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Types of Verbs
Taking the focus off the subject: using impersonal 'it' - Talking about the weather and the time
The present tenses
Adverbial clauses - Time clauses
Using modals - The main uses of modals

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General information about verbs and tenses

1.      Verb tenses: simple and progressive

Some grammarians believe that tense must always be shown by the actual form of the verb, and in many languages present, past and future are indicated by changes in the verb forms. On this reckoning, English really has just two tenses, the present and the past, since these are the only two cases where the form of the basic verb varies: love, write (present); loved, wrote (past).

However, it is usual (and convenient) to refer to all combinations of be + present participle and have + past participle as tenses. The same goes for will + bare infinitive to refer to the future (It will be fine tomorrow). But we must remember that tense in English is often only loosely related to time.

Tenses have two forms, simple and progressive (sometimes called ‘continuous’). The progressive contains be + present participle:

                                    simple                                                 progressive

present:                       I work.                                                 I am working.

past:                            I worked.                                             I was working.

present perfect:          I have worked.                                     I have been working.

past perfect:               I had worked.                                      I had been working.

future:                                    I will work.                                          I will be working.

future perfect:           I will have worked.                              I will have been working.

Both simple and progressive forms usually give a general idea of when an action takes place. But the distinction between the two is not according to the time when an action takes place (time is indicated by tense), but to our perception of it (how we perceive the action). For instance, the progressive forms tell us that an activity is (or was, or will be, etc.) in progress (or under development), or thought of as being in progress.

This activity may be in progress at the moment of speaking:

What are you doing? – I’m making a cake.

or not in progress at the moment of speaking, but during a limited period of time:

I’m learning to type. (i.e. but not at the moment of speaking)

Or the activity may be temporary or changeable:

Fred was wearing a blue shirt yesterday.

Or the activity may be uncompleted:

Vera has been trying to learn Chinese for years.

Our decision about which tense to use depends on the context and the impression we wish to convey.

2.      Stative and dynamic verbs

Some verbs are not generally used in progressive forms. They are called stative because they refer to states (e.g. experiences, conditions) rather than to actions. In a sentence like:

She loves/loved her baby more than anything in the world.

loves (or loved) describes a state over which the mother has no control: it is an involuntary feeling. We could not use the progressive forms (is/was loving) here.

Dynamic verbs, on the other hand, usually refer to actions which are deliberate or voluntary (I’m making a cake) or they refer to changing situations (He’s growing old), that is, to activities, etc., which have a beginning and an end. Dynamic verbs can be used in progressive as well as simple forms. Compare the following:

progressive forms                                         simple forms

1.      Dynamic verbs with progressive and simple forms:

I’m looking at you.                                          I often look at you.

I’m listening to music.                         I often listen to you.

2.      Verbs which are nearly always stative (simple forms only):

 -                                                                      I see you.

 -                                                                      I hear music.

3.      Verbs that have dynamic or stative uses:

deliberate actions                                           states

I’m weighing myself.                                       I weigh 65 kilos.

I’m tasting the soup.                                        It tastes salty.

I’m feeling the radiator.                                  It feel hot.

Stative verbs usually occur in the simple form in all tenses. We can think of ‘states’ in categories like:

1. Feelings:                                                      like, love, etc.

2. Thinking/believing:                                     think, understand, etc.

3. Wants and preferences:                               prefer, want, etc.

4. Perception and the senses:                           hear, see, etc.

5. Being/seeming/having/owning:                   appear, seem, belong, own, etc.

Sometimes verbs describing physical sensations can be used in simple or progressive forms with hardly any change of meaning:

Ooh! It hurts! = Ooh! It’s hurting.

Can/can’t and could/couldn’t often combine with verbs of perception to refer to a particular moment in the present or the past where a progressive form would be impossible:

I can smell gas. = I smell gas.

The sequence of tenses

1.      The sequence of tenses

In extended speech or writing we usually select a governing tense which affects all other tense forms. The problem of the ‘sequence of tenses’ is not confined to indirect speech. Our choice of tense may be influenced by the following factors:

1.1  Consistency in the use of tenses

If we start a narrative or description from the point of view of now, we usually maintain ‘now’ as our viewpoint. This results in the following combinations:

-          present (simple/progressive) accords with present perfect/future:

Our postman usually delivers our mail at 7 every morning. It’s nearly lunch-time and the mail still hasn’t arrived. I suppose the mail will come soon. Perhaps our postman is ill.

If we start a narrative or description from the point of view of then, we usually maintain ‘then’ as our viewpoint. This results in the following combinations:

-          past (simple/progressive) accords with past perfect/future in the past:

When I lived in London the postman usually delivered our mail at 7 every morning. Usually no one in our household  had got up when the mail arrived.

1.2  The proximity rule

A present tense in the main clause (for example, in a reporting verb) normally attracts a present tense in the subordinate clause:

He tells me he’s a good tennis-player.

A past tense normally attracts another past:

He told me he was a good tennis-player.

In the second example only a more complete context would tell us whether he was a good tennis-player refers to the past (i.e. ‘when he was a young man’) or to present time. A speaker or writer can ignore the ‘proximity rule’ and use a present tense after a past, or a past after a present in order to be more precise:

He told me he is a good tennis-player. (i.e. he still is)

He tells me he used to be a good tennis player.

However, combinations such as you say you are or you told me you were tend to form themselves automatically. That is why we can refer to the idea of ‘sequence of tenses’ in which present usually combines with present, and past usually combines with past.

1.3  Particular tense sequences

Refer to the following for particular sequences:

Indirect speech

Conditional sentences

Temporal clauses

After wish, I’d rather, etc.

Clauses of purpose.

The simple present tense

1.      Form of the simple present tense

1.1  We add –s or –es to the base form of the verb in the third person singular

I work                                                  We work

You work                                             You work

He works

She works                                            They work

It works

1.2  In the interrogative and negative, we add the auxiliary DO, conjugated in the present. The main verb following the auxiliary is in the bare infinitive:

Do I work?                                          Do we work?

Do you work?                                     Do you work?

Does he work?

Does she work?                                   Do they work?

Does it work?

I do not work.                                      We do not work.

You do not work.                                 You do not work.

He does not work.

She does not work.                              They do not work.

It does not work.

The function of the auxiliary verb (DO) is grammatical, while the function of the main verb (work) is lexical. As we have the verb DO conjugated, we no longer need to conjugate the main verb, and that is why we cannot have combinations like *Does he works? or *She does not works.

2.      Uses of the simple present tense

2.1  Permanent truths

We use the simple present for statements that are always true:

Summer follows spring. Gases expand when heated.

2.2  ‘The present period’

We use the simple present to refer to events, actions or situations which are true in the present period of time and which, for all we know, may continue indefinitely. What we are saying, in effect, is ‘this is the situation as it stands at present’:

My father works in a bank. My sister wears glasses.

2.3  Habitual actions

The simple present can be used with or without an adverb of time to describe habitual actions, things that happen repeatedly:

I get up at 7. John smokes a lot.

We can be more precise about habitual actions by using the simple present with adverbs of indefinite frequency (always, never, etc.) or with adverbial phrases such as every day.

I sometimes stay up till midnight.

She visits her parents every day.

We commonly use the simple present to ask and answer questions which begin with How often?:

How often do you go to the dentist? – I go every six months.

Questions relating to habit can be asked with ever and answered with e.g. never and sometimes not…ever:

Do you ever eat meat? – No, I never eat meat.

2.4  Future reference

This use is often related to timetables and programmes or to events in the calendar:

The exhibition opens on January 1st and closes on January 31st.

The concert begins at 7.30 and ends at 9.30.

We leave tomorrow at 11.15 and arrive at 17.50.

Wednesday, May 24th marks our 25th wedding anniversary.

2.5  Observations and declarations

We commonly use the simple present with stative and other verbs to make observations and declarations in the course of conversation, e.g.

I hope/assume/suppose/promise everything will be all right.

I bet you were nervous just before your driving test.

It says here that the police expect more trouble in the city.

I declare this exhibition open.

I see/hear there are roadworks in the street again.

I love you. I hate him.

We live in difficult times. – I agree.

The present progressive tense

1.      Form of the present progressive tense

The progressive is formed with the present of BE + the –ing form:

I am working.                                     We are working.

You are working.                                You are working.

He is working.

She is working.                                    They are working.

It is working.

The interrogative is formed by the inversion between the subject and auxiliary verb:

Am I working?                                                Are we working?

Are you working?                                           Are you working?

Is he working?

Is she working?                                               Are they working?

Is it working?

The negative is formed by adding the negation (not) after the auxiliary:

I am not working.                                           We are not working.

You are not working.                                      You are not working.

He is not working.

She is not working.                                         They are not working.

It is not working.

2.      Uses of the present progressive tense

2.1  Actions in progress at the moment of speaking

We use the present progressive to describe actions or events which are in progress at the moment of speaking. To emphasize this, we often use adverbials like now, at the moment, just, etc.:

Someone’s knocking at the door. Can you answer it?

What are you doing? – I’m just tying up my shoe-laces.

He’s working at the moment, so he can’t come to the telephone.

Actions in progress are seen as uncompleted:

He’s talking to his girlfriend on the phone.

We can emphasize the idea of duration with still:

He’s still talking to his girlfriend on the phone.

2.2  Temporary situations

The present progressive can be used to describe actions and situations which may not have been happening long, or which are thought of as being in progress for a limited period:

What’s your daughter doing these days? – She’s studying English at Durham University.

Such situations may not be happening at the moment of speaking:

Don’t take that ladder away. Your father’s using it. (i.e. but perhaps not at the moment)

She’s at her best when she’s making big decisions.

Temporary events may be in progress at the moment of speaking:

The river is flowing very fast after last night’s rain.

We also use the present progressive to describe current trends:

People are becoming less tolerant of smoking these days.

2.3  Planned actions: future reference

We use the present progressive to refer to activities and events planned for the future. We generally need an adverbial unless the meaning is clear from the context:

We’re spending next winter in Australia.

This use of the present progressive is also commonly associated with future arrival and departure and occurs with verbs like arrive, come, go, leave, etc., to describe travel arrangements:

He’s arriving tomorrow morning on the 13.27 train.

The adverbial and the context prevent confusion with the present progressive to describe an action which is in progress at the time of speaking:

Look! The train’s leaving. (i.e. it’s actually moving)

2.4  Repeated actions

The adverbs always (in the sense of ‘frequently’), constantly, continually, forever, perpetually and repeatedly can be used with progressive forms to describe continually-repeated actions:

She’s always helping people.

Some stative verbs can have progressive forms with always, etc.:

I’m always hearing strange stories about him.

Sometimes there can be implied complaint in this use of the progressive when it refers to something that happens too often:

Our burglar alarm is forever going off for no reason.

3.      The present tenses in typical contexts

3.1  The simple present and present progressive in commentary

The simple present and the present progressive are often used in commentaries on events taking place at the moment, particularly on radio and television. In such cases, the simple present is used to describe rapid actions completed at the moment (instantaneous) of speaking and the progressive is used to describe longer-lasting actions:

MacFee passes to Franklin. Franklin makes a quick pass to Booth. Booth is away with the ball, but he’s losing his advantage.

3.2  The simple present and the present progressive in narration

When we are telling a story or describing things that have happened to us, we often use present tenses (even thought the events are in the past) in order to sound more interesting and dramatic. The progressive is used for ‘background’ and the simple tense for the main events:

I’m driving along this country road and I’m completely lost. Then I see this old fellow. He’s leaning against a gate. I stop the car and ask him the way. He thinks a bit, then says, ‘Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here.’

