Resources for Verb Forms and Tenses

Rules for Verb Forms and Tenses

Tense sequence indicates a logical time sequence.

1.  Use present tense in universally true statements not limited to a particular time.

Example:  I learned that the sun is ninety-million miles from the earth. (The fact that the sun is ninety-million miles away from the earth is a universal truth.)

Example: The editor reminded us that periods and commas are always placed inside the closing quotation marks.

Example: Somebody told me that it is 836 miles from Houston, Texas, to El Paso, Texas.

2.  Use present tense in statements about the contents of literature and other published works. This is the eternal present.

Example: Hamlet is one of the most indecisive characters in literature.

Example: In this book, the protagonist becomes a priest and writes a book on psychology.

3.  Use past tense in statements concerning writing or publishing of a book.

Example: She wrote her first book in 1946, and it was published posthumously in 1952.

4.  Use present perfect tense for an action that began in the past but continues into the future.

Example: I have lived here all my life.

5.  Use past perfect tense for an earlier action that is mentioned after a later action.

Example: Marvin bought the car that he had seen advertised in the paper. (First he saw it; then he bought it.)

6.  Use future perfect tense for an action that will have been completed at a specific future time.

Example: By May 2010, I will have graduated.

7.  Use a present participle for an action that occurs at the same time as the verb.

Example: Speeding down the interstate, I saw a cop's flashing light.

8.  Use a perfect participle for an action that occurred before the main verb.

Example: Having read the directions, I started the test.

9.  Use subjunctive mood to express a wish or state a condition contrary to fact.

Example: If it were not raining, we could have a picnic.

10.  Use subjunctive mood in that-clauses after verbs like request, recommend, suggest, ask, require, and insist; and after such expressions as it is important and it is necessary.

Example: It is necessary that all papers be submitted on time.

11.  All verbs have five forms

Principal Parts of Verbs
  Regular Irregular
base form (infinitive) walk go
-s form walks goes
-ing form walking going
-ed form walked went
-ed/-en form (had) walked (had) gone

NOTE:  Always use a helping verb with the -ed/-en form.

Example:  We had gone for a jog.