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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109
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6answers
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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 ...
94
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11answers
67k 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 ...
47
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6answers
4k 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 ...
38
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6answers
95k views

When do I use “can” or “could”?

When should I use can? When should I use could? What is right under what context?
27
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5answers
10k 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" ...
27
votes
6answers
25k 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 ...
25
votes
2answers
6k 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 ...
23
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2answers
1k 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 ...
22
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9answers
14k 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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3answers
3k 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 ...
20
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9answers
3k 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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4answers
5k 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 ...
15
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6answers
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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 ...
15
votes
3answers
140k 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? ...
15
votes
5answers
77k views

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

What's the difference between these two phrases?
15
votes
5answers
15k 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, ...
15
votes
2answers
987 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 ...
14
votes
5answers
34k 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.
13
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4answers
729 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
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5answers
1k 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 ...
12
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1answer
24k 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 ...
12
votes
4answers
968 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
4answers
4k 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 ...
11
votes
5answers
1k 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 ...
11
votes
8answers
61k 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 ...
10
votes
7answers
6k 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?
10
votes
6answers
9k 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?" ...
9
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6answers
7k 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
5k 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
40k 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
479 views

How to refer to dead and alive persons together?

Usually we refer to a dead person using the past tense. For example: Albert Einstein was wrong about... But when we are talking about both dead and alive persons in the same sentence, should we ...
9
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3answers
9k 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?
9
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3answers
2k 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
504 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 ...
8
votes
4answers
697 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
votes
2answers
71k views

When to use “has lived” vs. “lived” vs. “had lived”

Jim has lived there. Jim lived there. Jim had lived there. Are there any differences? When do I use one or the other? I'm trying to teach this to a foreign person and am having a hard ...
8
votes
4answers
38k views

“will be able to” vs. “can”

Consider the following: He will be able to do it. He can do it. They mean the same thing, right? Can "can" replace "will be able to" in any sentence? What is the difference, if anything? ...
8
votes
5answers
7k 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 ...
8
votes
5answers
2k 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
307 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
873 views

To be “hung, drawn and quartered”, or to be “hanged, drawn and quartered”?

I have always used the former, both as an idiom (to be severely punished, often used as a superlative in jest) and in reference to the historical form of capital punishment. I have always used hanged ...
8
votes
3answers
33k views

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

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 ...
8
votes
5answers
29k views

“If I didn't have” vs. “if I hadn't had”

Can someone please tell me if these sentences are correct? I prefer number one. Here I am trying to talk about a past condition that didn't actually happen because the person had the example sentences ...
8
votes
4answers
603 views

“Was wondering” + present tense (tense concordance?)

I need a native speaker's opinion here Do these sentences sound natural to you? 1- I was wondering what she thinks of me. 2- I was wondering how he is doing. 3- I was wondering if you agree ...
8
votes
2answers
207 views

“Why don't they help him?” Why do we use simple present here?

THE SETTING You are walking in the street and you see an old man on the other side stumble and fall to the ground. He tries to get up but he can’t. Nobody is helping him. You say, to no-one in ...
8
votes
2answers
370 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: ...
8
votes
4answers
658 views

Present tense and conditional tense in a stated past tense

I have a question about using past and conditional tenses in a context that refers to something told in the past. I think I’ve seen both forms used in films/books, etc., but I'm not sure about it ...
7
votes
2answers
5k views

Using “will” after “if”

I've been told that native-speakers don't ever use "will" after "if", and that saying it this way is a not-native style. So from the film (Harry Potter, pt5) I noticed a line that confused me. Look ...
7
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8answers
8k views

“I didn't know you liked her” or “I didn't know you like her”

I have a friend who insists that "I didn't know you like her" is more correct than "I didn't know you liked her" if the liking is still taking place. But to my ear, only the latter ...
7
votes
3answers
750 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 ...