A set of forms taken by a verb to indicate the time and/or completeness and continuance of the action in relation to the time of the utterance.

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10answers
29k views

How many tenses are there in English?

Do we have 16 tenses in English? With future present past future in the past in these forms simple continuous perfect perfect continuous Can we manipulate these together to create English ...
73
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5answers
10k views

How do the tenses and aspects in English correspond temporally to one another?

Non-native speakers often get confused about what the various tenses and aspects mean in English. With input from some of the folk here I've put together a diagram that I hope will provide some ...
44
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6answers
3k views

Please, don't - I'm not

“Please, don't mock me.” “Oh, no, I don't! I’m not! I'm completely serious about that.” This is a correction I received from a proofreader of my story. How does that work? What happens here so ...
31
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6answers
46k views

When do I use “can” or “could”?

When should I use can? When should I use could? What is right under what context?
23
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5answers
5k views

Is it acceptable to use “is become” instead of “has become”?

In the King James version of the Bible there is a verse like this: The Lord is my strength, and my fortress, and my song. And He is become my salvation. Is it still feasible to use "is become" ...
23
votes
6answers
11k views

Why do we say “I win” instead of “I won”?

For a long time I was wondering why there is I win instead of I won. I met such usage in a lot of games and movies. For me, it's logical to say I won, because this winning action is done already. I ...
23
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11answers
9k views

“May” & “Might”: What's the right context?

I may not be coming in tomorrow... I might not be coming in tomorrow... When could I use "may" & "might"?
22
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2answers
3k views

How do you conjugate Early Modern English verbs (other than present tense)?

I was wondering how one might conjugate verbs in early modern English in various tenses. I am aware of the fact that for second person and third person singular specifically, the verb endings are -est ...
20
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9answers
7k views

Can anyone give me a grammatical explanation as to why “that being said” is proper English?

A certain pedant is claiming that beginning a sentence with "That being said" is grammatically incorrect owing to the apparent logical contradiction in claiming that something in the past (e.g. the ...
20
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2answers
906 views

Whose tense is it, anyway?

I have questions which perhaps should be posted to Linguistics.SE; but since my primary concern is to discover what terminology in discussing English grammar and usage on ELU (and in similar ...
19
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9answers
2k views

Referring to past times with “hence”

From Tor.com, an interesting use of the word hence: Minutes ago, J.K. Rowling finally announced her plans behind Pottermore, the mysterious website that appeared a week hence with only a “Coming ...
17
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3answers
1k views

When did periphrastic tenses stop being tenses?

English sometimes has several different ways of expressing the same thing. For example, it can form a possessive either by using an old case inflection: The dog’s tail was always wagging. Or it ...
15
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6answers
2k views

What is the correct present continuous form of “thunder” and “lightning”?

While describing monsoon conditions, what is the correct way to describe the ongoing action of thunder and lightning flashes? It is thundering It is lightning Are the above sentences ...
14
votes
2answers
627 views

Which form of a verb should I normally use after “what you have done is”?

Which form of a verb should I normally use after "what you have done is"? Should it be present participle (option A), past participle (option B) or a base form (option C) : A. I wanted you to clean ...
13
votes
4answers
655 views

Is “How and why child is become criminal” proper English?

My friend is writing a paper for his Criminal Justice class and has asked me to take a look the the rough draft and point out any grammatical errors that I can spot. The first thing that jumped at ...
12
votes
4answers
649 views

What tense is appropriate when a group includes alive and dead people?

In a recent article, I was comparing the atheism of Joseph Stalin, Ayn Rand, and Christopher Hitchens. Which of the following sentences would have been appropriate to describe them? All three ...
11
votes
3answers
31k views

What is the difference between “Have you seen this?” and “Did you see this?”

What's the difference between these two phrases?
11
votes
5answers
7k views

Future tense in conditional clauses

All the textbooks I have ever come across during the course of my studying English emphasize that future tense should not be used in conditional clauses. For example, If it rains in the evening, ...
11
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2answers
2k views

Attempt at formulating verb tenses when time travel is involved?

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has an amusing section on the problems associated with verb tenses when time travel is involved. It has several examples which appear to be constructed for their ...
10
votes
4answers
2k views

Why past tense in 'I got this'?

I came across the phrase 'I got this' in an episode of 'How I Met Your Mother'. In the episode, Robin kept saying 'I got this' whenever something came up that needs dealing with. I guess it means ...
10
votes
6answers
2k views

Is using the present perfect old fashioned?

I was talking to a Singaporean (English is her native language. I think, closer to American rather than British) friend. I learned in English class that you can use present perfect when there is a ...
10
votes
5answers
753 views

Version control messages: what tense?

In software engineering we use version control systems. Every time we check in modifications we usually leave a message with a summary of change. The question for me has always been: what is the most ...
10
votes
8answers
18k views

“Forgot” vs “Forget”

Is the following correct, or is there more to it? "I forgot his name" — I knew his name, but I forgot it. "I forget his name" — I keep forgetting his name. Where using "forget" basically means that ...
9
votes
5answers
8k views

Why is the past tense used in “I was wondering if you would like to come for dinner?”

Why isn't the present tense used? I am wondering if you would like to come for dinner.
9
votes
1answer
6k views

Which is correct: “has died” or “died”?

