A verb is a word of action. Verbs can be divided into two groups- lexical and auxiliary.

Auxiliaries are further divided into primary auxiliaries and modal auxiliaries. The primary auxiliaries are forms of 'to do', 'to be' and 'to have'.

  • The forms of 'to do' are: do, does and did, doing and done.
  • The forms of 'to be' are: is, am, are, was, were, being and been.
  • The forms of 'to have' are: have, has, had, having and had.

It is known that there are four forms of a verb. They are: present tense form, past tense form, present participle form and past participle form.

Of the forms of 'to do', do and does are present tense forms, did is the past tense form and doing is the present participle form and done is the past participle form.

Similarly, of the forms of 'to be', is am and are are present tense forms, was and were are past tense forms and being is the present participle form and been is the past participle form.

Finally, of the forms of 'to have', have and has are present tense forms, had is the past tense form and having is the present participle form and had is the past participle form.

To determine the tenses of the primary auxiliaries, use them in very simple sentences: For example: from the sentences 'He was here' and 'He is here', we can infer that 'was' is past tense and 'is' is the present tense. Similarly from the sentences, 'They are here' and 'They were here', we can see that 'were' is the past tense and 'are' is the present tense form. We can form simple sentences with the other auxiliaries to find their tenses.

The modal auxiliaries are: can, could, will, would, shall, should, may, might, must, need and ought to.

Lexical verbs are also called main verbs. These have ‘meaning’ unlike the auxiliaries which do not have meaning. Thus, we understand what is meant by run, walk, write, etc.

We know that there are a total of twelve tenses- four forms of the present, the simple present, the present continuous, the present perfect and the present perfect continuous. Similarly, there are four forms of the past- the simple past, the past continuous, the past perfect and the past perfect continuous and four forms of the future- the simple future, the future continuous, the future perfect and the future perfect continuous.

Let us look at how to form these twelve tenses. We will look at the following sentences to understand the structure of each of the twelve tenses.

The simple present: I watch TV. I move the chair. He watches TV. He moves the chair. It is seen that to the base form of the main verb ‘watch’ we have added the prefix –es, and to the base form of the verb ‘move’ we have added the prefix –s. Thus, the structure of the simple present is- verb +[s]/[es].

The present continuous: I am watching TV. He is watching TV. They are watching TV. From these we see that the structure of the present continuous is: [Am/is/are + verb + ing].

The present perfect: I have watched TV. He has watched TV. The structure of the present perfect is: [have/has + past participle].

The present perfect continuous tense: I have been watching TV. He has been watching TV. From which, the structure is: [have / has + been + verb + ing]. If we change the helping verbs to the corresponding past tense forms, we get the following:

The simple past tense: I watched TV. He watched TV. Structure: [verb + d/ ed].

The past continuous tense: I was watching TV. They were watching TV. Structure: [was / were + verb +ing].

The past perfect tense: I had watched TV. He had watched TV. Structure: [had + past participle]

The past perfect continuous tense: I had been watching TV. They had been watching TV. Structure: [had + been + verb + ing]

The simple future: I will/shall watch TV. Structure: will/shall + verb.

The future continuous tense: I will / shall be watching TV. Structure: [will / shall + be + verb + ing].

The future perfect tense: I will/ shall have watched TV. Structure: [will/ shall + have + past participle]

The future perfect continuous tense: I will/shall have been watching TV. Structure: [will/shall + have + been + verb +ing].

Thus, if we take any main verb we can conjugate it according to the above structure to form the different tenses. For example, the verb 'run' can be conjugated as runs/run as the present tense forms. Is running is the present continuous as are are running and am running. Have run and had run are the present perfect forms and have been running and has been running are the present perfect continuous forms.

Can you guess the tense of will run and will be running using the above structures?

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