3.3  The simple present in demonstrations and instructions

This use of the simple present is an alternative to the imperative. It illustrates step-by-step instructions:

First (you) boil some water. Then (you) warm the teapot. Then (you) add three teaspoons of tea. Next, (you) pour on boiling water…

3.4  The simple present in synopses (e.g. reviews of books, films, etc.)

Kate Fox’s novel is an historical romance set in London in the 1880’s. The action takes place over a period of 30 years…

3.5  The performative simple present

We use the simple present tense to describe performative utterances, that is, utterances that in themselves constitute actions (e.g. in rituals, customs): uttering the verb is actually performing an activity. Sometimes the adverb hereby is used:

I baptize you John.

I pronounce you man and wife.

I declare the session open.

I hereby consent to your decision.

3.6  The simple present and present progressive in newspaper headlines and e.g. photographic captions

The simple present is generally used to refer to past events:



The abbreviated progressive refers to the future. The infinitive can also be used for this purpose:


The simple past tense

1.      Form of the simple past tense with regular verbs

The simple past is formed by adding –ed to the base verb. The form is the same for all persons:

I worked.                                             We worked.

You worked.                                        You worked.

He worked.

She worked.                                         They worked.

It worked.

The interrogative and negative are formed with the auxiliary do conjugated in the simple past, i.e. DID:

Did I work?                                         Did we work?

Did you work?                                                Did you work?

Did he work?

Did she work?                                     Did they work?

Did it work?

I did not work.                                     We did not work.

You did not work.                                You did not work.

He did not work.

She did not work.                                They did not work.

It did not work.

The auxiliary has the same function as in the simple present, i.e. grammatical (indicating tense, person, number); the main verb also has the same merely lexical function. Therefore we cannot have utterances like: *Did they worked? or *I did not worked.

2.      The regular past: pronunciation and spelling

2.1  Pronunciation of the regular past

Verbs in the regular past always end with a –d in their spelling, but the pronunciation of the past ending is not always the same:

play/played /d/

The most common spelling characteristic of the regular past is that –ed is added to the base form of the verb: opened, knocked, stayed, etc. Except in the cases noted below, this –ed is not pronounced as if it were an extra syllable, so played is pronounced: /pleid/, knocked: /nokt/, stayed: /steid/, etc.

arrive/arrived /d/

Verbs which end in the following sounds have their past endings pronounced /d/: /b/ rubbed; /g/ tugged; /dj/ managed; /l/ filled; /m/ dimmed; /n/ listened; vowel + /r/ stirred; /v/ loved; /z/ seized. The –ed ending is not pronounced as an extra syllable

work/worked /t/

Verbs which end in the following sounds have their past endings pronounced /t/: /k/ packed; /s/ passed; -tch watched; -sh washed; /f/ laughed; /p/ tipped. The –ed ending is not pronounced as an extra syllable.

dream/dreamed /d/ or dreamt /t/

A few verbs function as both regular and irregular and may have their past forms spelt –ed or –t pronounced /d/ or/t/: e.g. burn, dream, lean, learn, smell, spell, spill, spoil.

post/posted /id/

Verbs which and in the sounds /t/ or /d/ have their past endings pronounced /id/: posted, added. The –ed ending is pronounced as an extra syllable added to the base form of the verb.

2.2  Spelling of the regular past

The regular past always ends in –d:


Verbs ending in –e add –d: e.g. phone/phoned, smile/smiled. This rule applies equally to agree, die, lie, etc.


Verbs not ending in –e add –ed: e.g. ask/asked, clean/cleaned, follow/followed.


Verbs spelt with a single vowel letter followed by a single consonant letter double the consonant: beg/begged, rub/rubbed.


In two-syllable verbs the final consonant is doubled when the last syllable contains a single vowel letter followed by a single consonant letter and is stressed: pre`fer/preferred, re`fer/referred. Compare: `benefit/benefited, `differ/differed and `profit/profited, which are stressed on their first syllables and which therefore do not double their final consonants. In AmE labeled, quarreled, signaled and traveled follow the rule. In BE labelled, quarrelled, signalled and travelled are exceptions to the rule.


When there is a consonant before –y, the y changes to i before we add –ed: e.g. carry/carried, deny/denied, fry/fried, try/tried. Compare delay/delayed, obey/obeyed, play/played, etc. which have a vowel before –y and therefore simply add –ed in the past

3.      Form of the simple past tense with irregular verbs

The form of the past tense simple is the 2nd form in the list of irregular verbs. The form is the same for all persons:

I left.                                                    We left.

You left.                                               You left.

He left.

She left.                                                They left.

It left.

The interrogative and negative are formed with the auxiliary DID + the bare infinitive of the main verb:

Did I leave?                                         Did we leave?

Did you leave?                                    Did you leave?

Did he leave/

Did she leave?                                     Did they leave?

Did it leave?

I did not leave.                                     We did not leave.

You did not leave.                                You did not leave.

He did not leave.

She did not leave.                                They did not leave.

It did not leave.

Because of the reasons exposed above (the auxiliary takes over the grammatical functions), we cannot say, e.g. *Did he left? or *They did not left.

Unlike regular verbs, irregular verbs (about 150 in all) do not have past forms which can be predicted:


A small number of verbs have the same form in the present as in the past: e.g. cut/cut, hit/hit, put/put. It is important to remember, particularly with such verbs, that the third person singular does not change in the past: e.g. he shut (past); he shuts (present).


The past form of most irregular verbs is different from the present: bring/brought, catch/caught, keep/kept, leave/left, lose/lost.

4.      Uses of the simple past tense

4.1  Completed actions

We normally use the simple past tense to talk about events, actions or situations which occurred in the past and are now finished. They may have happened recently:

She phoned a moment ago.

or in the distant past:

The Goths invaded Rome in A.D. 410.

A time reference must be given:

I had a word with Julian this morning.

or must be understood from the context:

I saw Fred in town. (i.e. when I was there this morning)

I never met my grandfather. (i.e. he is dead)

When we use the simple past, we are usually concerned with when an action occurred, not with its duration (how long it lasted).

4.2  Past habit

Like used to, the simple past can be used to describe past habits:

I smoked forty cigarettes a day till I gave up.

4.3  The immediate past

We can sometimes use the simple past without a time reference to describe something that happened a very short time ago:

Jimmy punched me in the stomach.

Did the telephone ring?

Who left the door open? (Who’s left the door open?)

4.4  Polite inquiries, etc.

The simple past does not always refer to past time. It can also be used for polite inquiries (particularly asking for favours), often with verbs like hope, think or wonder. Compare:

I wonder if you could give me a lift.

I wondered if you could give me a lift. (more tentative/polite)

5.      Adverbials with the simple past tense

The association of the past tense with adverbials that tell us when something happened is very important. Adverbials used with the past tense must refer to past (not present) time. This means that adverbials which link with the present (before now, so far, till now, yet) are not used with past tenses.

Some adverbials like yesterday, last summer and combinations with ago are used only with past tenses:

I saw Jane yesterday/last summer.

Ago, meaning ‘back from now’, can combine with a variety of expressions to refer to the past: e.g. two years ago; six months ago; ten minutes ago; a long time ago:

I met Robert Parr many years ago in Czechoslovakia.

The past is often used with when to ask and answer questions:

When did you learn about it? – When I saw it in the papers.

When often points to a definite contrast with the present:

I played football every day when I was a boy.

Other adverbials can be used with past tenses when they refer to past time, but can be used with other tenses as well:

adverbs:                                              I always liked Gloria.

                                                            I often saw her in Rome.

                                                            Did you ever meet Sonia?

adverbial/prepositional phrases:      We left at 4 o’clock/on Tuesday.

                                                            We had our holiday in July.

adverbial clauses:                              I waited till he arrived.

                                                            I met him when I was at college.

as + adverb + as:                                I saw him as recently as last week.

The past progressive tense

1.      Form of the past progressive tense

The past progressive is formed with the auxiliary be conjugated in the past (WAS/WERE) + the –ing form of the main verb:

I was working.                                                We were working.

You were working.                              You were working.

He was working.

She was working.                                They were working.

It was working.

The interrogative is formed by the inversion of the auxiliary and the subject:

Was I working?                                   Were we working?

Were you working?                             Were you working?

Was he working?

Was she working?                               Were they working?

Was it working?

The negative is formed by adding the negation (NOT) to the auxiliary:

I was not working.                              We were not working.

You were not working.                        You were not working.

He was not working.

She was not working.                          They were not working.

It was not working.

2.      Uses of the past progressive tense

2.1  Actions in progress in the past

We use the past progressive to describe past situations or actions that were in progress at some time in the past:

I was living abroad in 1987, so I missed the general election.

Often we don’t know whether the action was completed or not:

Philippa was working on her essay last night.

Adverbials beginning with all emphasize continuity:

It was raining all night/all yesterday/all the afternoon.

In the same way, still can emphasize duration:

Jim was talking to his girlfriend on the phone when I came in and was still talking to her when I went out an hour later.

2.2  Actions which began before something else happened

The past progressive and the simple past are often used together in a sentence. The past progressive describes a situation or action in progress in the past, and the simple past describes a shorter action or event. The action or situation in progress is often introduced by conjunctions like when and as, just as, while:

Just as I was leaving the house, the phone rang.

Jane met Frank Sinatra when she was living in Hollywood.

Or the shorter action can be introduced by when:

We were having supper when the phone rang.

We can often use the simple past to describe the action in progress, but the progressive puts more emphasis on the duration of the action, as in the second of these two examples:

While I fumbled for some money, my friend paid the fares.

While I was fumbling for some money, my friend paid the fares.

2.3  Parallel actions

We can emphasize the fact that two or more actions were in progress at the same time by using e.g. while or at the time (that):

While I was working in the garden, my wife was cooking dinner.

2.4  Repeated actions

This use is similar to that of the present progressive:

When he worked here, Roger was always making mistakes.

2.5  Polite inquiries

This use is even more polite and tentative than the simple past:

I was wondering if you could give me a lift.

3.      Past tenses in typical contexts

The simple past combines with other past tenses, such as the past progressive and the past perfect, when we are talking or writing about the past. Note that the past progressive is used for scene-setting. Past tenses of various kinds are common in story-telling, biography, autobiography, reports, eye-witness accounts, etc.:

On March 14th at 10.15 a.m. I was waiting for a bus at the bus stop on the corner of Dover Road and West Street when a black Mercedes parked at the stop. Before the driver (had) managed to get out of his car, a number 14 bus appeared…

It was evening. The sun was setting. A gentle wind was blowing through the trees. In the distance I noticed a Land Rover moving across the dusty plain. It stopped and two men jumped out of it.

It was just before the Second World War. Tom was only 20 at the time and was living with his mother. He was working in a bank and travelling to London every day. One morning, he received a mysterious letter. It was addressed to ‘Mr Thomas Parker’.

The simple present perfect tense

1.      Form of the simple present perfect tense

The present perfect is formed with the present of have + the past participle (the third form of the verb). For regular verbs, the past participle has the same form as the simple past tense: e.g. arrive, arrived, have/has arrived. For irregular verbs, the simple past and the past participle can be formed in a variety of ways: e.g. drink, drank, have drunk.

I have worked.                                                 We have worked.

You have worked.                                            You have worked.

He has worked.

She has worked.                                              They have worked.

It has worked.

The interrogative is formed by means of the inversion between the subject and the auxiliary have:

Have I worked?                                               Have we worked?

Have you worked?                                          Have you worked?

Has he worked?

Has she worked?                                             Have they worked?

Has it worked?

The negative is formed by adding the negation NOT after the auxiliary:

I have not worked.                                           We have not worked.

You have not worked.                                      You have not worked.

He has not worked.

She has not worked.                                        They have not worked.

It has not worked.

2.      Present time and past time

Students speaking other European languages sometimes misuse the present perfect tense in English because of interference from their mother tongue. The present perfect is often wrongly seen as an alternative to the past, so that a student might think that I’ve had lunch and I had lunch are interchangeable. It is also confused with the present, so that an idea like I’ve been here since February is wrongly expressed in the present with I am.