To me, using Present Perfect form means the event can occur again. So, saying someone has died may not be grammatically correct. Also, I noticed (it might be just coincidence): passed away ...
9
votes
1answer
392 views

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The usual question and answer seem to be of the form What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be a singer when I grow up. Should it not be What do you want to be when you have ...
9
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3answers
5k views

Should I use past tense when I'm asked to describe a picture?

If you are being asked to describe a picture, what tense would you use?
8
votes
4answers
472 views

Weird future tense usage

I am now reading The Clean Coder book and have noticed a couple of cases of weird (for non-native speaker) future tense usages. The point of the kata is to train your fingers and your brain. I'll do ...
8
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3answers
46k views

Simple Past vs. Present Perfect: “was” vs. “has been” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “Did it close” vs “Has it closed”? Which is correct: “has died” or “died”? How do the tenses in English correspond temporally to one another? ...
8
votes
5answers
693 views

“He didn't know where New Jersey was”

I know the past tense carries the past tense in every dependent clause, but referring specifically to places or to things that are eternal, like the Earth, seems a bit weird and therefore we sometimes ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

“Will have” vs. “Would have”

By the end of the year, I would have attended this school for five years. Of course, the "most" correct way of writing this would be: By the end of the year, I will have attended this school ...
8
votes
5answers
4k views

Is it correct to say “What was your name?”?

Is it correct to say "What was your name?"? The reason I am asking this is, generally the name of the person will not change. One should say "What is your name?" ...
8
votes
5answers
3k views

“If I knew you're coming I wouldn't have come”

Is the statement If I knew you're coming I wouldn't have come correct? Should we use If I had known you're coming, I wouldn't have come instead? Please consider American-British ...
7
votes
3answers
275 views

Breaking or break the habit

Which of these sentences is grammatically correct? Imagining the ill effects of smoking led him to ultimately break the habit. Imagining the ill effects of smoking led him to ultimately breaking the ...
7
votes
5answers
925 views

What's the tense for repetitive past action?

In English, "would" usually denotes a conditional voice. "If I were sleepy, I would go to bed." But I've caught myself using it to denote repetitive or habitual past action. "On Thursdays, we would ...
7
votes
7answers
3k views

“will have seen yesterday”

This is a part of a sentence: As many of you will have seen yesterday, . . . What does it mean? The words will and yesterday seem to be in contradiction. Is that a correct sentence?
7
votes
2answers
232 views

Does “ever” apply to the future, or only the past?

As we hear in every commercial (ever?) Our best price, ever. Your thoughts please. Putting aside advertising allowances, should "ever" here mean "all time: past present and future", or should ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

“Yes, I thought it was very good.” Why “thought”?

Here is a sentence from "Essential Grammar in Use" book by Raymond Murphy: Did you enjoy the film ? Yes, I thought it was very good. The correct answer in key section is "thought", but why not ...
7
votes
3answers
15k views

“It would be better if you drink/drank all the water”

Which one of the following is grammatically correct? It would be better if you drink all the water. It would be better if you drank all the water. The question is, obviously, about the use ...
7
votes
3answers
896 views

I suggested we go together / I suggested we went together. Which is the correct usage?

I am having trouble with something very specific and I found both in usage but one has to be better than the other. Right? He wanted to go back to Kazakhstan, so I suggested we go together. He ...
7
votes
3answers
22k views

How to use “have been —ing”

I know the present perfect continuous is used for activity which has stopped recently or now. When it combines with for, since, or how long an activity is done, it means the activity is still ...
7
votes
1answer
343 views

Tagged question and perfect tense

I've just passed one of numerous English grammar online tests. And I agree with all the mistakes I've made except this one: You ______ put it back before the boss comes ...
7
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3answers
842 views

What tense to use for a dead person's permanent contributions?

Which one is correct: Edison was the inventor of the light bulb. Edison is the inventor of the light bulb. When writing or speaking about Edison, it's correct to state that "he was an inventor", ...
7
votes
2answers
301 views

The all-powerful “to have”

"To have" seems to fill a lot of different needs in the English language, apart from its literal meaning of possessing something. It's an integral part of perfect and perfect progressive verb tenses: ...
6
votes
7answers
2k views

Is the use of future tense (especially “will” and “shall”) going out of grammar?

My English teacher taught us that there is no such thing called "future tense" in existence. Instead we were asked to use present indefinite tense. He said that we should use "I am to go to London" ...
6
votes
3answers
434 views

The verb form of “Is entered in the race”

[I'm not much of an expert in English usage, just an armchair boffin, so I hope I'm not out of line asking what may be a dumb question, to the regulars here...] I am trying to figure out the form of ...
6
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3answers
3k views

What tense is “If I were a bird, I could fly”

The sentence is not referring to any time past, present of future. It's just referring to an imaginary condition which has never existed and seemingly will never exist. Still, the sentence and other ...
6
votes
1answer
842 views

Question about the future “tense”

My daughter, who is in the 4th grade, was asked to answer questions about the following sentence: What time can you meet us at the school on Tuesday? She was asked questions about the usage of ...
6
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4answers
25k views

“Lept” vs. “leapt” vs. “leaped”

After reading this discussion, I'd like to know what example sentences distinguish the meaning of the words lept, leapt, and leaped from each other?
6
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4answers
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Tenses after “as if”

"I'll always remember this rule as if I had just learned it" Do you consider this sentence grammatically correct? The main clause refers to the future, so I guess that the Past Simple would ...