Remembering which verb tense is which and what to include with each one is daunting. You might know some of them by heart, but every now and then you have to look them up. Luckily, we have your back. Here is a breakdown of all the verb tenses we have covered.
Before we get started, we have made a printable reference sheet to go with these verb tenses, as well as some exercises to perfect your verb tense skills. Enter your email below to get access to those and other reference sheets and worksheets!
Because we are all here to strengthen our writing, let’s use the verb write.
Simple verbs are just as they sound…pretty straightforward. The simple tense describes a verb that took place in the past, is taking place in the present, or will take place in the future. It’s the verb tense you use most often.
Past (Subject + past tense)
Future (Subject + will + future tense)
I will write.
She will write.
We will write.
Present (Subject + present tense)
While simple verbs describe an action that takes place at a certain point in time, the continuous verb tense describes an action that takes place over a duration of time.
All continuous verbs have a conjugation of to be and the present participle (the verb ending in -ing).
Past (Subject + past participle of to be + present participle)
I was writing.
She was writing.
We were writing.
Future (Subject + future participle of to be + present participle)
I will be writing.
She will be writing.
We will be writing.
Present (Subject + present participle of to be + present participle)
I am writing.
She is writing.
We are writing.
If you want to refer to an action that has been completed in the past, then you want the perfect verb tense. This tense tells the reader that the action is no longer ongoing or, in the case of the future perfect, that it will be completed at a specific point in time.
All perfect verbs use a conjugation of have and the past participle of the verb.
Past (Subject + had + past participle)
I had written.
She had written.
We had written.
Present (Subject + have + past participle)
I have written.
She has written.
We have written.
Future (Subject + will have + past participle)
I will have written.
She will have written.
We will have written.
By taking our continuous tense and our perfect tense and combining them, we get a verb tense that tells the reader an action has happened, is happening, or will happen and that it has a definitive end to it.
This verb tense is helpful, as perfect verbs tell us something has happened, and continuous tense tells us that an action takes place over time, but neither tell us when an action stopped happening.
Similar to the tenses that make it up, all perfect continuous verbs have a conjugation of have + be, as well as the present participle of the verb.
Past (Subject + had + been + present participle)
I had been writing.
She had been writing.
We had been writing.
Present (Subject + have + been + present participle)
I have been writing.
She has been writing.
We have been writing.
Future (Subject + will have + been + present participle)
I will have been writing.
She will have been writing.
We will have been writing.
Notice how these sentences seem incomplete? That’s because they are. In order to complete a sentence with a perfect continuous verb, you need that definitive end time. It can be explicit (i.e. by 6pm) or it can be implied (i.e. by saying all my life, you imply that it has continued up until the present moment).
Here are a few examples to illustrate complete perfect continuous verbs.
I had been writing all night.
She has been writing since she was three.
We will have been writing for five hours now.
I know that verb tenses are not the sexiest aspect of writing, but they are an important one. Without the proper use of tenses, your reader will not only be confused by your writing, but it will break their immersion. Whether you are writing to entertain or writing to sell a product, breaking immersion will stop you from reaching your goal.
Want a printable version of these tenses? Or want to test your skills with some writing exercises? Get them for free by filling in your email down below.
Now that you’re armed with all the verb tense knowledge you could want—or have the exercises to get there—go forth and kick some verb butt!