Britlish

Aspects and Tenses - GA1

Aspect and Tenses Course Grammar | English in Use

Grammar

These Activities focus on the grammar of English. English grammar compared to other grammars is quite simple, but in its simplicity lies its complexity. The Activities here cover all aspects of English grammar from the aspects and tenses to sentence structures. English grammar covers the structure of words, phrases, clauses, sentences, and entire texts. There are eight parts of speech in English: nouns, determiners, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions. The largest of these parts of speech are the nouns which, unlike most European languages, do not have grammatical gender. English grammar has largely done away with the inflectional case system of other European languages and bases its grammar on analytic constructions. The Activities in this category will go some way to helping you get a better understanding of English grammar.    

English in Use

The Activities categorised as English in Use look at the way we use English in everyday life. The Activities cover the actual use of English and examine grammar, punctuation, and functionality of the language. For any student studying English as a second language or English as a foreign language, English in Use Activities are particularly useful for improving speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills. These Activities will help you to develop your confidence in using different types of text such as fiction, newspapers and magazines, as well as learning to speak and write about things such as the weather and travel, as well as preparing you for typical situations such as ordering in a restaurant or buying a train ticket.

Donate Newest All Categories Top Random Courses IPA Challenges Word Games Popup Lesson

Donate

Welcome to the first in my series of Grammar Activation Packs at Britlish.com. Together, the Grammar Activation Packs combine to provide you with a clear overview of English grammar in use. When I teach grammar to my students, I first teach them what I call the three keys to English grammar. The three keys are the three verbs, do, be, and have. Understand these three verbs and you will see just how easy English grammar really is. I have created some fun exercises to help you activate what you have learnt. This British English grammar is essential for all students of English and the many exercises in the pack will help you master it quickly and enjoyably.

Aspect and Tenses Course

Donate

Aspects & Tenses

Grammar Activation Pack 1

The Three Keys

When I teach grammar to my students, I first teach them what I call the three keys to English grammar.

The three keys are the three verbs, do, be, and have.

Understand these three verbs and you will see just how easy English grammar really is.

Aspects & Tenses

Okay, this Grammar Activation Pack is titled Aspects & Tenses, so it would be bereft of me not to tell you what aspects and tenses both mean.

Let’s start with tenses, even though tenses comes second in the title.

English has only two tenses.

Let me explain on the next page.

Tenses

Tense means time, and time can be the present, the past, or the future.

But didn’t I just say that English has only two tenses?

That’s right, I did!

English only has the present and the past tenses, but it does not have future tense.

However, we can still talk about the future, we just don’t do it by changing the verb forms as we do with the past.

We talk about the future using the auxiliary verbs will and shall, by using going to, and by several other means that I will look at later in this course.

Present Tense

The present tense is indicted by the present forms of the three key verbs.

With do, the present is indicated by do and does.

With be, the present is indicated by am, is, and are.

With have, the present is indicated by have and has.

Third Person Singular

The present tense is indicted by the present forms of the three key verbs, do, be, and have.

The third person singular subjects, He, She, and It use the verb forms ending in s.

He/She/It does…

He/She/It is…

He/She/It has…

This leaves just the present tense, are, form of the verb be, left to explain.

Use of Are

The third form of the present tense of the verb be, which is are, is used for plural person subjects, you, we, they.

Because the pronoun you is used for both plural and singular subjects, we use are with both singular and plural you.

Richard, you are teaching us English. (Subject, you = Richard, is singular)

We do not use are with singular nouns, however, even though we do when we use a pronoun for the same subject.

Richard is teaching us English. (Subject, Richard, is singular)

Past Tense

The past tense is indicted by the past forms of the three key verbs, do, be, and have.

With do, the past is indicated by did for all persons.

With be, the past is indicated by was for third persons, and were for all other persons.

With have, the past is indicated by had for all persons.

Aspect

Now that you understand that tense means time, we’ll look at the meaning of aspect.

There are four aspects in English grammar:

The simple aspect

The continuous aspect

The perfect aspect

The perfect continuous aspect

Aspects tell us if something is finished or ongoing.

Simple Aspect

The simple aspect of the present and past tense is marked by the auxiliary verb do, even when it appears to be missing.

Take the sentence, I love teaching English, for example.

This is the present tense and the simple aspect, but where is the auxiliary verb do?

To see the do we can change the sentence to, I do love teaching English.

