The big dilemma! Which tense to use? English is actually more regular than many latin languages when it comes to tenses and that helps us simplify which tense to choose. It’s pretty difficult to translate the past directly from Italian into English for example – Italian refers to near and distant past while English is concerned with finished or unfinished time frames.

The first thing we need to decide is the time period we are speaking about, this can be:

  • finished (yesterday, last year, from 1973 to 1998) = PAST
  • unfinished (today, this year, at the moment, since 1998) = PRESENT
  • future (tomorrow, next year, in 2 years) = FUTURE

If we don’t mention a time period and it isn’t clear from context, we’re probably speak about the present (I am eating = in this moment, I have eaten = before the present).

The next step is to decide how the action or state we are speaking about relates to the time period:

Se if we are speaking about something that is in progress now (I am writing this post) but we want to focus on the duration (for half an hour) then I would use the PRESENT (now) PERFECT CONTINUOUS (in progress, focus on duration).

*Remember that for state or “non-action” verbs, we shouldn’t use the continuous form, so we shouldn’t say “I am being here” (I am here!) and we shouldn’t say “I have been being here for half an hour” (I have been here for half an hour!).

And if I want to speak about something in the past (I showered this morning) in relation to another event (I left the house) then I should use the PAST (this morning) PERFECT (when I left the house).

Categories: GrammarTenses