The present perfect always suggests a relationship between present time and past time. So I’ve had lunch implies that I did so very recently. However, if I say I had lunch, I also have to say or imply when: e.g. I had lunch an hour ago. Similarly, I’ve been here since February shows a connection between past and present, whereas I am here can only relate to the present and cannot be followed by a phrase like since February.

In the present perfect tense, the time reference is sometimes undefined; often we are interested in present results, or in the way something that happened in the past affects the present situation. The present perfect can therefore be seen as a present tense which looks backwards into the past (just as the past perfect is a past tense which looks back into an earlier past). Compare the simple past tense, where the time reference is defined because we are interested in past time or past results. The following pairs of sentences illustrate this difference between present time and past time:

I haven’t seen him this morning. (i.e. up to the present time: it is still morning)

I didn’t see him this morning. (i.e. the morning has now passed)

Have you ever flown in Concorde? (i.e. up to the present time)

When did you fly in Concorde? (i.e. when, precisely, in the past)

3.      Uses of the simple present perfect tense

The present perfect is used in two ways in English:

1.                           To describe actions beginning in the past and continuing up to the present moment (and possibly into the future).

2.                           To refer to actions occurring and not occurring at an unspecified time in the past with some kind of connexion to the present.

These two uses are discussed in detail in the sections below.

4.      Actions, etc. continuing into the present

4.1  The present perfect + adverbials that suggest ‘up to the present’

We do not use the present perfect with adverbs relating to past time (ago, yesterday, etc.). Adverbial phrases like the following are used with the present perfect because they clearly connect the past with the present moment: before (now), It’s the first time…, so far, so far this morning, up till now, up to the present. Adverbs like ever (in questions), and not…ever or never (in statements) are commonly (but not exclusively) used with the present perfect:

I’ve planted fourteen rose-bushes so far this morning.

She’s never eaten a mango before. Have you ever eaten a mango?

It’s the most interesting book I’ve ever read.

Olga hasn’t appeared on TV before now.

4.2  The present perfect with ‘since’ and ‘for’

We often use since and for with the present perfect to refer to periods of time up to the present. Since (+ point of time) can be:

-          a conjunction: Tom hasn’t been home since he was a boy.

-          an adverb: I saw Fiona in May and I haven’t seen her since.

-          a preposition: I’ve lived here since 1980.

Since, as a conjunction, can be followed by the simple past or present perfect:

I retired in 1980 and came to live here. I’ve lived here since I retired. (i.e. the point when I retired: 1980)

I have lived here for several years now and I’ve made many new friends since I have lived here. (i.e. up to now)

For + period of time often occurs with the present perfect but can be used with any tense. Compare:

I’ve lived here for five years. (and I still live here)

I lived here for five years. (I don’t live here now)

I am here for six weeks. (that’s how long I’m going to stay)

5.      Actions, etc. occurring at an unspecified time

5.1  The present perfect without a time adverbial

We often use present perfect without a time adverbial, especially in conversation. We do not always need one, for often we are concerned with the consequences now of something which took place then, whether then was very recently or a long time ago. If further details are required (e.g. precise answers to questions like When?, Where?) we must generally use the simple past:

Have you passed your driving test? (Depending on context, this can mean ‘at any time up to now’ or ‘after the test you’ve just taken’.)

Yes, I passed when I was 17. (simple past: exact time reference)

Jason Villiers has been arrested. (Depending on context, this can imply ‘today’ or ’recently’ or ‘at last’.) He was seen by a Customs Officer who alerted the police. (simple past with details)

However, adverbs like just, used with the present perfect, can provide more information about actions in ‘unspecified time’.

5.2  The present perfect for recent actions

The following adverbs can refer to actions, etc. in recent time:

-          just: I’ve just tidied up the kitchen.

-          recently, etc.: He’s recently arrived from New York.

-          already in questions and affirmative statements: Have you typed my letter already? – Yes, I’ve already typed it.

-          yet, in questions, for events we are expecting to hear about: Have you passed your driving test yet? or in negatives, for things we haven’t done, but expect to do: I haven’t passed my driving test yet.

-          still, at last, finally: I still haven’t passed my driving test. (despite my efforts)/ I have passed my driving test at last. (after all my efforts)

5.3  The present perfect for repeated and habitual actions

This use is associated with frequency adverbs (often, frequently) and expressions like three/four/several times:

I’ve watched him on TV several times. (i.e. and I expect to again)

I’ve often wondered why I get such a poor reception on my radio.

She’s attended classes regularly. She’s always worked hard.

6.      The simple present perfect tense in typical contexts

The present perfect is never used in past narrative (e.g. stories told in the past, history books). Apart from its common use in conversation, it is most often used in broadcast news, newspapers, letters and any kind of language-use which has connexion with the present.

6.1  Broadcast reports, newspaper reports

Interest rates rose again today and the price of gold has fallen by $10 an ounce. Industrial leaders have complained that high interest rates will make borrowing expensive for industry.

6.2  Implied in newspaper headlines


6.3  Letters, postcards, etc.

We’ve just arrived in Hong Kong, and though we haven’t had time to see much yet, we’re sure we’re going to enjoy ourselves.

The simple past perfect tense

1.      Form of the simple past perfect tense

The past perfect is formed with the auxiliary have conjugated in the past = HAD + the past participle (the 3rd form of the verb):

I had worked.                                                  We had worked.

You had worked.                                             You had work.

He had worked.

She had worked.                                              They had worked.

It had worked.

The interrogative is formed by the inversion of the subject and the auxiliary:

Had I worked?                                                            Had we worked?

Had you worked?                                            Had you worked?

Had he worked?

Had she worked?                                            Had they worked?

Had it worked?

The negative is formed by adding the negation to the auxiliary:

I had not worked.                                            We had not worked.

You had not worked.                                       You had not worked.

He had not worked.

She had not worked.                                        They had not worked.

It had not worked.

2.      Uses of the past perfect tense

It is sometimes supposed that we use the past perfect simply to describe ‘events that happened a long time ago’. This is not the case. We use the simple past for this purpose:

Anthony and Cleopatra died in 30 B.C.

2.1  The past perfect referring to an earlier past

The main use of the past perfect is to show which of two events happened first. Here are two past events:

The patient died. The doctor arrived.

We can combine these two sentences in different ways to show their relationship in the past:

The patient died when the doctor arrived. (i.e. the patient died at the time or just after the doctor arrived)

The patient had died when the doctor arrived. (i.e. the patient was already dead when the doctor arrived)

The event that happened first need not be mentioned first:

The doctor arrived quickly, but the patient had already died.

Some typical conjunctions used before a past perfect to refer to ‘an earlier past’ are: when and after, as soon as, by the time that. They often imply a cause-and-effect relationship:

We cleared up as soon as our guests had left.

Adverbs often associated with the present perfect: already, ever, for (+ period of time), just, never, never…before, since (+ point of time) are often used with the past perfect to emphasize the sequence of events:

When I rang, Jim had already left.

The boys loved the zoo. They had never seen wild animals before.

2.2  The past perfect as the past equivalent of the present perfect

The past perfect sometimes functions simply as the past form of the present perfect:

Juliet is excited because she has never been to a dance before.

Juliet was excited because she had never been to a dance before.

This is particularly the case in indirect speech.

Used in this way, the past perfect can emphasize completion:

I began collecting stamps in February and by November I had collected more than 2000.

Yet can be used with the past perfect, but we often prefer expressions like until then or by that time. Compare:

He hasn’t finished yet.

He hadn’t finished by yesterday evening.

2.3  The past perfect for unfulfilled hopes and wishes

We can use the past perfect (or the past simple or progressive) with verbs like expect, hope, mean, suppose, think, want, to describe things we hoped or wished to do but didn’t:

I had hoped to send him a telegram to congratulate him on his marriage, but I didn’t manage it.

3.      Obligatory and non-obligatory uses of the past perfect

We do not always need to use the past perfect to describe which event came first. Sometimes this is perfectly clear, as in:

After I finished, I came home.

The sequence is often clear in relative clauses as well:

I wore the necklace (which) my grandmother (had) left me.

We normally use the simple past for events that occur in sequence:

I got out of the taxi, paid the fare, tipped the driver and dashed into the station.

‘I came, I saw, I conquered,’ Julius Caesar declared.

But there are instances when we need to be very precise in our use of past or past perfect, particularly with when:

When I arrived, Anne left. (i.e. at that moment)

When I arrived, Anne had left. (i.e. before I got there)

In the first sentence, I saw Anne, however briefly. In the second, I didn’t see her at all.

We normally use the past perfect with conjunctions like no sooner…than or hardly/scarcely/barely…when:

Mrs Winthrop had no sooner left the room than they began to gossip about her.

Mr Jenkins had hardly/scarcely/barely begun his speech when he was interrupted.

4.      Simple past and simple past perfect in typical contexts

The past perfect combines with other past tenses (simple past, past progressive, past perfect progressive) when we are talking or writing about the past. It is used in story-telling, biography, autobiography, reports, eye-witness accounts, etc. and is especially useful for establishing the sequence of events:

When we returned from our holidays, we found our house in a mess. What had happened while we had been away? A burglar had broken into the house and had stolen a lot of out things. (Now that the time of the burglary has been established relative to our return, the story can continue in the simple past). The burglar got in through the kitchen window. He had no difficulty in forcing it open. Then he went into the living-room…

Note the reference to an earlier past in the following narrative:

Silas Badley inherited several old cottages in our village. He wanted to pull them down and build new houses which he could sell for high prices. He wrote to Mr Harrison, now blind and nearly eighty, asking him to leave his cottage within a month. Old Mr Harrison was very distressed. (The situation has been established through the use of the simple past. What follows now is a reference to an earlier past through the use of the simple past perfect.) He had been born in the cottage and stayed there all his life. His children had grown up there; his wife had died there and now he lived there all alone

The present perfect progressive and past perfect progressive tenses

1.      Form of the present/past perfect progressive tenses

The present perfect progressive is formed with the auxiliary be conjugated in the present perfect = HAVE BEEN + the –ING form. The past perfect progressive is formed with the auxiliary be conjugated in the past perfect = HAD BEEN + the –ING form.

present/past perfect progressive

I have/had been working.                                            We have/had been working.

You have/had been working.                                       You have/had been working.

He has/had been working.

She has/had been working.                                         They have/had been working.

It has/had been working.

The interrogative is formed by the inversion of the first auxiliary (have/had) and the subject.

Have/had I been working?                                          Have/had we been working?

Have/had you been working?                                     Have/had you been working?

Has/had he been working?

Has/had she been working?                                        Have/had they been working?

Has/had it been working?

The negative is formed by adding the negation to the first auxiliary (have/had):

I have/had not been working.                                      We have/had not been working.

You have/had not been working.                                 You have/had not been working.

He has/had not been working.

She has/had not been working.                                   They have/had not been working.

It has/had not been working.

2.      Uses of the present/past perfect progressive tenses

2.1  Actions in progress throughout a period

We use the present perfect progressive when we wish to emphasize that an activity has been in progress throughout a period, often with consequences now. Depending on context, this activity may or may not still be in progress at the present time. This use often occurs with all + time references: e.g. all day.

She is very tired. She’s been typing letters all day. (Depending on context, she is still typing or has recently stopped)

The past perfect progressive, in the same way, is used for activities in progress during an earlier past, often with consequences then:

She was very tired. She had been typing letters all day. (Depending on context, she was still typing or had recently stopped.)

Some verbs like learn, lie, live, rain, sit, sleep, stand, study, wait, work naturally suggest continuity and often occur with perfect progressives with since or for and also in questions beginning with How long…?

I’ve been working for Exxon for 15 years. (Depending on context, I am still now, or I may have recently changed jobs or retired.)

When I first met Ann, she had been working for Exxon for 15 years. (Depending on context, Ann was still working for Exxon or she had recently changed jobs or retired.)

