English Tenses – Graphic Comparison

Problems with the English tenses? Have a look at the time line, it might help you understand when to use which tense. As there is a similarity between past, present and future tenses, there are just a few rules to keep in mind.

If you know how to use the present progressive correctly to express present actions, you will as well be able to use the past progressive correctly to express past actions.

Legend

Tenses

Legend

Tenses
moment in time
  • action that takes place once, never or several times
  • actions that happen one after another
  • actions that suddenly take place
Tenses
period of time
  • action that started before a certain moment and lasts beyond that moment
  • actions taking place at the same time
Tenses
Result
  • action taking place before a certain moment in time
  • puts emphasis on the result
Tenses
Course / Duration
  • action taking place before a certain moment in time
  • puts emphasis on the course or duration of the action