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Definitions of Tenses:

The Six Past Tenses:

In English, six different tenses are used to talk about the past:

  • The simple past (I worked)

  • The past continuous (I was working)

  • The simple present perfect (I have worked)

  • The present perfect continuous (I have been working)

  • The simple past perfect (I had worked)

  • The past perfect continuous (I had been working)  

The Two Present Tenses:

Present simple refers to permanent situations or daily routines.
eg. He is a man. He lives on Fourth Avenue. He walks to work everyday. 

Present continuous (or present progressive) refers to time around now, using suffix -ing to denote this.
eg. He is swimming in the pool at the moment. He is listening to his mp3 player. He is studying Engineering at the local university. 

Modal verbs like can or must do not have progressive forms and some other verbs such as known or contain are rarely used in progressive forms.

Future Tenses:

Will refers to future intentions, promises and plans with no intention or ability to alter.
eg. I will do the washing today.
eg. I will not forget you.
eg. There will be an eclipse at 6:00pm tomorrow night.

Going to refers to flexible plans that have not been confirmed.
eg. I am going to take a year off when I finish school.
eg. I am going to the beach on the weekend.
eg. I am going to Haj one day.

Demonstrating What is Incorrect Usage

Demonstrating What is Correct Usage

  1. Check for missing or incorrect articles (a/an/the):
    "5% of population of Lebanon is…" 

"5% of the population of Lebanon is…"
  1. Check the present simple "s" refers correctly to a third person:
    "…she want to go to University…"  

"… she wants to go to University…"

  1. Check that your active and passive verbs are correct
    "They had already arrive…"  

"They had already arrived…"

  1. Check that your verb forms are correct:
    "…They have been tried to…"

"They have been trying to…"

  1. Check all your subject-verb agreements:
    "… poor countries has suffered…"   

"…poor countries have suffered…"

  1. Check your countable and uncountable nouns:
    "Most student do not wish to…"
    but "Most peoples in the world…"  

"Most students do not wish to…"
 but “Most people in the world…"

  1. Check that your pronouns refer to previously mentioned nouns:
    "He wants to go to University…"  
    (incorrect if "a student" is not mentioned before)

"He wants to go to University…"
(correct if "a student" is previously mentioned)

  1. Check that your prepositions are correct:
    "The company was interested at…" 

"The company was interested in…"

  1. Check that your parts of speech are correct:
    "…it was a destruction act…" (noun) 

"…it was a destructive act…" (adj.)

  1. Check the correct meaning of adjectives
    "...it was an hysterical graveyard."
"...it was an historical graveyard." 
  1. Check that your conditional forms are correct:

Zero:     If + present simple tense    …, + present simple tense + infinitive (Likelihood – always)  
eg. If I eat an apple everyday I stay healthy.

1st:        If + present simple tense    …, + will (may/might/could etc.) + infinitive… (Likelihood - maybe)  
eg.  If I walk to school I might need an umbrella.

2nd:        If + past simple tense        …, + would (may/might/could etc.) + infinitive… (Likelihood - maybe not)  
eg. If I watched the game I would know the result.

3rd:        If + past perfect tense        …, + have + past participle… (Likelihood - did not occur)
eg. If I had worked later I would have been attacked by the stalker in the carpark.

References:

Swan, Michael (2002), "Practical English Usage" Oxford University Press, Great Claredon Street, Oxford, pge 443.

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Last Updated Friday, 29 January 2010