With ‘continuity verbs’, simple and progressive forms are often interchangeable, so in the above examples ‘I’ve worked’ and ‘she had worked’ could be used. The only difference is that the progressive puts more emphasis on continuity.

2.2  The present/past perfect progressive for repeated actions

The perfect progressive forms are often used to show that an action is (or was) frequently repeated:

Jim has been phoning Jenny every night for the past week.

Jenny was annoyed. Jim had been phoning her every night for a whole week.

2.3  The present/past perfect progressive for drawing conclusions

We use the progressive (seldom the simple) forms to show that we have come to a conclusion based on direct or indirect evidence:

Your eyes are red. You’ve been crying.

Her eyes were red. It was obvious she had been crying.

The present perfect progressive often occurs in complaints:

This room stinks. Someone’s been smoking here.

2.4  The present/past simple and progressive compared

The difference between an activity still in progress and one that has definitely been completed is marked by context and by the verbs we use. The simple and progressive forms are not interchangeable here:

I’ve been painting this room.

I’ve painted this room.

In the first example, the activity is uncompleted. In the second example, the job is definitely finished.

When I got home, I found that Jill had been painting her room.

When I got home, I found that Jill had painted her room.

In the first example, the activity was uncompleted then. In the second example, the job was definitely finished then.

The simple future tense

1.      Form of the simple future tense

The simple future is formed with WILL and the base form of the verb:

I will work.                                                      We will work.

You will work.                                     You will work.

He will work.

She will work.                                                  They will work.

It will work

The interrogative is formed by inversion between the subject and the auxiliary:

Will I work?                                                     Will we work?

Will you work?                                                Will you work?

Will he work?

Will she work?                                     Will they work?

Will it work?

The negative is formed by adding the negation to the auxiliary:

I will not work.                                                We will not work.

You will not work.                                           You will not work.

He will not work.

She will not work.                                            They will not work.

It will not work.

2.      Notes on the form of the simple future tense

2.1  Shall and will

Will is used with all persons, but shall can be used as an alternative with I and we in pure future reference.

Shall is usually avoided with you and I:

You and I will work in the same office.

2.2  Contractions

Shall does not contract to ‘ll in writing. Will contracts to ‘ll in writing and in fluent, rapid speech after vowels, but ‘ll can also occur after consonants. So we might find ‘ll used: e.g.

-after names:                            Tom’ll be here soon.

-after common nouns:              The concert’ll start in a minute.

-after question-words:              When’ll they arrive?

2.3  Negatives

Will not contracts to ‘ll not or won’t; shall not contracts to shan’t.

I/We won’t or shan’t go. (I/We will not or shall not go.)

In AmE shan’t is rare and shall with a future reference is unusual.

2.4  Future tense

When we use will/shall for simple prediction, they combine with verbs to form tenses in the ordinary way:

-          simple future:                               I will see.

-          future progressive:                      I will be seeing.

-          future perfect:                             I will have seen.

-          future perfect progressive:         I will have been seeing.

3.      Uses of the ‘will/shall’ future

3.1  ‘Will/shall’ for prediction briefly compared with other uses

Will and shall can be used to predict events, for example, to say what we think will happen, or to invite prediction:

Tottenham will win on Saturday.

It will rain tomorrow. Will house prices rise again next year?

I don’t know if I shall see you next week.

This is sometimes called ‘the pure future’, and it should be distinguished from many other uses of will and shall:

I’ll buy you a bicycle for your birthday. (promise)

(Note that will is not used to mean ‘want to’)

Will you hold the door open for me please? (request)

Shall I get your coat for you? (offer)

Shall we go for a swim tomorrow? (suggestion)

Just wait – you’ll regret this! (threat)

Though all the above examples point to future time, they are not ‘predicting’; they are ‘coloured’ by notions of willingness, etc. Will/shall have so many uses as modal verbs that some grammarians insist that English does not have a pure future tense.

3.2  ‘Will’ in formal style for scheduled events

Will is used in preference to be going to when a formal style is required, particularly in the written language:

The wedding will take place at St Andrew’s on June 27th. The reception will be at the Anchor Hotel.

3.3  ‘Will/shall’ to express hopes, expectations, etc.

The future is often used after verbs and verb phrases like assume, be afraid, be sure, believe, doubt, expect, hope, suppose, think:

I hope she’ll get the job she’s applied for.

The present with a future reference is possible after hope:

I hope she gets the job she’s applied for.

Lack of certainty, etc. can be conveyed by using will with adverbs like perhaps, possibly, probably, surely:

Ask him again. Perhaps he’ll change his mind.

4.      Time adverbials with the ‘will/shall’ future tense

Some adverbials like tomorrow are used exclusively with future reference; others like at 4 o’clock, before Friday, etc. are used with other tenses as well as the future:

I’ll meet you at 4 o’clock.

Now and just can also have a future reference:

This shop will now be open on June 23rd.

I’m nearly ready. I’ll just put my coat on.

5.      Other ways of expressing the future

We can express the future in other ways, apart from will/shall:

be going to:                 I’m going to see him tomorrow.

be to:                           I’m to see him tomorrow.

present progressive:  I’m seeing him tomorrow.

simple present:           I see him tomorrow.

These ways of expressing the future are concerned less with simple prediction and more with intentions, plans, arrangements, etc.

The future progressive tense

1.      Form of the future progressive tense

The future progressive is formed with the auxiliary be conjugated in the future: WILL/SHALL BE + the –ING form:

I will/shall be working.                                    We will/shall be working.

You will be working.                                       You will be working.

He will be working.

She will be working.                                        They will be working.

It will be working.

The interrogative is formed by inversion of the subject and the first auxiliary (will):

Will/shall I be working?                                  Will/shall we be working?

Will you be working?                                      Will you be working?

Will he be working?

Will she be working?                                       Will they be working?

Will it be working?

The negative is formed by adding the negation to the first auxiliary (will):

I will/shall not be working.                              We will/shall not be working.

You will not be working.                                 You will not be working.

He will not be working.

She will not be working.                                  They will not be working.

It will not be working.

2.      Uses of the future progressive tense

2.1  Actions in progress in the future

The most common use of the progressive form is to describe actions which will be in progress in the immediate or distant future:

Hurry up! The guests will be arriving at any minute!

A space vehicle will be circling Jupiter in five years’ time.

2.2  The ‘softening effect’ of the future progressive

Sometimes the future progressive is used to describe simple futurity, but with a ‘softening effect’ that takes away the element of deliberate intention often implied by will:

I’ll work on this tomorrow. (intention, possibly a promise)

I’ll be working on this tomorrow. (futurity)

In some contexts, the future progressive sounds more polite than will, especially in questions when we do not wish to appear to be pressing for a definite answer:

When will you finish these letters? (e.g. boss to assistant)

When will you be seeing Mr White? (e.g. assistant to boss)

Sometimes there really is a difference in meaning:

Mary won’t pay this bill. (she refuses to)

Mary won’t be paying this bill. (futurity)

Will you join us for dinner? (invitation)

Will you be joining us for dinner? (futurity)

Won’t you come with us? (invitation)

Won’t you be coming with us? (futurity)

2.3  Arrangements and plans

The future progressive can be used like the present progressive to refer to planned events, particularly in connexion with travel:

We’ll be spending the winter in Australia. (= we are spending)

Professor Craig will be giving a lecture on Etruscan pottery tomorrow evening. (= is giving)

The future perfect simple and future perfect progressive tenses

1.      Form of the future perfect simple and progressive tenses

The future perfect simple is formed with WILL HAVE + the past participle (3rd form) of the main verb:

I will/shall have worked.                                 We will/shall have worked.

You will have worked.                         You will have worked.

He will have worked.

She will have worked.                                     They will have worked.

It will have worked.

The future perfect progressive is formed with WILL HAVE BEEN + the –ING form of the main verb:

I will/shall have been working.                        We will/shall have been working.

You will have been working.                           You will have been working.

He will have been working.

She will have been working.                            They will have been working.

It will have been working.

The interrogative is formed by inversion of the first auxiliary (will) and the subject:

future perfect simple/progressive

Will/shall I have worked/been working?         Will/shall we have worked/been working?

Will you have worked/been working? Will you have worked/been working?

Will he have worked/been working?

Will she have worked/been working?              Will they have worked/been working?

Will it have worked/been working?

The negative is formed by adding the negation to the first auxiliary:

future perfect simple/progressive

I will/shall not have worked/been working. We will/shall not have worked/been working.

You will not have worked/been working.        You will not have worked/been working.

He will not have worked/been working.

She will not have worked/been working.         They will not have worked/been working.

It will not have worked/been working.

2.      Uses of the future perfect simple and progressive tenses

2.1  ‘The past as seen from the future’

We often use the future perfect to show that an action will already be completed by a certain time in the future:

I will have retired by the year 2020. (That is, before or in the year 2020, my retirement will already be in the past.)

This tense is often used with by and not…till/until + time and with verbs which point to completion: build, complete, finish, etc. We also often use the future perfect after verbs like believe, expect, hope, suppose:

I expect you will have changed your mind by tomorrow.

2.2  The continuation of a state up to the time mentioned

What is in progress now can be considered from a point in the future:

By this time next week, I will have been working for this company for 24 years.

We will have been married a year on June 25th.

The ‘going to’ – future

1.      Form of the ‘going to’ – future

The ‘going to’ – future is formed with the verb be conjugated in the present + going to + the base form of the main verb:

I am going to work.                                         We are going to work.

You are going to work.                                    You are going to work.

He is going to work.

She is going to work.                                       They are going to work.

It is going to work.

The interrogative is formed by inversion of the subject and the verb be:

Am I going to work?                                       Are we going to work?

Are you going to work?                                   Are you going to work?

Is he going to work?

Is she going to work?                                      Are they going to work?

Is it going to work?

The negative is formed by adding the negation to the verb be:

I am not going to work.                                   We are not going to work.

You are not going to work.                              You are not going to work.

He is not going to work.

She is not going to work.                                 They are not going to work.

It is not going to work.

2.      Uses of the ‘going to’ – future

2.1  The ‘going to’ – future for prediction

The going to – future is often used, like will, to predict the future. It is common in speech, especially when we are referring to the immediate future. The speaker sees signs of something that is about to happen:

Oh, look! It’s going to rain!

Look out! She’s going to faint!

This use of going to includes the present, whereas It will rain is purely about the future. Alternatively, the speaker may have prior knowledge of something which will happen in the near future:

They’re going to be married soon. (Her brother told me.)

A future time reference may be added with such predictions:

It’s going to rain tonight. They’re going to be married next May.

We usually prefer will to the going to – future in formal writing and when there is a need for constant reference to the future as in, for example, weather forecasts.

2.2  The ‘going to’ – future for intentions, plans, etc.

When there is any suggestion of intentions and plans, we tend to use the going to – future rather than will in informal style:

I’m going to practise the piano for two hours this evening. (i.e. That’s my intention: what I have planned/arranged to do.)

However, we generally prefer will to going to when we decide to do something at the moment of speaking:

We’re really lost. I’ll stop and ask someone the way.

Intention can be emphasized with adverbs like now and just which are generally associated with present time:

I’m now going to show you how to make spaghetti sauce.

I’m just going to change. I’ll be back in five minutes.

The use of be going to refer to the remote future is less common and generally requires a time reference:

She says she’s going to be a jockey when she grows up.

If we want to be precise about intentions and plans, we use verbs like intend to, plan to, propose to, rather than going to:

They’re going to build a new motorway to the west. (vague)

They propose to build a new motorway to the west. (more precise)

2.3  The ‘going to’ – future in place of the present progressive

The going to – future may be used where we would equally expect to have the present progressive with a future reference:

I’m having dinner with Janet tomorrow evening.

I’m going to have dinner with Janet tomorrow evening.

However, we cannot use the present progressive to make predictions, so it would not be possible in a sentence like this:

It’s going to snow tonight.

