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Ory's writing notes: The Verb Part 3, Forms and Tenses.

Published by OJB in the blog OJB's blog. Views: 252

In English, there are four forms a verb can take: Present, Present Particle, Past, Past Particle.

Present: Dance.
Present Particle: Dancing. (Add -ing)
Past: Danced. (Add -ed)
Past Particle: Danced. (add -ed)

Particles are used in verb phrases (Look at the helping verb section).

There are some irregular verbs that do not follow the ing/ed endings. (Run/Running/Ran/Run being one of them) but To Be verbs is the most used so I'll go over them.

(This is super duper important as this is where sometimes I fuck up my To be usages)

Infinitive: To be
Present: Am (1st person singular) Is (3rd person singular), Are (2nd person singular, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person plural)
Present Particle: Being
Past: Was (1st & 3rd person singular) Were (2nd person singular, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person plural)

I feel 'were' is the most misused. 'If I were you' is correct, but most people say If I was you.


There are (believe it or not) 12 tenses you can use in writing. The first three are simple tenses (Past, present, and future.

Past: I danced.
Present: I dance
Future: I will dance.

Perfect tense show when an action happened in relation to another action. Perfect tense uses the helping verb To have (Have/Has, Had, will have) and the Past Particle of a verb.

Past Perfect shows action that began in the past and ended before the event or time that it is being related too.

Present perfect started in the past but continues up to or has ended in the present.

Future perfect
shows action that will be finished some point in the future.

Past: I had danced.
Present: I have danced.
Future: I will have danced.

Note: Past perfect tense is not an idle tense to use. I read a lengthy essay on why but in summary; it is the 'backstory' of tenses. (This is not to say never use it, but like backstory... we don't need pages and pages of it.)

Progressive tenses show that an action is or was ongoing or continuing at the same time as something else. Progressive tenses use a form of the verb To Be and the present particle of a verb.

Progressive Past: I was dancing.
Progressive Present: I am dancing.
Progressive Future: I will be dancing.

Perfect progressive tenses
show an action that is both completed in the past and ongoing (Confusing, right?) Perfect progressive tenses use To Have + Been + present particle = verb phrase.

Perfect progressive past: I had been dancing
Perfect progressive present: I have been dancing
Perfect progressive future: I will have been dancing

Empathic forms
while not tenses are important as they empathize action that has happened (important for subtext which I will get too much, much later in my blog.)

To Do verb + present form = Verb phrase (There is no future form with Empathic forms)

Past: I did dance.
Present: I do dance.


In conclusion here is a list of the 12 tenses.

Simple past: I danced.
Simple present: I dance.
Simple future: I will dance.
Perfect past: I had danced.
Perfect present: I have danced.
Perfect future: I will have danced.
Progressive past: I was dancing.
Progressive present: I am dancing.
Progressive future: I will be dancing.
Perfect progressive past: I had been dancing.
Perfect progressive present: I have been dancing.
Perfect progressive future: I will have been dancing.

I would argue that simple present and simple past are used 90% of the time, however, I wanted to end with a note I read from an essay on tenses. People often wonder if they should write a story in present or past tense, and I am not here to argue which one is better. The essay did state however that by writing in present tense, you can only use four of the twelve tense in the narration (Simple present, perfect present, progressive present, and perfect progressive present.) I am not a grammar expert (nor will I ever be) so I can't comment on the validity of the essay, but I thought it was an interesting read. I write both in present and past, as they both come naturally to me, but it is good to know what I am losing if the choose to write in present vs. past.

I don't have any great examples of me using all these tenses but it is good to know what all of them mean, and when to use them and not to use them.

There is one example I'd like to give of perfect progressive present that is somewhat famous. In the T.V show Babylon 5, A character by the name of Kosh speaks in perfect progressive present, one of his famous lines "I have always been here." While I would not suggest you have character talk in weird tenses, it is an option if you want to give a character an interesting voice.
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