Verb Tenses

The tense of a verb tells you when a person did something or when something existed or happened. In English, there are three main tenses: the present, the past, and the future.

In kindergarten, practice using verb tenses is informal, and terms such as “present tense” are not introduced until third grade. In first grade, students learn to use is and are to describe the present, and was and were to describe the past. They also learn to add -ed to verbs that describe actions in the past. Second grade students practice writing and saying will before a verb to tell about actions in the future.

In third­ grade, students learn verb terminology (present tense, past tense, future tense) to help them better understand how language works and how to improve their use of verbs in both spoken and written English. As students progress, word study should reflect the complexity of verb tenses in language, recognizing verb phrases such as will be coming; avoid complicating the grammar with terminology like “participles,” that may confuse or distract students.

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Using Verb Tenses for Clarity
Verb tenses allow a speaker or writer to be specific, not only about when an action occurs, but about whether that action occurs regularly, comes before another action, is continuous, or happens once and not again. But even when students need to know and understand verb tenses, it takes practice using them before the correct formation and use comes naturally. Try making your own list of past, present, and future verbs to help your students learn verb tenses.

This list summarizes all the tenses for regular verbs:

  1. Past Tense
    • Simple (action at indefinite time in the past) – I talked.
    • Perfect (action that started and ended in the past) – I had talked.
    • Progressive (ongoing action sometime in the past) – I was talking.
    • Perfect Progressive (ongoing action that started, continued, and ended in the past) – I had been talking.
  2. Present Tense
    • Simple (action happening now, or which happens regularly) – I talk.
    • Perfect (a finished action, viewed from right now) – I have talked.
    • Progressive (action continuing now, or which takes place on a regular basis) – I am talking.
    • Perfect Progressive (ongoing action) – I have been talking.
  3. Future Tense
    • Simple (action in the future) – I will talk.
    • Perfect (action that will start and finish in the future) – I will have talked.
    • Progressive (action that will start and continue in the future) – I will be talking.
    • Perfect Progressive (action that will start and continue in the future, before a specific time) – I will have been talking.

Practice Worksheets for Verb TensesClose

View Common Core State Standards Related to Verb TensesClose

Common Core State Standards Related to Verb Tenses

Use verbs to convey a sense of past, present, and future (e.g., Yesterday I walked home; Today I walk home; Tomorrow I will walk home).

Form and use regular and irregular verbs.

Form and use the simple (e.g., I walked; I walk; I will walk) verb tenses.

Form and use the progressive (e.g., I was walking; I am walking; I will be walking) verb tenses.

Form and use the perfect (e.g., I had walked; I have walked; I will have walked) verb tenses.

Use verb tense to convey various times, sequences, states, and conditions.

Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb tense.

View Words at a GlanceClose

K-2 – To Be & To Have in Different Tenses: am, is, are, was, were, will be, have, has, had, will have

K-2 – Regular Verbs in Different Tenses: talk, talks, talked, will talk, smile, smiles, smiled, will smile, was smiling, was talking

K-2 – Verbs in the Past Tense: end, ended, give, gave, want, wanted, meet, met, fly, flew

K-2 – Verbs in the Present Tense: read, reads, sing, sings, push, pushes, yell, yells, itch, itches

K-2 – Verbs in the Future Tense: sing, will sing, walk, will walk, own, will own, jog, will jog, call, will call

3-5 – To Eat & To See in Different Tenses: eat, eats, ate, will eat eating, see, sees, saw, seeing, will see

3-5 – Verbs That Double a Consonant in Different Tenses: hug, hugs, hugged, sip, sips, sipped. scrub, scrubs, scrubbed

3-5 – Regular Verbs in the Present & Past Tenses: arrive, arrived, report, reported, cough, coughed, turn, turned, manage, managed

3-5 – Irregular Verbs in the Present & Past Tenses: write, wrote, wind, wound, forget, forgot, scrub, scrubbed, swim, swam

6-8 – Irregular Verbs in the Present & Past Tenses: break, breaks, broke, speak, speaks, spoke, shine, shines, shone

6-8 – Verbs in the Past Perfect Tense: repeat, had repeated, deal, had dealt, whisper, had whispered, partake, had partaken, embarrass, had embarrassed

6-8 – Verbs & Their Present & Past Participles: begin, beginning, begun, ride, riding, ridden, buy, buying, bought

6-8 – Verbs in the Past Perfect Tense: excuse, will have excused, choose, will have chosen, promise, will have promised, drive, will have driven, catch, will have caught

9-12 – Verb Tenses – Participles: forbid, forbidding, forbidden, break, breaking, broken, undergo, undergoing, undergone

9-12 – Verb Tenses – Progressive: was floundering, were pondering, am exercising, is contemplating, are elaborating, will be graduating, was studying, were knitting, am becoming, is knitting

9-12 – Verb Tenses – Perfect Tense: had listened, have composed, will have polished, had overslept, have understood, will have regaled, had deserved, have discussed, will have calculated, had withdrawn

9-12 – Verb Tenses – Progressive and Perfect Progressive: was competing, had been surveying, am striking, have been regretting, will be spreading, will be queueing, was despairing, had been having, am tiring, have been reevaluating provides word lists, printables, and interactive games and activities that give students the opportunity to recognize, form, and use verb tenses.

Try Sentence Writing Practice with the Grade 3 Irregular Verbs in the Present & Past Tenses list.