Though be going to can combine with go and come, the present progressive is preferred with these verbs for reasons of style. We tend to avoid going to next to go or come (e.g. going to go/going to come):

I’m going/coming home early this evening.

2.4  The ‘going to’ – future after ‘if’

We do not normally use will after if to make predictions, but we can use be going to to express an intention:

If you’re going to join us, we’ll wait for you.

Be going to can often be used in the main clause as well:

If you invite Jack, there’s going to be trouble.

Other ways of expressing the future

1.      Forms of future substitutes


I am (due/about) to work.                                            We are (due/about) to work.

You are (due/about) to work.                                      You are (due/about) to work.

He is (due/about) to work.

She is (due/about) to work.                                          They are to work.

It is (due/about) to work

Am I (due/about) to work?                                          Are we (due/about) to work?

Are you (due/about) to work?                                     Are you (due/about) to work?

Is he (due/about) to work?

Is she (due/about) to work?                                         Are they (due/about) to work?

Is it (due/about) to work/

I am not (due/about) to work.                                      We are not (due/about) to work.

You are not (due/about) to work.                                You are not (due/about) to work.

He is not (due/about) to work.

She is not (due/about) to work.                                    They are not (due/about) to work

It is not (due/about) to work.


I am on the point of working.                          We are on the point of working.

You are on the point of working.

He is on the point of working. Etc.

2.      Uses of future substitutes

2.1  The use of ‘be to’

Be to is used to refer to the future when the actions are subject to human control. Thus statements such as I’m going to faint or It’s going to rain cannot be expressed with be to, which has restricted uses: e.g.

Formal arrangements/public duties:

OPEC representatives are to meet in Geneva next Tuesday.

Formal appointments/instructions:

Active: You’re to deliver these flowers before 10.

Passive: Three tablets to be taken twice a day.

Prohibitions/public notices:

You’re not to tell him anything about our plans. (=you mustn’t)


2.2  The use of ‘be about to’, ‘be on the point of’

These constructions are used to refer to the immediate future:

Look! The race is about to start.

On the point of conveys even greater immediacy:

Look! They’re on the point of starting!

The use of just with be about to and be on the point of increases the sense of immediacy, as it does with the present progressive:

They’re just starting!

2.3  The use of ‘be due to’

This is often used in connexion with timetables and itineraries:

The BA 561 is due to arrive from Athens at 13.15.

The BA 561 is not due till 13.15.

The future-in-the-past

1.      The future-in-the-past

The future-in-the-past can be expressed by was going to, was about to, was to, was to have + past participle, was on the point of, was due to and (in more limited contexts) would. These forms can refer to events which were planned to take place and which did take place.

I couldn’t go to Tom’s party as I was about to go into hospital.

or refer to an outcome that could not be foreseen:

Little did they know they were to be reunited ten years later.

However, the future-in-the-past can also be used to describe events which were interrupted (just…when):

We were just going to leave when Jean fell and hurt her ankle.

or to describe events which were hindered or prevented (…but):

I was to see/was going to see/was to have seen Mr Kay tomorrow, but the appointment has been cancelled.

Note the possible ambiguity of:

I was going to see Mr Kay. (the meeting did or did not take place)

compared with:

I was to have seen Mr Kay. (I did not see him)

2.      Future-in-the-past: typical contexts

The future-in-the-past is often used in narrative to describe ‘events that were destined to happen’:

Einstein was still a young man. His discoveries had not yet been published, but they were to change our whole view of the universe.

Would can also express future-in-the-past in such contexts:

We had already reached 5.000 meters. Soon we would reach the top.

The imperative

1.      Form of the imperative

The imperative form is the same as the bare infinitive:

Affirmative form (base form of the verb):                 Wait!

Negative short form (Don’t + base form):                Don’t wait!

Emphatic form (Do + base form):                             Do wait a moment!

Addressing someone (e.g. pronoun + base form):     You wait here!

Imperative + question tag:                                        Wait here, will you?

Imperatives joined by and:                                       Go and play outside.

2.      Some common uses of the imperative

We use the imperative for direct orders and suggestions and also for a variety of other purposes. Stress and intonation, gesture, facial expression, and, above all, situation and context, indicate whether the use of this form is friendly, abrupt, angry, impatient, persuasive, etc. The negative form is usually expressed by Don’t. The full form (Do not) is used mainly in public notices. Here are some common uses:

1.      Direct commands, requests, suggestions:

Follow me. Shut the door (please). Don’t worry!

2.      Warnings:

Look out! There’s a bus! Don’t panic!

3.      Directions:

Take the 2nd turning on the left and then turn right.

4.      Instructions:

Use a moderate oven and bake for 20 minutes.

5.      Prohibitions (e.g. in public notices):

Keep off the grass! Do not feed the animals!

6.      Advice (especially after always and never):

Always answer when you’re spoken to! Never speak to strangers!

7.      Invitations:

Come and have dinner with us soon.

8.      Offers:

Help yourself. Have a biscuit.

9.      Expressing rudeness:

Shut up! Push off!

3.      Uses of the imperative with ‘do’

We use do (always stressed) before the imperative when we particularly wish to emphasize what we are saying: e.g.

-          when we wish to be polite:

Do have another cup of coffee.

-          or when we wish to express impatience:

Do stop talking!

-          or when we wish to persuade:

Do help me with this maths problem.

In response to requests for permission, offers, etc. do and don’t can be used in place of a full imperative:

May/Shall I switch the light off? – Yes, do. No, don’t.

4.      The use of the imperative to address particular people

The imperative, e.g. Wait here!, might be addressed to one person or several people: you is implied. However, we can get the attention of the person or people spoken to in the following ways:

1.      You + imperative:

You wait here for a moment.

Intonation and stress are important. If, in the above example you is unstressed, the sentence means ‘this is where you wait’. If it is stressed, it means ‘this is what I want you to do’. When you is stressed, it might also convey anger, hostility or rudeness:

You mind your own business!

You try teaching 40 noisy children five days a week!

Don’t (not you) is stressed in the negative:

Don’t you speak to me like that!

2.      You + name(s) or name(s) + you:

You wait here, Jim and Mary, you wait there.

3.      Imperative + name or name + imperative:

Drink up your milk, Sally! Sally, drink up your milk!

4.      Imperative + reflexive:

Enjoy yourself. Behave yourself.

5.      We can use words like everybody, someone with the imperative when we are talking to groups of people:

Everyone keep quiet! Keep still everybody!

Nobody say a word! Somebody answer the phone please.

Any compounds are used after negative commands:

Don’t say a word anybody! Don’t anybody say a word!

6.      We use let’s for 1st person plural imperative:

Let’s take a taxi!

Let’s is often associated with shall we?:

Let’s take a taxi, shall we?

The negative of Let’s in suggestions is:

Let’s not/Don’t let’s argue about it.

Informally, Let’s can relate to I in e.g. offers and requests:

Let’s give you a hand. (=I’ll) Let’s have a look. (=Can I?)

7.      The imperative with question tags

Tags like will you?, won’t you?, can you?, can’t you?, could you? and would you? can often be used after an imperative for a variety of purposes: e.g.

-          to express annoyance/impatience with will/won’t/can’t you? (rising tone):

Stop fiddling with that TV, will you/won’t you/can’t you?

-          to make a request (can you? for neutral requests; could/would you? for more polite ones); or to sound less abrupt:

Post this letter for me can you?/could you?/would you?

-          to offer polite encouragement or to make friendly offers and suggestions (will you? and won’t you?):

Come in, will you/won’t you? Take a seat, will you/won’t you?

-          to obtain the co-operation of others with Don’t…will you?:

Don’t tell anyone I told you, will you?

And note why don’t you as a tag in: e.g.

Go off for the weekend, why don’t you?

8.      Double imperatives joined by ‘and’

Some imperatives can be followed by and and another imperative where we might expect a to-infinitive:

Go and buy yourself a new pair of shoes. (Not *Go to buy)

Come and see this goldfish. (Not *Come to see)

Come and play a game of bridge with us. (Not *Come to play)

Wait and see. (Not *Wait to see)

Try and see my point of view. (Note: Try to is also possible)

In American English go is sometimes followed by a bare infinitive:

Go fetch some water. (=Go and fetch)

A to-infinitive can follow an imperative to express purpose:

Eat to live; do not live to eat.


1.                          Read the following in the third person singular. Do not change the object if it is plural. Note that after certain consonants the final –es is pronounced as a separate syllable.

1.      They wish to speak to you. (he)

2.      Buses pass my house every hour.

3.      They help their father. (he)

4.      We change planes at Heathrow.

5.      You watch too much TV. (he)

6.      They worry too much. (he)

7.      I cash a cheque every month. (he)

8.      I always carry an umbrella. (she)

9.      They wash the floor every week. (she)

10.  His sons go to the local school.

11.  These hens lay brown eggs.

12.  Rubber balls bounce.

13.  These figures astonish me.

14.  Do you like boiled eggs? (he)

15.  These seats cost $10.

16.  They fish in the lake. (he)

17.  Elephants never forget.

18.  They usually catch the 8.10 bus.

19.  They sometimes miss the bus.

20.  I mix the ingredients together.

21.  The rivers freeze in winter.

22.  They fly from London to Edinburgh.

23.  The carpets match the curtains.

24.  They realize the danger.

25.  I use a computer.

2.                          Read the following (a) in the negative (b) in the interrogative.

1.      You know the answer.

2.      He has breakfast at 8.00.

3.      He loves her.

4.      Some schoolgirls wear uniforms.

5.      He trusts you.

6.      He tries hard.

7.      The park closes at dusk.

8.      He misses his mother.

9.      The children like sweets.

10.  He finishes work at 6.00.

11.  He lives beside the sea.

12.  This stove heats the water.

13.  He usually believes you.

14.  She dances in competitions.

15.  You remember the address.

16.  She plays chess very well.

17.  He worries about her.

18.  These thieves work at night.

19.  He leaves home at 8.00.

20.  Ann arranges everything.

21.  She agrees with you.

22.  Their dogs bark all night.

23.  Their neighbours often complain.

24.  Tom enjoys driving at night.

25.  The last train leaves at midnight.

3.                          Put the verbs in brackets into the present continuous tense. In Nr. 25, have is used as an ordinary verb and can therefore be used in the continuous.

1.      She (not work), she (swim) in the river.

2.      He (teach) his boy to ride.

3.      Why Ann (not wear) her new dress?

4.      The aeroplane (fly) at 2,000 metres.

5.      What Tom (do) now? He (clean) his shoes.

6.      This fire (go) out. Somebody (bring) more coal?

7.      It (rain)? – Yes, it (rain) very hard. You can’t go out yet.

8.      Why you (mend) that old shirt?

9.      You (not tell) the truth. – How do you know that I (not tell) the truth?

10.  Who (move) the furniture about upstairs? – It’s Tom. He (paint) the front bedroom.

11.  Mrs. Jones (sweep) the stairs outside her house.

12.  What you (read) now? I (read) Crime and Punishment.

13.  It is a lovely day. The sun (shine) and the birds (sing).

14.  Someone (knock) at the door. Shall I answer it? – I (come) in a minute. I just (wash) my hands.

15.  She always (ring) up and (ask) questions.

16.  Why you (make) a cake? Someone (come) to tea?

17.  Where is Tom? – He (lie) under the car.

18.  Can I borrow your pen or you (use) it at the moment?

19.  You (do) anything this evening? – No, I’m not. – Well, I (go) to the cinema. Would you like to come with me?

20.  We (have) breakfast at 8.00 tomorrow as Tom (catch) an early train.

21.  Ann usually does the shopping, but I (do) it today as she isn’t well.

22.  Why you (type) so fast? – You (make) a lot of mistakes.

23.  Mother (rest) now. She always rests after lunch.

24.  They (dig) an enormous hole just outside my gate. – Why they (do) that for?: - I don’t know. Perhaps they (look) for oil.

