For example, when using "since", you should use "present perfect":

Mr Smith _ _ _ the company since 1990.

  1. runs
  2. has run
  3. is running
  4. ran

Is there any reference on similar rules, guiding principles or hints? sometimes things get mixed up for me when choosing the correct form of verb tense (past/present continuous/perfect/simple...).

Also any other rules on similar cases (other than verb tenses) are also welcome : )

I tried doing some research, but haven't found much, probably I am not using the right search terms. Any hints on this are also welcome, I will do my research homework.

I have an English test tomorrow, English is not my mother tongue (you probably guessed).

Edit: What I am asking for can be abbreviated to this specific question:

Is there any reference that contains rules on when and where should one use a specific tense/aux. verb over another?

  • Specific answer: No, I'm afraid there isn't. Unless you want a specific answer for every word in the language. – John Lawler Oct 9 '13 at 22:29
  • I want some general guidelines on common cases, not special ones. Something like the example I gave (using the "present perfect" form with "since date") – aularon Oct 9 '13 at 22:34
  • Has ran. You want both the transitive verb and the action verb to be in the same tense. – RenaissanceProgrammer Oct 9 '13 at 22:37
  • 3
    Um, has ran is not grammatical. Has run is grammatical. Get the forms right before you start making up rules. – John Lawler Oct 9 '13 at 22:50

Below is a list of links to resources related to the question above, encountered while searching, I will update this list with interesting materials for people having the same problem!


  1. Tenses Table (PDF File, 103KiB): A table that contains

    • Tense (past/present continuous/perfect/simple...)
    • Signal words (for, since, often, while...)
    • Example Use
    • Form
    • Examples (Affirmative, negative, and interrogative )
  2. English Grammar For Dummies - Cheat Sheet: A quick overview on common grammatical rules

    • Parts of Speech in English Grammar
    • English Grammar Basics: Parts of a Sentence
    • Pronoun Tips for Proper English Grammar
    • English Grammar Tips for Subject-Verb Agreement
    • Placing Proper Punctuation
    • Verb Tense Tips in English Grammar
  3. Another table that shows tenses, example forms (Affirmative/Negative/Question), use, and signal words.

  4. Verb Tense Chart: Visual representation showing each form relation with time (past>now>future) (PDF, 307KiB)

Images, Charts, Diagrams...

Bonus Stuff


Some rules of thumb about the past

Past event dated, considered as rather short, completely accomplished : ran

Past event, considered as rather long, perhaps going on now : has run

Starting point : since / from 1990

Ending point : until / till 2000

Starting and ending points : since / from 1990 until /till 2000

Duration : for 10 years

Instant : died in 1990

Mixing that :

"Alexander lived only from 356 until 323" ;

"Alexander lived for 33 years only" ;

"Alexander died in 323"

"The Capétiens have reigned in France for almost 1000 years"

"The Capétiens have reigned in France from 987 until 1848, with an interruption"

"Queen Elizabeth has reigned since 1953"

If you want to insist on the progression : -ing

"Alexander has been living from 356 until 323"

"Alexander has been living for 33 years"

"Queen Elizabeth II has been reigning since 1953"

"Queen Elizabeth II has been reigning for 70 years"

If you want to be more vivid in your narration : present or progressive form

"Queen Elizabeth II reigns since 1953"

"Queen Elizabeth II is reigning for 70 years now"

In your example, only 1. and 3. are possible

  • -1 Present perfect isn't used with timespans which do not include the present, nor with subjects incapable of sustaining present reference except in unusual contexts. – StoneyB Oct 9 '13 at 23:18
  • "Queen Elizabeth II is reigning for 70 years now" should be "Queen Elizabeth II has been reigning for 70 years now" -- no native speaker uses present progressive in a situation like that. Not in America anyway. – developerwjk Oct 9 '13 at 23:25
  • Also, your "has being" should be "has been." – developerwjk Oct 9 '13 at 23:27
  • About the two first remarks above : I admit that these forms are less usual, but think they are correct in British English. About the third one : sorry, an horrible lack of attention - I immediately corrected, hoping that poor aularon has had no time to read that before his examination ! Thank you ! – ex-user2728 Oct 9 '13 at 23:49
  • Actually, I think you'll find that Queen Elizabeth II has been reigning since 6 February 1952, which is now over 71½ years. – TrevorD Oct 10 '13 at 0:13

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