Verb Tense Summary
Simple Present – for situations that are habits or happen in general.
Example: I play football every Saturday.
We often use the verb 'to be' in the simple present to describe a present state.
Example: He is tall. (see 'link verbs' for a fuller explanation of this example).
Continuous Tenses – when an action is/was/will be in progress at the point in time referred to.
Example: I am typing right now. I was typing at 10pm last night. I will be typing at the same time again tomorrow.
The continuous tenses don't indicate when the action started or finished, just that it is/was/will be in progress at the time indicated. Some verbs are not generally used in the continuous form and for these, we use the simple present even when describing actions in progress.
Examples: like / need / want / prefer / know / realize / suppose / mean / understand / believe / remember / belong / fit / contain / seem / consist
Simple Past – a specific time /situation in the past.
Example: The Internet Bubble burst at the beginning of the 21st century.
Here we must give the time of the action. e.g. last week / on Monday / in June / at Christmas / in 2017
Present Perfect – an event in the past which is not time specific (e.g. recently, lately, already) or when an event in the past is still true / relevant to the present (the use of this verb tense is the most different to Portuguese – see the Present Perfect page for a more complete explanation).
Past Perfect – when an event in the past occurred prior to another event in the past. Here we need to fix the sentence against the first event.
Example: When I started my GMAT course, I had already taken my TOEFL.
Conditionals – when one outcome is dependent on another outcome. There are three main conditional forms, each having an ‘if clause’ and a ‘result cause’ - see the Conditionals page for more details.
Simple Future - when a decision is spontaneous. Going to - e.g. I'm going to travel next week. When a decision was made previously.
Note in the table above how only the 'auxiliary' verbs change in the perfect and continuous columns.