25.  What (make) that terrible noise? – It’s the pneumatic drill. They (repair) the road.

4.                          Put the verbs in brackets into the simple present or the present continuous.

1.      Cuckoos (not build) nests. They (use) the nests of other birds.

2.      You can’t see Tom now; he (have) a bath.

3.      He usually (drink) coffee but today he (drink) tea.

4.      What she (do) in the evenings? – She usually (play) cards or (watch) TV.

5.      I won’t go out now as it (rain) and I (not have) an umbrella.

6.      The last train (leave) the station at 11.30.

7.      He usually (speak) so quickly that I (not understand) him.

8.      Ann (make) a dress for herself at the moment. She (make) all her own clothes.

9.      Hardly anyone (wear) a hat nowadays.

10.  I’m afraid I’ve broken one of your coffee cups. – Don’t worry. I (not like) that set anyway.

11.  I (wear) my sunglasses today because the sun is very strong.

12.  Tom can’t have the newspaper now because his aunt (read) it.

13.  I’m busy at the moment. I (redecorate) the sitting room.

14.  The kettle (boil) now. Shall I make the tea?

15.  You (enjoy) yourself or would you like to leave now? – I (enjoy) myself very much. I (want) to stay to the end.

16.  How you (get) to work as a rule? – I usually (go) by bus but tomorrow I (go) in Tom’s car.

17.  Why you (put) on your coat? – I (go) for a walk. You (come) with me? – Yes, I’d love to come. You (mind) if I bring my dog?

18.  How much you (owe) him? – I (owe) him $5. – You (intend) to pay him?

19.  You (belong) to your local library? – Yes, I do. – You (read) a lot? – Yes, quite a lot. – How often you (change) your books? – I (change) one every day.

20.  Mary usually (learn) languages very quickly but she (not seem) able to learn modern Greek.

21.  I always (but) lottery tickets but I never (win) anything.

22.  You (like) this necklace? I (give) it to my daughter for her birthday tomorrow.

23.  I won’t tell you my secret unless you (promise) not to tell anyone. – I (promise).

24.  You always (write) with your left hand?

25.  You (love) him? – No, I like him very much but I (not love) him.

26.  You (dream) at night? – Yes, I always (dream) and if I (eat) too much supper I (have) nightmares.

27.  The milk (smell) sour. You (keep) milk a long time?

28.  These workmen are never satisfied; they always (complain).

29.  We (use) this room today because the window in the other room is broken.

30.  He always (say) that he will mend the window but he never (do) it.

31.  You (know) why an apple (fall) down and not up?

32.  You (write) to him tonight? – Yes, I always (write) to him on his birthday. You (want) to send any message?

33.  Tom and Mr Pitt (have) a long conversation. I (wonder) what they (talk) about.

34.  You (believe) all that the newspapers say? – No, I (not believe) any of it. – Then why you (read) newspapers?

35.  This car (make) a very strange noise. You (think) it is all right? – Oh, that noise (not matter). It always (make) a noise like that.

36.  The fire (smoke) horribly. I can’t see across the room. – I (expect) that birds (build) a nest in the chimney. – Why you (not put) wire across the tops of your chimneys? – Tom (do) that sometimes but it (not seem) to make any difference.

5.                          Put the verbs in the following sentences into the simple past tense.

1.      I go to work by bus.

2.      I meet her on Tuesdays.

3.      He always wears black.

4.      I make cakes every day.

5.      She gets up at 6.30.

6.      He understands me.

7.      He shuts the shop at 6.00.

8.      She speaks slowly.

9.      He leaves the house at 9.00.

10.  I read a chapter every night.

11.  You eat too much.

12.  I see him every day.

13.  He cries when he is hurt.

14.  Who knows the answer?

15.  I think I know it.

16.  The curtain rises at 8.00.

17.  He takes the dog out twice a day.

18.  We buy them here.

19.  I dream every night.

20.  He often feels ill.

21.  I know what he wants.

22.  I usually pay him $5.

23.  It smells odd.

24.  It costs $50.

25.  My back hurts.

26.  We drink water.

27.  His roses grow well.

28.  He rides every day.

29.  He puts up his prices every year.

30.  He sleeps badly.

6.                          Put the verbs in the following sentences into (a) the negative and (b) the interrogative.

1.      She saw your brother.

2.      We heard a terrible noise.

3.      He slept till 10.00.

4.      He looked at the picture.

5.      They drank all the wine.

6.      They set out early enough.

7.      She thought about him.

8.      The police caught the thief.

9.      He hid the letter.

10.  She found her watch.

11.  His nose bled.

12.  My mother chose this hotel.

13.  She lent you enough money.

14.  Keiko taught Japanese.

15.  Tom hurt his foot.

16.  He broke his arm.

17.  His wife came at 8.00.

18.  He lost his wallet.

19.  His son wrote a novel.

20.  They flew to New York.

21.  Ann drew you a map.

22.  Tom laid the table.

23.  Mr Pitt fell downstairs.

24.  She lost her way.

25.  He forbade her to leave.

26.  I sent it to the laundry.

27.  Jack kept the money.

28.  He drove slowly.

29.  They spent it all.

30.  She sold the car.

31.  Jean rang the bell.

32.  The sun rose at 6.00.

33.  The boys ran home.

34.  He shook the bottle.

35.  He forgave her.

36.  They broadcast an appeal for money.

7.                          Put the verbs in brackets into the past continuous tense.

1.      The children were frightened because it (get) dark.

2.      It was a fine day and the roads were crowded because a lot of people (rush) to the seaside.

3.      The house was in great disorder because he (redecorate) it.

4.      The car had nobody in it but the engine (run).

5.      I was alone in the house at that time because Mr Jones (work) in the garage and Mrs Jones (shop).

6.      Are you going to Rome? I thought that you (go) to Milan.

7.      My wife and I (talk) about you the other day.

8.      When I first met him he (study) painting.

9.      Who you (talk) to on the telephone as I came in? – I (talk) to Mr Pitt.

10.  As she (climb) the ladder it slipped sideways and she fell off it.

11.  When I first met him he (work) in a restaurant.

12.  He watched the children for a moment. Some of them (bathe) in the sea, others (look) for shells, others (play) in the sand.

13.  Where he (live) when you saw him last?

14.  She (stand) at the bus stop. I asked her what bus she (wait) for.

15.  From the sounds it was clear that Mary (practise) the piano.

16.  There had been an accident and men (carry) the injured people to an ambulance.

17.  Two men (fight) at a street corner and a policeman (try) to stop them – What they (fight) about? – Nobody seemed to know.

18.  Tom (sit) in a corner with a book. I told him that he (read) in very bad light.

19.  When I arrived at the meeting the first speaker had just finished speaking and the audience (clap).

20.  The traffic (make) so much noise that I couldn’t hear what he (say).

21.  While he (learn) to drive he had twenty-five accidents.

22.  He had a bad fall while he (repair) the roof.

23.  The exam had just began and the candidates (write) their names at the top of their papers.

24.  Just as I (wonder) what to do next, the phone rang.

25.  Detective: I’m afraid I must ask you both what you (do) yesterday at 10.20 p.m.

Mr X: I (play) cards with my wife.

Mr Y: I (listen) to a play on the radio.

8.                          Put the verbs in brackets into the simple past or the past continuous tense.

1.      I lit the fire at 6.00 and it (burn) brightly when Tom came in at 7.00.

2.      When I arrived the lecture had already started and the professor (write) on the blackboard.

3.      I (make) a cake when the light went out. I had to finish it in the dark.

4.      I didn’t want to meet Paul so when he entered the room I (leave).

5.      Unfortunately when I arrived Ann just (leave), so we only had time for a few words.

6.      He (watch) TV when the phone rang. Very unwillingly he (turn) down the sound and (go) to answer it.

7.      He was very polite. Whenever his wife entered the room he (stand) up.

8.      The admiral (play) cards when he received news of the invasion. He (insist) on finishing the game.

9.      My dog (walk) along quietly when Mr Brown’s Pekinese attacked him.

10.  When I arrived she (have) lunch. She apologized for starting without me but said that she always (lunch) at 12.30.

11.  He always (wear) a raincoat and (carry) an umbrella when he walked to the office.

12.  What you (think) about his last book? – I (like) it very much.

13.  I (share) a flat with him when we were students. He always (complain) about my untidiness.

14.  He suddenly (realize) that he (travel) in the wrong direction.

15.  He (play) the guitar outside her house when someone opened the window and (throw) out a bucket of water.

16.  I just (open) the letter when the wind (blow) it out of my hand.

17.  The burglar (open) the safe when he (hear) footsteps. He immediately (put) out his torch and (crawl) under the bed.

18.  When I (look) for my passport I (find) this old photograph.

19.  You looked very busy when I (see) you last night. What you (do)?

20.  The boys (play) cards when they (hear) their father’s step. They immediately (hide) the cards and (take) out their lesson books.

21.  He (clean) his gun when it accidentally (go) off and (kill) him.

22.  He (not allow) us to go out in the boat yesterday as a strong wind (blow).

23.  When I last (see) her she (hurry) along the road to the station. I (ask) her where she (go) and she (say), ‘London’, but I don’t think she (speak) the truth because there (not be) any train for London at that time.

24.  The tailor said, ‘Your suit will be ready on Monday.’ But when I (call) on Monday he still (work) on it.

25.  The teacher (come) into the classroom unusually early and one of the boys, who (smoke) a cigarette, (have) no time to put it out. So he (throw) it into the desk and (hope) for the best.

26.  A little later the teacher (notice) that smoke (rise) from the desk. ‘You (smoke) when I (come) in?’ he (ask).

27.  While I (swim) someone (steal) my clothes and I (have to) walk home in my swimsuit.

28.  The men (say) that they (work) on the road outside my house and that they (want) some water to make tea.

29.  He (say) that he (build) himself a house and that he (think) it would be ready in two years.

30.  At 3.00 a.m. Mrs White (wake) her husband and (say) that she (think) that someone (try) to get into the house.

31.  Why you (lend) him that book? I still (read) it. – I’m sorry. I (not know) that you still (read) it.

32.  I (come) in very late last night and unfortunately the dog (wake) up and (start) to bark. This (wake) my mother who (come) to the top of the stairs and (say), ‘Who is there?’

33.  I (say), ‘It is me,’ but she (not hear) me because the dog (bark) so loudly, so she (go) back to her room and (telephone) the police.

9.                          Put the verbs in brackets into the present perfect tense, and fill the spaces by repeating the auxiliary.

1.      Where you (be)? – I (be) to the dentist.

2.      You (have) breakfast? – Yes, I ….

3.      The post (come)? – Yes, it ….

4.      You (see) my watch anywhere? – No, I’m afraid I ….

5.      Someone (wind) the clock? – Yes, Tom ….

6.      I (not finish) my letter yet.

7.      He just (go) out.

8.      Someone (take) my bicycle.

9.      The phone (stop) ringing.

10.  You (hear) from her lately? – No, I ….

11.  I just (wash) that floor.

12.  The cat (steal) the fish.

13.  You (explain) the exercise? – Yes, I ….

14.  There aren’t any buses because the drivers (go) on strike.

15.  You (have) enough to eat? – Yes, I (have) plenty, thank you.

16.  Charles (pass) the exam? – Yes, he ….

17.  How many bottles the milkman (leave)? – He (leave) six.

18.  I (live) here for ten years.

19.  How long you (know) John? – I (know) him for ten years.

20.  Would you like some coffee? I just (make) some.

21.  Mary (water) the flowers? – Yes, I think she ….

22.  You (not make) a mistake? – No, I’m sure I ….

23.  Why you (not mend) the car? – I (not have) time.

24.  You ever (leave) a restaurant without paying the bill? – No, I ….

25.  I (ask) him to dinner several times.

26.  He always (refuse).

27.  You ever (ride) a camel?

28.  I (buy) a new carpet. Come and look at it.

29.  He (post) the letter?

30.  Why he (not finish)? He (have) plenty of time.

31.  I often (see) him but I never (speak) to him.

32.  You ever (eat) caviar? – Yes, I ….

33.  We just (hear) the most extraordinary news.

10.                      The present perfect and the simple past.

(a)                            Fill the spaces by repeating the auxiliary used in the question, putting it into the negative where necessary.

