Saturday, March 24, 2012

Constructing Simple Tenses

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Verb Forms
Part 3: Constructing Verb Tenses

The simple tenses are your "go-to" tenses. Unless you have a specific reason to use the complex tenses (progressive and/or perfect) use the simple tense.

I'll go into more detail about when to use which tense in the next post.

Simple Present Tense

I'll cover The simple present tense is used for three primary purposes, in descending order of importance:
  1. To make statements that are generally or universally true: I attend college. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. To make statements about the future that are planned or expected with near certainty: The plane leaves at 3:30 PM tomorrow. My son starts college next Fall.
  3. You can also use the simple future tense for these statements.
  4. To follow "story time" in a present tense narrative: Indiana Jones walks into the cafe. He sees Belloc.
The simple present tense is almost never used to make statements about what is happening right now; the present progressive tense is usually used for that purpose.

To construct the simple present tense:
  • If the subject (who or what is performing the action) is the third person singular (he/she/it), use the second form ('s' form) of the verb.
  • Otherwise, use the first form (root form) of the verb
I write a blog. [note the root form here]
You write a blog.
He writes a blog. [note the second form here]
We write a blog.
They write a blog.

I walk to school.
You walk to school.
He walks to school.
We walk to school.
They walk to school.

"Be" is a special case:

I am a blogger.
You are a blogger.
He is a blogger.
We are bloggers.
They are bloggers.

Memorize "Be".

Simple Past Tense

The simple past tense is used for two primary purposes, in descending order of importance:
  1. To follow "story time" in a past tense narrative: Indiana Jones walked into the cafe. He saw Belloc.
  2. To make statements about events that happened in the past, without emphasizing their duration and completion (see the progressive and perfect tenses later): I attended college last year. I boiled water for my coffee yesterday.
Always use the third form (past form) of the verb to construct the simple past tense, regardless of the person and number of the subject.

I wrote a post [yesterday].
He walked to school.

The simple future tense is used to make statements about what is expected and planned for the future.

The simple future tense (almost) always uses the helper verb "will" and the first form (root form) of the main verb (even "be" is regular here):

I will write a post [tomorrow].
He will walk to school.
They will be lawyers.

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