I saw an interesting post on here that shows tenses in a chart. I use an even more schematic chart to explain active tenses to foreign students.

Given that you are all linguists I'd like to know what this community thinks of this chart. I am aware that some of you may not see tenses in this way and may even take exception to my scheme. In my defence, my students rarely make mistakes when selecting a tense. Given that the tenses often do not match those in their languages this is no mean feat.

I also give them this chart when they first come to me so that as they learn new tenses they know where they fit in the overall scheme of things. Tenses are traditionally taught sequentially, leaving the student to learn each tense in isolation and based on application. By giving the chart at the very start I am able to give the student a way of expressing time in many different ways very rapidly. Typically my students are using all but the bottom row by the end of year one.

The other advantage to this chart from a teacher's point of view is that it also makes the explanation of auxiliary verb usage very straightforward: none in the top row, To Be in the second, To Have in the third and both Be and Have in the fourth. It can be seen at a glance that Be is required in the continuous tenses and Have is required in the Perfect tenses.

So here is a simplified version of the chart showing the 1st person of the verb To Work:

Tense Chart

I look forward to your comments.


  • 3
    I assume you are referring to this question. This question would really be more appropriate as an answer to that question, though of course you cannot answer that question without more reputation here, since it has been protected. It would be an entirely appropriate and high-quality answer to it, though, so I am going to flag this for the moderators and request that it be temporarily unprotected (or that this be transferred somehow—I do not know if that is possible). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 3 '14 at 12:39
  • 2
    How is this unclear? The OP wants to know if the chart is a good one. It may be opinion based, but it's certainly not unclear. Furthermore, it's a useful chart. I think the site can benefit from it. – anongoodnurse Feb 3 '14 at 19:51
  • 1
    What @Janus said. Realistically, I can't see how this "question" amounts to anything more than "Do you like my chart?" Effectively an opinion-based "poll" -type posting, which more or less by definition should be an answer. Since it's been sitting around getting nowhere for nearly a month now, I may take it upon myself to copy the text into a Community Wiki answer on the previous question to which it may well be considered a very good answer (or maybe not, as the case may be - but at least it deserves the chance to be voted on). – FumbleFingers Mar 1 '14 at 15:59
  • I concur with @F. What you propose is an answer to a question you haven't actually asked. Now that you do have the required reputation, you could add this as an answer to the other question; or maybe ask the question to which your chart is the answer (if that's a different question) and supply your own answer immediately. – Andrew Leach Mar 2 '14 at 10:49
  • The original poster did exactly that: like me, he had a chart that explained tenses so he basically asked the question "How do tenses work?" and posted it. Having a different system that I thought would broaden the discussion I tried to add it, only to fall foul of the system here. As a newbie it seems silly that so much attention is paid to form at the expense of discussion but, as I have posted elsewhere, it's your forum. @FF if you want to add it to a wiki I would be happy that my contribution was not wasted but this forum is not for me: I just don’t have the time to play these games. – Blackthorne Mar 2 '14 at 15:51