(b)                           Put the verb in brackets into the present perfect or the simple past tense.

1.      Have you seen that play?

(a)    Yes, I ….

(b)   Yes, I (be) there last night.

2.      Have you wound the clock?

(a)    Yes, I ….

(b)   Yes, I (wind) it on Monday.

3.      Have you ever eaten snails?

(a)    No, I ….

(b)   Yes, I (eat) some at Tom’s party last week.

4.      Has she fed the dog?

(a)    Yes, I think she ….

(b)   Yes, she (feed) him before lunch.

5.      Have they repaired the road?

(a)    No, they ….

(b)   They only (repair) part of it so far.

6.      Have they done their homework?

(a)    Yes, they (do) it all.

(b)   Yes, they (do) it before they left school.

7.      Have you found the matches?

(a)    No, I ….

(b)   No, I (not find) them yet.

8.      Have you made the coffee?

(a)    Yes, I ….

(b)   I (make) some yesterday: we can use that.

9.      Have you seen him lately?

(a)    No, I ….

(b)   No, I (not see) him since Christmas.

10.  Have you been here before?

(a)    No, I ….

(b)   Yes, I (be) here several times.

11.  Have you been to the opera this week?

(a)    Yes, I ….

(b)   Yes, I (go) to Faust on Friday.

12.  Have you ever driven this car?

(a)    Yes, I (drive) it once or twice.

(b)   Yes, I (drive) it when you were away.

13.  Has he missed the train?

(a)    No, he ….

(b)   Yes, he ….It (go) five minutes ago.

14.  Have they been through Customs?

(a)    Yes, they ….

(b)   Yes, their luggage (be) examined at Dover.

15.  Has he spoken to her?

(a)    Yes, he ….

(b)   Yes, he (speak) to her on Friday.

16.  Have you spent all your money?

(a)    No, I only (spend) half of it.

(b)   Yes, I ….

17.  Has his temperature gone down?

(a)    No, it ….

(b)   Yes, it (go) down last night.

18.  How much have you saved since Christmas?

(a)    I (not save) anything.

(b)   I (save) $100.

19.  Have you seen his garden?

(a)    No, I (not see) it yet.

(b)   I (see) the house on Monday but I (not see) the garden.

20.  Have you paid the bill?

(a)    Yes, I ….

(b)   Yes, I (pay) it while you were away.

21.  Have you ever flown a plane?

(a)    No, I ….

(b)   Yes, I (fly) when I was at university.

22.  Has your dog ever bitten anyone?

(a)    Yes, he (bite) a policemen last week.

(b)   Yes, he (bite) me twice.

23.  Have you planted your flowers?

(a)    Yes, I (plant) them on Tuesday.

(b)   No, I … yet.

24.  Has he written to the paper?

(a)    Yes, he ….

(b)   Yes, he (write) at once.

25.  Have you ever drunk vodka?

(a)    No, I ….

(b)   I (drink) it once in Russia but I (not drink) it since.

11.                      Put the verbs in brackets into the present perfect or simple past tense. Fill the spaces by repeating the auxiliary used in the preceding verb.

1.      Where is Tom? – I (not see) him today, but he (tell) Mary that he’d be in for dinner.

2.      I (buy) this in Bond Street. – How much you (pay) for it? – I (pay) $100.

3.      Where you (find) this knife? – I (find) it in the garden.

4.      I (lose) my black gloves. You (see) them anywhere? – No, I’m afraid I …. When you last (wear) them? – I (wear) them at the theatre last night. – Perhaps you (leave) them at the theatre.

5.      Do you know that lady who just (leave) the shop? – Yes, that is Miss Thrift. Is she a customer of yours? – Not exactly. She (be) in here several times but she never (buy) anything.

6.      He (leave) the house at 8.00. – Where he (go)? – I (not see) where he (go).

7.      He (serve) in the First World War. – When that war (begin)? – It (begin) in 1914 and (last) for four hours.

8.      Who you (vote) for at the last election? – I (vote) for Mr Brown. – He (not be) elected, (be) he? – No, he (lose) the election.

9.      You (like) your last job? – I (like) it but then I (quarrel) with my employer and he (dismiss) me. – How long you (be) there? – I (be) there for two weeks.

10.  I (not know) that you (know) Mrs Pitt. How long you (know) her? – I (know) her for ten years.

11.  That is Mr Minus, who teaches me mathematics, but he (not have) time to teach me much. I only (be) in his class for a week.

12.  You (hear) his speech on the radio last night? – Yes, I …. – What you (think) of it?

13.  I (not know) that you (be) here. You (be) here long? – Yes, I (be) here two months. – You (be) to the Cathedral? – Yes, I (go) there last Sunday.

14.  You ever (try) to give up smoking? – Yes, I (try) last year, but then I (find) that I was getting fat so I (start) again.

15.  You (see) today’s paper? – No, anything interesting (happen)? – Yes, two convicted murderers (escape) from the prison down the road.

16.  Mary (feed) the cat? – Yes, she (feed) him before lunch. – What she (give) him? – She (give) him some fish.

17.  How long you (know) your new assistant? – I (know) him for two years. – What he (do) before he (come) here? – I think he (be) in prison.

18.  I (not see) your aunt recently. – No. She (not be) out of her house since she (buy) her colour TV.

19.  The plumber (be) here yet? – Yes, but he only (stay) for an hour. – What he (do) in that time? – He (turn) off the water and (empty) the tank.

20.  Where you (be)? – I (be) out in a yacht. – You (enjoy) it? – Yes, very much. We (take) part in a race. – You (win)? – No, we (come) in last.

21.  How long that horrible monument (be) there? – It (be) there six months. Lots of people (write) to the Town Council asking them to take it away but so far nothing (be) done.

22.  I just (be) to the film War and Peace. You (see) it? – No, I ….Is it like the book? – I (not read) the book. – I (read) when I (be) at school. – When Tolstoy (write) it? – He (write) it in 1868. – He (write) anything else?

23.  Hannibal (bring) elephants across the Alps. – Why he (do) that? – He (want) to use them in battle.

24.  Where you (be)? – I (be) to the dentist. – He (take) out your bad tooth? – Yes, he …. – It (hurt)? – Yes, horribly.

25.  She (say) that she’d phone me this morning, but it is now 12.30 and she (not phone) yet.

26.  I just (receive) a letter saying that we (not pay) this quarter’s electricity bill. I (not give) you the money for that last week? – Yes, you … but I’m afraid I (spend) it on something else.

27.  How long you (be) out of work? – I’m not out of work now. I just (start) a new job. – How you (find) the job? – I (answer) an advertisement in the paper.

28.  You (finish) checking the accounts? – No, not quite. I (do) about half so far.

29.   I (cut) my hand rather badly. Have you a bandage? – I’ll get you one. How it (happen)? – I was chopping some wood and the axe (slip).

30.  How you (get) that scar? – I (get) it in a car accident a year ago.

31.  You (meet) my brother at the lecture yesterday? – Yes, I …. We (have) coffee together afterwards.

32.  He (lose) his job last month and since then he (be) out of work. – Why he (lose) his job? – He (be) very rude to his boss.

33.  What are all those people looking at? – There (be) an accident. – You (see) what (happen)? – Yes, a bicycle (run) into a lorry.

34.  I (phone) you twice yesterday and (get) no answer.

35.  Originally horses used in bull fights (not wear) any protection, but for some time now they (wear) special padding.

36.  That house (be) empty for a year. But they just (take) down the ‘For Sale’ sign, so I suppose someone (buy) it.

12.                      Put the verb in brackets into the present perfect continuous tense.

1.      I (make) cakes. That is why my hands are all covered with flour.

2.      Her phone (ring) for ten minutes. I wonder why she doesn’t answer it.

3.      He (overwork). That is why he looks so tired.

4.      Have you seen my bag anywhere? I (look) for it for ages.

5.      What you (do)? – I (work) in the laboratory.

6.      He (study) Russian for two years and doesn’t even know the alphabet yet.

7.      How long you (wait) for me? – I (wait) about half an hour.

8.      It (rain) for two days now. There’ll be a flood soon.

9.      We (argue) about this for two hours now. Perhaps we should stop!

10.  I (bathe). That’s why my hair is all wet.

11.  You (drive) all day. Let me drive now.

12.  How long you (wear) glasses?

13.  I’m sorry for keeping you waiting. I (try) to make a telephone call to Rome.

14.  You (not eat) enough lately. That’s why you feel irritable.

15.  He (speak) for an hour now. I expect he’ll soon be finished.

16.  The radio (play) since 7 a.m. I wish someone would turn it off.

17.  I (shop) all day and I haven’t a penny left.

18.  We (live) here since 1977.

19.  I’m on a diet. I (eat) nothing but bananas for the last month.

20.  The children (look) forward to this holiday for months.

21.  That pipe (leak) for ages. We must get it mended.

22.  Tom (dig) in the garden all afternoon and I (help) him.

23.  I (ask) you to mend that window for six weeks. When are you going to do it?

24.  How long you (drive)? – I (drive) for ten years.

25.  The trial (go) on for a long time. I wonder what the verdict will be.

26.  It (snow) for three days now. The roads will be blocked if it doesn’t stop soon.

27.  Mary (cry)? – No, she (not cry), she (peel) onions.

28.  He walked very unsteadily up the stairs and his wife said, ‘You (drink)!’

29.  You usually know when someone (eat) garlic.

30.  Ever since he came to us that man (try) to make trouble.

13.                      Put the verbs in brackets into the present perfect or the present perfect continuous tense. (In some cases either could be used.)

1.      We (walk) ten kilometres.

2.      We (walk) for three hours.

3.      You (walk) too fast. That’s why you are tired.

4.      I (make) cakes for the party all the morning.

5.      How many you (make)? – I (make) 200.

6.      That boy (eat) seven ice-creams.

7.      He (not stop) eating since he arrived.

8.      The driver (drink). I think someone else ought to drive.

9.      I (plant) 100 flowers.

10.  I (plant) flowers all day.

11.  What you (do)? – We (pick) apples.

12.  How many you (pick)? – We (pick) ten basketfuls.

13.  I (sleep) on every bed in this house and I don’t like any of them.

14.  He (sleep) since ten o’clock. It’s time he woke up.

15.  He (ride); that’s why he is wearing breeches.

16.  I (ride) all the horses in this stable.

17.  What a lovely smell! – Mary (make) jam.

18.  The students (work) very well this term.

19.  I only (hear) from him twice since he went away.

20.  I (hear) from her regularly. She is a very good correspondent.

21.  I (grease) my car. That’s why my hands are so dirty.

22.  I (polish) this table all the morning and she isn’t satisfied with it yet.

23.  I (work) for him for ten years and he never once (say) ‘Good morning’ to me.

24.  He (teach) in this school for five years.

25.  I (teach) hundreds of students but I never (meet) such a hopeless class as this.

26.  Why you (be) so long in the garage? – The tyres were flat; I (pump) them up.

27.  I (pump) up three tyres. Would you like to do the fourth?

28.  I (look) for mushrooms but I (not find) any.

29.  He (cough) a lot lately. He ought to give up smoking.

30.  You (hear) the news? Tom and Ann are engaged! – That’s not new; I (know) it for ages!

31.  I (try) to finish this letter for the last half-hour. I wish you’d go away or stop talking. – I hardly (say) anything.

