Verb Tenses

The time that the verb conveys is the tense. All verbs have six tenses. The chart below offers examples of the six tenses using the verb run.

Conjugation of the word "run"

Present Tense (happening now)
singular plural
I run we run
you run you run
he/she/it runs they run
Past Tense (was done in the past)
singular plural
I ran we ran
you ran you ran
he/she/it ran they ran
Future Tense (it will be done)
singular plural
I will/shall run we will/shall run
you will run you will run
he/she/it will run they will run
Present Perfect Tense (a completed task)
singular plural
I have run we have run
you have run you have run
he/she/it has run he/she/it has run
Past Perfect Tense (completed task before a set time)
singular plural
I had run we had run
you had run you had run
he/she/it had run he/she/it had run
Future Perfect Tense (will be completed before a set time)
singular plural
I will/shall have flown we will/shall have flown
you willl have flown you willl have flown
he/she/it will have flown they will have flown

This chart can appear a bit cumbersome. It may be a bit intimidating when you consider that there is a chart like this for every verb—and this is only for a simple verb like run. Don't let this intimidate you. There is a system to conjugating verbs. Learn the system and you'll be fine.

Progressive Forms of Verbs

Additionally, there is an additional form for each tense. This extra form is called the "progressive form" and refers to continuing action. (Note: this is an extra form of the verb, not an extra tense). It’s called progressive simply because it’s progressively happening, or continuing. The “formula” for the progressive form is:

[a form of the verb "be"] + [the present participle* of the verb] = progressive form

* The present participle most often is just a fancy way of referring to the gerund, which is simply the “-ing” form of the verb. Consider the examples of run in the chart below:

Progressive form of the word "run"
Present Progressive: am, are, is running
Past Progressive: was, were, running
Future Progressive: will/shall be running
Present Perfect Progressive: has, have been running
Past Perfect Progressive: had been running
Future Perfect Progressive: will/shall have been running

Verb Tense Summary

This is a lot of info to take in. Still, all of this verb conjugation business doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Let’s consider the basics:

  • The first three tenses are rather clear—present, past, and future
  • The latter three tenses, perfect tenses, are simply forms of the word used in conjunction with a form of the word "have". They refer to tasks already completed, or have been completed.

Verb tenses and the SAT or ACT

A common problem that’s made occurs when verb tenses are in disagreement. The verb tense may jump back and forth without need. This is an error.


  • He hauled the dirt then dumps it out. (hauled is past tense, dumps is present)
  • When the woman complained, she gets a free meal. (complained is past tense, gets is present)


  • He hauled the dirt then dumped it out. (both hauled and dumped are past tense)
  • When the woman complained, she got a free meal. (both complained and got are past tense)

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