Normally, we only do this for present simple when we use do for emphasis.

Hidden Do

The simple present uses what I call the hidden do.

The hidden do is found in the present tense with the simple aspect.

In question forms we see the do because we use the auxiliary to form the question.

I love teaching English. (Hidden do)

Do I love teaching English? (Do is needed in simple aspect questions)

I do not love teaching Spanish. (Do is needed in simple aspect negatives)

Notice here that teaching is not a verb, it’s a gerund. The main verb is love. More on gerunds later in this course.

Simple Past

The simple aspect always uses do, but in the case of the past tense, it is the past form of do, which is did.

The simple past also uses the hidden do.

The hidden do is found in the past tense with the simple aspect, unless we use do for emphasis.

Richard made this Grammar Activation Pack. (Hidden do)

Richard did make this Grammar Activation Pack. (Do for emphasis)

Did Richard make this Grammar Activation Pack? (Do is needed in simple aspect questions)

You did not make this Grammar Activation Pack. (Do is needed in simple aspect negatives)

Continuous Aspect

The continuous aspect of the present and past tense is marked by the auxiliary verb be plus the ing form of the verb.

If you see the verb be followed by an ing form, it’s the continuous aspect.

Take the sentence, I am teaching English, for example.

This is the present tense, because it uses the present tense of be, which is am, and the continuous aspect because it contains be +ing.

Verb to be plus ing! Is really all you need to know to identify the continuous aspect.

Perfect Aspect

Perfect means finished or complete. Indeed, it is sometimes called the complete aspect.

The perfect aspect of the present and past tense is marked by the auxiliary verb have plus the past participle, or third form of the verb.

I have created this Grammar Activation Pack.

He has created this Grammar Activation Pack.

The present tense is shown by the present tense of the auxiliary have.

Have only marks the perfect aspect when followed by a past participle, in this case created.

Thus we have present perfect.

If you see the verb have followed by a past participle form, it’s the perfect aspect.

Present Perfect Continuous

We have seen that have plus past participle is the perfect aspect.

We have also seen that be +ing is the continuous aspect.

If we put them together, we should get the present perfect continuous.

I have been creating these Grammar Activation Packs for a while now.

Have plus past participle of be, which is been, gives us the perfect aspect.

Be +ing gives us the continuous aspect.

Thus the perfect continuous aspect of the present and past tense is marked by the auxiliary verb have plus the past participle of be, been, plus ing.

Easy, isn’t it?

Does it Work?

Okay. I’ve defined the aspects and shown how the tenses work.

Now let’s see if they hold true for all circumstances.

The best way to do this, I think, is to analyse a few sentences in the present and the past.

We’ll look at the future in a future Grammar Activation Pack.

Present Simple

I teach English.

Does this sentence contain an auxiliary verb?

Of course it does, but it’s hidden.

Let’s find it by turning it into a question.

Do I teach English?

Now we can see that there must be a hidden do in the original statement.

If we use do for emphasis, we see it clearly:

I do teach English.

Do marks the simple aspect and the tense of the auxiliary do is present.

Thus we are looking at the present simple.

Present Continuous

I am teaching English.

This statement does not have do in it, so it cannot be the simple aspect.

What auxiliary does the sentence have?

That’s right, it contains a present form of be, am, which shows the present tense.

Is be followed by the ing form?

Yes, it is. Therefore, it must be the continuous aspect.

We are looking at the present continuous.

If be was on its own, it would be a copular verb, which I’ll explore in a future Grammar Activation Pack.

Present Perfect

I have taught English online since 2006.

This statement has the auxiliary verb have in the present form.

Have marks the perfect aspect when followed by the past participle of a verb.

In this sentence, the past participle form of teach is used, taught.

Therefore, we must be looking at the present perfect.

Present Perfect Continuous

I have been teaching English online since 2006.

This statement has the auxiliary verb have in the present form.

Have marks the perfect aspect when followed by the past participle of a verb.

In this sentence, the past participle form of be is used, been.

However, there is also an ing form of the verb teach.

Have plus past participle = perfect aspect.

Be plus ing = continuous aspect.

Have is in the present tense, have, so we have present perfect continuous.

Past Simple

She taught English.

Does this sentence contain an auxiliary verb?

Of course it does, but it’s hidden.

Let’s find it by swapping the position of the subject and the auxiliary verb to turn it into a question.

