How To Use English Tenses

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Step 1 – Examples
For each of the 6 examples below the red number/s represent the action time.
Each number represents 1 minute.
The number 5 is now (present) so 1-4 is the past and 6-10 is the future.

Example 1 = Simple past tense
1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10
>> I watched TV
>> I watched TV for 1 minute

Example 2 = Past tense using “ing”
1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10
>> I was watching TV
>> I was watching TV for 3 minutes

Example 3 = Present tense (is, am, are + “ing”)
1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10
>> I am watching TV now

Example 4 = Past to present tense (“have been + “ing”)
1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10
>> I have been watching TV for 4 minutes

Example 5 = Future tense
1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10
>> I will watch TV for 4 minutes
>> I am going to watch TV for 4 minutes
>> I am just about to watch TV for 4 minutes

Example 6 = Past, present and future tense
1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10
>> In 4 minutes time, I will have been watching TV for 7 minutes

Step 2 – Explanation.
Below is an explanation of the examples to give you a better understanding.

  • Example 1 = The action did not go for long and it is not so important, therefore we use the simple style:
    I watched TV
    I ate an apple
    I did the dishes

  • Example 2 = The action took a while (30% of the whole time and 75% of all the past) therefore we should explain this.  We can do this by adding “ing” to the action:
    I was watching TV
    I was eating an apple
    I was doing the dishes

  • Example 3 = Anything that is happening NOW, we use “I am, he is, she is, you are, we are, they are” and “the action word ending with ing“:
    I am watching TV
    You are watching TV
    He is watching TV
    She is watching TV
    We are watching TV
    They are watching TV
    I am eating an apple
    I am doing the dishes

  • Example 4 = Anytime an action starts in the past and continues until now (present) we use “have been” and “the action word ending with ing” followed by total time:
    I have been watching TV for 4 minutes
    I have been eating an apple for 10 minutes
    I have been doing the dishes for 2 hours

  • Example 5 = With future tense you can use “will” or “going to” followed by the total time you will do the action (if important or relevant to do so).  If the action is going to happen very soon, you can add “just about to” to your sentence:
    I will watch TV for 3 minutes
    I am going to eat an apple
    I am just about to do the dishes

  • Example 6 = With this not so common tense we need to express it will be future tense by saying “in xxx time, I will” and we also need to explain the action started in the past and has continued until now (just like example 4) by saying “have been” with “the action ending with ing“, then we just say the total time (past, present and future).  Use the template below for guidance
    In [how much into the future] time, I will have been [action ending with “ING”] for [total duration]:
    In 2 minutes time, I will have been watching TV for 1 hour
    In 30 seconds time, I will have been eating the apple for 1 minute
    In 1 hour time, I will have been doing the dishes for 3 hours

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