32.  The driver of that car (sound) his horn for the last ten minutes.

33.  It (rain) for two hours and the ground is too wet to play on, so the match (be) postponed.

34.  He (hope) for a rise in salary for six months but he (not dare) to ask for it yet.

35.  Mr Smith, you (whisper) to the student on your right for the last five minutes. You (help) him with his exam paper or he (help) you?

36.  Why you (make) such a horrible noise? – I (lose) my key and I (try) to wake my wife by throwing stones at her window. – You (throw) stones at the wrong window. You live next door.

14.                      Fill the spaces in the following sentences by using for or since.

1.      We’ve been fishing … two hours.

2.      I’ve been working in this office … a month.

3.      They’ve been living in France … 1970.

4.      He has been in prison … a year.

5.      I’ve known that … a long time.

6.      That man has been standing there … six o’clock.

7.      She has driven the same car … 1975.

8.      Things have changed … I was a girl.

9.      The kettle has been boiling … a quarter of an hour.

10.  The central heating has been on … October.

11.  That trunk has been in the hall … a year.

12.  He has been very ill … the last month.

13.  I’ve been using this machine … twelve years.

14.  We’ve been waiting … half an hour.

15.  Mr Pitt has been in hospital … his accident.

16.  He hasn’t spoken to me … the last committee meating.

17.  I have been very patient with you … several years.

18.  They have been on strike … November.

19.  The strike has lasted … six months.

20.  It has been very foggy … early morning.

21.  They have been quarrelling ever … they got married.

22.  I’ve been awake … four o’clock.

23.  I’ve been awake … a long time.

24.  We’ve had no gas … the strike began.

25.  I’ve earned my own living … I left school.

26.  Nobody has seen him … last week.

27.  The police have been looking for me … four days.

28.  I haven’t worn low-heeled shoes … I was at school.

29.  He had a bad fall last week and … then he hasn’t left the house.

30.  He has been under water … half an hour.

31.  That tree has been there … 2,000 years.

32.  He has been Minister of Education … 1983.

33.  I’ve been trying to open this door … forty-five minutes.

34.  He hasn’t eaten anything … twenty-four hours.

35.  We’ve had terrible weather … the last month.

36.  Nobody has come to see us … we bought these bloodhounds.

15.                      Rewrite each sentence so that it contains the word in capitals and so that the meaning stays the same.

a)      You have missed the beginning of the film.                   HAS

The film has already started.

b)      I can’t seem to stop sneezing lately.                               BEEN


c)      Paul is different from what he used to be.                      HAS


d)      This has been my home for thirty years.             HAVE


e)      Eating Chinese food is new to me.                                 BEFORE


f)       Is there any news?                                                          HAPPENED


g)      I bought my car in 1985 and I’m still driving it. BEEN


h)      I don’t know where my keys are.                                   HAVE


i)        Sue doesn’t have her dictionary with her; it’s at home.  HAS


j)       Tony hasn’t been to Paris before.                                   FIRST


16.                      Put each verb in brackets into a suitable tense. All sentences refer to past time.

a)      I realised that someone was stealing (steal) my wallet when I felt (feel) their hand in my pocket.

b)      When I ……… (phone) Helen last night she ……… (wash) her hair and she ……… (not finish) when I finally ……… (get to) her house.

c)      Peter ……… (offer) me another drink but I decided I ……… (drink) enough.

d)      Nobody ……… (watch), so the little boy ……… (take) the packet of sweets from the shelf and ……… (put) it in his pocket.

e)      I ……… (not realise) that I ……… (leave) my umbrella on the bus until it ……… (start) to rain.

f)       At school I ……… (dislike) the maths teacher because he ……… (always pick) on me.

g)      Wherever Marion ……… (find) a job, there was someone who ……… (know) that she ……… (go) to prison.

h)      It was only much later I ……… (find out) that during all the time I ……… (write) to my penfriend, my mother ……… (open) and reading the replies!

i)        I ……… (not understand) what ……… (go on). Several people ……… (shout) at me, and one ……… (wave) a newspaper in front of my face.

j)       I ……… (know) I ……… (do) well in my exams even before I ……… (receive) the official results.

17.                      Put each verb in brackets into a suitable past tense. Only use the past perfect where this is absolutely necessary.

This time last year I (1) was cycling (cycle) in the rain along a country road in France with a friend of mine. We (2) ……… (decide) to go on a cycling holiday in Normandy. Neither of us (3) ……… (go) to France before, but we (4) ……… (know) some French from our time at school and we (5) ……… (manage) to brush up on the basics. Now we (6) ……… (wonder) if we (7) ……… (make) the right decision. We (8) ……… (plan) our route carefully in advance, but we (9) ……… (forget) one important thing, the weather. It (10) ……… (rain) solidly since our arrival and that night we (11) ……… (end up) sleeping in the waiting room at a railway station. Then the next morning as we (12) ……… (ride) down a steep hill my bike (13) ……… (skid) on the wet road and I (14) ……… (fall off). I (15) ……… (realise) immediately that I (16) ……… (break) my arm, and after a visit to the local hospital I (17) ……… (catch) the next train to Calais for the ferry home. Unfortunately my parents (18) ……… (not expect) me home for a fortnight, and (19) ……… (go) away on holiday. So I (20) ……… (spend) a miserable couple of weeks alone, reading Teach Yourself French.

18.                      Put the verb in brackets into a suitable tense.

a)      In twenty four hours’ time I’ll be relaxing (relax) on my yacht.

b)      ‘There’s someone at the door.’ – ‘That ……… (be) the postman.’

c)      By the time you get back Harry ……… (leave).

d)      It’s only a short trip. I ……… (be) back in an hour.

e)      What ……… (you do) this Saturday evening? Would you like to go out?

f)       By the end of the week we ……… (decide) what to do.

g)      It ……… (not be) long before Doctor Smith is here.

h)      I’ve pressed the red button. Now what ……… (I do)?

i)        It’s very hot in here. I think I ……… (faint).

j)       What ……… (you give) Ann for her birthday? Have you decided yet?

19.                      Choose the most appropriate continuation for each sentence.

a)      Paula’s flight is bound to be late although

A)    it arrives at 6.00. B) it’s due at 6.00. C) it’s arriving at 6.00.

b)      It’s no use phoning Bob at the office, he

A)    will be leaving. B) is leaving. C) will have left.

c)      Everyone says that this year City

A)    are going to win the Cup. B) are winning the Cup. C) win the Cup.

d)      I don’t feel like visiting my relatives this year so

A)    I won’t go. B) I’m not going. C) I don’t go.

e)      According to the latest forecast, the tunnel

A)    will be finished next year. B) will have been finished next year. C) is finishing next year.

f)       You can borrow this calculator, I

A)    am not going to need it. B) won’t have been needing it. C) am not needing it.

g)      I’m sorry dinner isn’t ready yet, but it

A)    is going to be ready in a minute. B) will have been ready in a minute. C) will be ready in a minute.

h)      Can you send me the results as soon as you

A)    hear anything? B) are hearing anything? C) will have heard anything?

i)        You can try asking Martin for help but

A)    it won’t do you any good. B) it’s not doing you any good. C) it won’t be doing you any good.

j)       Don’t worry about the mistake you made, nobody

A)    will notice. B) is noticing. C) will be noticing.

20.                      Rewrite each sentence, beginning as shown, so that the meaning stays the same.

a)      I don’t suppose you have heard the news.

You won’t have heard the news.

b)      The Prime Minister expects a victory for his party.

The Prime Minister believes that ………………………

c)      A new manager will take Mr Brown’s place in the new year.

Mr Brown is ……………………………………………

d)      I’ve been in this company for three years, come the end of the month.

By the end of the month I ……………………………

e)      Why don’t you come to see us during lunch?

Why don’t you come to see us when we ………………

f)       What exactly do you intend to do?

What exactly are you …………………………………..

g)      The arrival of the train has been delayed, I’m afraid.

The train will …………………………………………..

h)      Let’s leave at the end of the next lecture.

As soon as ……………………………………………..

i)        There will be a team members’ meeting tomorrow.

The team members …………………………………….

j)       This book will take me two years to write.

In two years’ time ……………………………………..

21.                      Rewrite each sentence so that it contains the word in capitals. Do not change the word in any way.

a)      What time is the train for Nottingham?                           LEAVE

What time does the train for Nottingham leave?

b)      What do you intend to do now?                                     GOING


c)      You’ll find me waiting outside the station.                     BE


d)      Who will be your assistant on this project?                    WORKING


e)      Scientists are on the point of making a vital                   ABOUT



f)       Maria is pregnant again.                                                 HAVE


g)      I’ll be home late.                                                 UNTIL


h)      No one knows who is going to win the match.              WHAT


i)        David is bound to be here on time.                                 WON’T


j)       Mary and Alan’s wedding is next weekend.                  MARRIED


22.                      Decide whether the pairs of sentences A) and B) could be equally acceptable in the context given, or whether one is more appropriate.

a)      You can’t leave early,

A)    we’re having a meeting.

B)    we’re going to have a meeting.

(both acceptable, but A more appropriate)

b)      We’ve run out of fuel.

A)    What are we doing now?

B)    What are we going to do now?

c)      Oh dear, I’ve broken the vase.

A)    What will your mother say?

B)    What is your mother going to say?

d)      According to the weather forecast,

A)    it’ll rain tomorrow.

B)    it’s going to rain tomorrow.

e)      I’d like to call round and see you.

A)    What’ll you be doing in the morning?

B)    What are you doing in the morning?

f)       I’ve got nothing to do tomorrow so

A)    I’ll get up late.

B)    I’m going to get up late.

g)      It’s my eighteenth birthday next month so

A)    I’m having a party.

B)    I’ll be having a party.

h)      Why don’t you come with us?

A)    It’ll be a great trip.

B)    It’s going to be a great trip.

i)        When you get to the airport

A)    someone will wait for you.

B)    someone will be waiting for you.

j)       Shut up, will you!

A)    I’m getting angry in a minute.

B)    I’m going to get angry in a minute.

23.                      Rewrite each sentence so that it contains the word or words in capitals. Do not change the words in any way.

a)      I intended to call you yesterday, but I forgot.                 GOING

I was going to call you yesterday, but I forgot.

b)      We used to spend Sunday afternoons working in          WOULD

the garden.


c)      Paul had the irritating habit of making trouble.               ALWAYS


d)      Diana wasn’t always as rude as that.                              BE


e)      I felt happy about the improvement in Jean’s                 BETTER



f)       I wasn’t very keen on sport in those days.                      USE


g)      I might possibly go to the theatre tonight.                       WAS


h)      I had to go past your house so I decided to drop in.       PASSING


i)        Susan booked out before we got to her hotel.                BY THE TIME


j)       What did you do at the moment of the explosion?         WHEN


24.                      Put each verb in brackets into a suitable past tense. Only use the past perfect where this is absolutely necessary.

Harry went back to the camp the following morning, but it was in some confusion. Soldiers (1) were wandering (wander) around carrying equipment from one place to another, but there (2) ……… (not seem) to be any purpose to what they (3) ……… (do). Harry (4) ……… (never be) in an army camp before, but it (5) ……… (not take) a genius to realise that most of the officers (6) ……… (take) the first opportunity to abandon the men and head for safety. He (7) ……… (try) to phone the newspaper, but something (8) ……… (happen) to the telephone lines. He (9) ……… (try) to find out what exactly (10) ……… (go on), when the first plane (11) ……… (fly) low over the camp. A wooden building a few hundred yards away suddenly (12) ……… (disappear) in an explosion of flame. Before long bombs (13) ……… (explode) all around him, and then everything (14) ……… (go) quiet. The planes (15) ……… (vanish) as suddenly as they (16) ……… (appear). Smoke (17) ……… (rise) from burning buildings. A dead man (18) ……… (lie) next to Harry, the first dead person he (19) ……… (ever see). And suddenly it (20) ……… (begin) to rain.



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