Did she teach English?

Now we can see that there must be a hidden do in the original statement.

If we use do for emphasis, we see it clearly:

She did teach English.

Do marks the simple aspect and the tense of the auxiliary, did, is past.

Thus we are looking at the past simple.

Past Continuous

She was teaching English.

This statement does not have do in it, so it can’t be the simple aspect.

What auxiliary does the sentence have?

That’s right, it contains a past form of be, was, which shows the past tense.

Is be followed by the ing form?

Yes, it is. Therefore, it must be the continuous aspect.

We are looking at the past continuous.

Past Perfect

She had taught English online since 2006.

This statement has the auxiliary verb have in the past form, had.

Have marks the perfect aspect when followed by the past participle of a verb.

In this sentence, the past participle form of teach is used, taught.

Therefore, we must be looking at the past perfect.

Past Perfect Continuous

She had been teaching English online since 2006.

This statement has the auxiliary verb have in the past form, had.

Have marks the perfect aspect when followed by the past participle of a verb.

In this sentence, the past participle form of be is used, been.

We have the past perfect.

However, there is also an ing form of the verb teach, following be.

Be plus ing = continuous aspect.

Add this to our past perfect and we have past perfect continuous.

Conclusion

I hope you can now see that you can easily label simple, continuous, and perfect aspects if you just know the three key verbs, do, be, and have.

All you need to memorise are the present and past forms of these three verbs.

I’ll explain how and when to use each aspect later in this course.

Also, in future Grammar Activation Packs, I’ll explain how we talk about the future, but it’s just as easy, I promise.

For now, let’s activate what we’ve learnt up to now with the Grammar Activator, shall we?

Aspect and Tenses

A comprehensive English course covering the tenses and aspects of English in an easy-to-understand format with lots of self-test exercises to check your understanding. You will learn all you need to know about the 3 Key Verbs of English: Be, Do, Have. This course will let you see just how simple English grammar is. We will explore the present simple, the past simple, the present continuous, the post continuous, the present perfect and the present perfect past and present, along with present perfect time markers, the present perfect continuous, the past perfect and the past perfect continuous.

Responsive image

Future 1 - GA12

In the previous Grammar Activation Packs I have introduced you to the present and the past tenses, along with the simple, continuous, and perfect aspects. I also mentioned that English has only the two tenses, present and past. So where does this leave us when we want to talk about the future? Don’t worry, there are several ways that we can talk about the future, including using the present tense, which is what I am going to explain in this lesson. There are two aspects of the present tense that we can use to talk about the future. We can use the simple aspect which uses the auxiliary verb do. We can also use the continuous aspect, which uses the auxiliary verb be, and the ing form of a non-finite verb.    

Categories: Grammar | Phrasal Verbs


Responsive image

Future 2 - GA13

In the previous Grammar Activation Packs I have introduced you to the present and the past tenses, along with the simple, continuous, and perfect aspects. I also mentioned that English has only the two tenses, present and past. This lesson looks at Will or Shall for Future, Asking for Decisions, Promises and Threats, Decisions Made at the Moment, Predicting, Conditionals, Giving Orders or Instructions, Negative Will for Refusals, Negative Shall for Refusals, things Not Rooted in Present, and Future Time Indicators. This British English grammar is essential for all students of English and the many exercises in the pack will help you master it quickly and enjoyably.    

Categories: Grammar


If you are on a mobile device, or want to open the lesson in a new window, click the button below. The lesson will open in a popup window.

Popup Lesson Donate


Popup Lesson


Use your study record to set lessons as completed, rate them with a 1-5 star rating, record vocabulary from the lesson for future reference, and take notes about the lesson for future reference.

Not Complete!

You have not completed this lesson yet. To complete it, click the Complete Lesson button.

Donate Complete Lesson Completed Lessons


Lesson Rating

You have not rated this lesson.

Donate Rate This All Ratings


Lesson Vocabulary

You have not created any vocabulary items for this lesson yet.

Donate Add New Vocabulary All Vocabulary


Lesson Notes

You have not created any notes for this lesson yet.

Donate Create Notes All Notes


Learn English with the most innovative and engaging English lessons available anywhere on the Internet and all completely free of charge! To personalise your experience in the Britlish Library and to keep track of the lessons you have studied and the vocabulary you have recorded, or the notes you have made about each class, sign up for a free account today.