Perhaps the greatest challenge learners of English as a second language (ESL) will face is remembering the grammatical rules of all 16 verb tenses that describe actions happening in the past, present and future. On top of that, they must be able to use them in the correct situation!
The best way to tackle this seemingly impossible task is to fully understand the most basic of English verb forms before worrying over the more complex ones. So, let’s examine the four fundamental tenses you need to know:
This verb tense is all about general facts (the earth revolves around the sun, my father has brown hair) or the things we do on a regular basis – this could be every day, every week, every year, sometimes, rarely or always. If you exercise three times a week or if your brother plays basketball for the school team, use the present simple to talk about those actions.
Simply use the base form of a verb (v1) when the subject is I, you, we or they:
I usually go to bed at 9 pm. / You always wake up late! / We often stay in for lunch.
They never have enough coffee.
If you are talking about another person or object (he, she, it), add an -s or -es to the end of the verb:
My sister usually goes to bed at 9 pm / He always wakes up late! / The shop never has my size.
When describing any ongoing action, we use the -ing verb. And if that action is happening now or in the general present and has a foreseeable end (which means it’s not a habit), we use the present continuous. In these situations, use the To Be verb (am, is, are), followed by an -ing verb:
I am waiting for my Go-Jek driver. / You are driving too fast! / We are taking a short break.
They are traveling across Java. / He is studying in England. / Is she reading in her room?