there so many tenses in English? In Russian, there are only 3.”

Thank you for your question, Dashiev. So, what I’m going to do is go through the different tenses in English and then talk about what you should do about this, you know, what you should do to learn these tenses.

So, literally speaking, there are only 2 tenses, the past and the present. But, the idea of a tense is extended. So, most people when they talk about tenses they extend the idea of what a tense is and don’t worry too much about this.

So, here are the list of tenses. So, we have the Past Simple, the Past Continuous, the Past Perfect and the Past Perfect Continuous. We have the Present Simple, Present Continuous, Present Perfect and Present Perfect Continuous. And then, we have the Future Simple, using will here, Future Simple, Future Continuous, Future Perfect and Future Perfect Continuous. And, you can also add ‘Going To’ as well to this because this is used like were using a verb tense.

That has given you an overview of the different tenses that we use in the English language. Now, to go back to your question where you asked ‘Why are there so many tenses in English?’ The simple answer is I don’t really know, but I do know that the language evolved to use these different tenses.

My advice is to accept that there are more tenses in English than there are Russian. And then, get used to them. Learn these different tenses. Explanations will help you but to really know how to use them, you need to get lots of exposure to see them used in different context and also to practice using them too. And, it might seem like they’re strange now or that they’re really complicated at the moment. But, with this exposure and practice, these tenses will soon feel normal to you.

Now, my question for this video is this, “Are there more tenses in English than your language?” Are there more tenses in English than in your language? So, leave your answers below this video. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time.

Q: Why are there so many tenses in English

The video gave you an overview of the different tenses in English.

These are:

Verb TenseExample
Present SimpleI play football
Present continuousI am playing football
Present PerfectI have played football
Present Perfect ContinuousI have been playing football
Past SimpleI played football
Past ContinuousI was playing football
Past PerfectI had played football
Past Perfect ContinuousI had been playing football
Future SimpleI will play football
Future ContinuousI will be playing football
Future PerfectI will have played football
Future Perfect ContinuousI will have been playing football

(Note: we can also include ‘going to’ here.)

There are so many tenses in English because this is how the language evolved.

My advice is: accept that there are more tenses in English and learn them.

Explanations will help. But to really understand how to use them, you will need a lot of input and practice.

They might seem confusing now. But with time, you will get used to them.

What to Do Now:

1. Answer the question below: Does your language have more or less tenses than English?
 If you haven’t done so already, download your FREE Book, and sign up to receive English learning advice from me. Get reading!
3. Click here to ask me a question about learning English.

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  • Chinese has less tenses than English . But it is more difficult to learn .

  • Nicola Lisci

    Italian has a lot of tenses than English!

  • Monika Dukmenic

    There are more tenses in English than in Croatian language 😉