The Verb Phrase…

Simple Present – Present Progressive

Form

Simple Present Present Progressive
infinitive
(3rd person singular: infinitive + ‘s’) 

I speak
you speak
he / she / it speaks
we speak
they speak

form of ‘be’ and verb + ing 

I am speaking
you are speaking
he / she / it is speaking
we are speaking
they are speaking

Exceptions
Exceptions when adding ‘s’ : 

  • For can, may, might, must, do not add s.

Example: he can, she may, it must

  • After o, ch, sh or s, add es.

Example: do – he does, wash – she washes

  • After a consonant, the final consonant y becomes ie. (but: not after a vowel)

Example: worry – he worries
but: play – he plays

Exceptions when adding ‘ing’ : 

  • Silent e is dropped. (but: does not apply for -ee)

Example: come – coming
but: agree – agreeing

  • After a short, stressed vowel, the final consonant is doubled.

Example: sit – sitting

  • After a vowel, the final consonant l is doubled in British English (but not in American English).

Example: travel – travelling (British English)
but: travelling (American English)

  • Final ie becomes y.

Example: lie – lying

Use

In general or right now?

Do you want to express that something happens in general or that something is happening right now?

Simple Present Present Progressive
in general (regularly, often, never) 

Colin plays football every Tuesday.

present actions happening one after another

First Colin plays football, then he watches TV.

right now 

Look! Colin is playing football now.

also for several actions happening at the same time

Colin is playing football and Anne is watching.

Signal words
  • always
  • every …
  • often
  • normally
  • usually
  • sometimes
  • seldom
  • never
  • first
  • then
  • at the moment
  • at this moment
  • today
  • now
  • right now
  • Listen!
  • Look!
Note: The following verbs are usually only used in Simple Present:
be, have, hear, know, like, love, see, smell, think, want

Timetable / Schedule or arrangement?

Do you want to express that something is arranged for the near future? Or do you refer to a time set by a timetable or schedule?

Simple Present Present Progressive
action set by a timetable or schedule 

The film starts at 8 pm.

arrangement for the near future 

I am going to the cinema tonight.

Daily routine or just for a limited period of time?

Do you want to talk about a daily routine? Or do you want to emphasis that something is only going on for a limited (rather short) period of time?

Simple Present Present Progressive
daily routine 

Bob works in a restaurant.

only for a limited period of time (does not have to happen directly at the moment of speaking) 

Jenny is working in a restaurant this week.

Certain Verbs

The following verbs are usually only used in Simple Present (not in the progressive form).

  • state: be, cost, fit, mean, suit

Example: We are on holiday.

  • possession: belong, have

Example: Sam has a cat.

  • senses: feel, hear, see, smell, taste, touch

Example: He feels the cold.

  • feelings: hate, hope, like, love, prefer, regret, want, wish

Example: Jane loves pizza.

  • brain work: believe, know, think, understand

Example: I believe you.

  • Introductory clauses for direct speech: answer, ask, reply, say

Example: “I am watching TV,“ he says.

Exercises :

  • Something_______(smell) very good.

Answer : smells

  • We______(eat) dinner at seven o’clock tonight.

Answer : are eating

  • He______(practice) the piano every day.

Answer : practices

  • They___­­___(drive) to school tomorrow.

Answer : are driving

  • I_____(believe) you.

Answer : believe

  • Maria_____(have) a cold.

Answer : has

  • Jorge______(swim) right now.

Answer : is swimming

  • John_____(hate) smoke

Answer : hates

  • Jill always_______(get) up at 6.00 A.M.

Answer : gets

  • Jerry______(mow) the lawn now.

Answer : is mowing

Simple Past Tense – Past Progressive (continous)

Form

Simple Past Past Progressive
irregular verbs: see 2nd column of irregular verbs 

I spoke

regular verbs: verb + ed

I worked

past form of ‘be’ + ing form of verb 

I was speaking
you were speaking
he / she / it was speaking
we were speaking
they were speaking

Exceptions
Exceptions when adding ‘ed’ : 

  • when the final letter is e, only add d.

Example: love – loved

  • after a short, stressed vowel, the final consonant is doubled

Example: admit – admitted

  • final l is always doubled in British English (not in American English)

Example: travel – travelled

  • after a consonant, final y becomes i. (but: not after a vowel)

Example: worry – he worried
but: play – he played

Exceptions when adding ‘ing’ : 

  • silent e is dropped (but: does not apply for -ee)

Example: come – coming
but: agree – agreeing

  • after a short, stressed vowel, the final consonant is doubled

Example: sit – sitting

  • final l is always doubled in British English (not in American English)

Example: travel – travelling

  • final ie becomes y.

Example: lie – lying

Use

After another or at the same time?

Do you want to express that the actions in the past happened one after another or at the same time?

Simple Past Past Progressive
after another 

She came home, switched on the computer and checked her e-mails.

at the same time 

Simon was playing on the computer while his brother was watchin TV.

New action or already in progress?

If you want to express that a new action happened in the middle of another action, you need both tenses: Simple Past the new action and Past Progressive for the action already in progress.

Simple Past Past Progressive
new action 

My mobile rang (when I was sitting in a meeting.)

action already in progress 

While I was sitting in a meeting, (my mobile suddenly rang.)

Only mentioning or emphasising progress?

Do you just want to mention that an action took place in the past (also used for short actions)? Or do you want to put emphasis on the progress, e.g. that an action was taking place at a certain time?

Simple Past Past Progressive
just mentioning 

Colin played football yesterday.

emphasising progress 

Yesterday at six o’clock, Colin was playing football.

Certain Verbs

The following verbs are usually only used in Simple Past (not in the progressive form).

  • state: be, cost, fit, mean, suit

Example: We were on holiday.

  • possession: belong, have

Example: Sam had a cat.

  • senses: feel, hear, see, smell, taste, touch

Example: He felt the cold.

  • feelings: hate, hope, like, love, prefer, regret, want, wish

Example: Jane loved pizza.

  • brain work: believe, know, think, understand

Example: I did not understand him.

  • introductory clauses for direct speech: answer, ask, reply, say

Example: “I am watching TV,“ he said.

Signal words

Simple Past Past Progressive
  • first
  • then
  • If-Satz Typ II (If I talked, …)
  • when
  • while
  • as long as

Exercises :

Use either the simple past tense or the past progressive in the following sentences as approiate.

  • Gene_____(eat) dinner when his friend called.

Answer : was eating

  • While Maria was cleaning the apartment, her husband__________(sleep).

Answer : was sleeping

  • At three o’clock this morning. Eleanor________(study).

Answer : was studying

  • When Mark arrived, the Johnsons________(have) dinner, but they stopped in order to talk him.

Answer : were having

  • John_____(go) to France last year.

Answer : went

  • When the teacher_________(enter) the room, the students were talking.

Answer : entered

  • While joan was writing the report, Henry_________(look) for more information.

Answer : was looking

  • We____(see) this movie last night.

Answer : saw

  • At one time, Mr. Roberts__________(own) this building.

Answer : owned

  • Jose_______(write) a letter to his family when his pencil_______(break).

Answer : was writing, broke

Present Perfect Tense – Present Perfect Progressive (continous)

Form

Present Perfect Simple Present Perfect Progressive
irregular verbs: form of ‘have’ + 3rd column of irregular verbs 

Example:

I / you / we / they have spoken

he / she / it has spoken

regular verbs: form of ‘have’ + infinitive + ed

Example:

I / you / we / they have worked

he / she / it has worked

form of ‘have’ + been + verb + ing 

Example:

I / you / we / they have been speaking

he / she / it has been speaking

Exceptions
Exceptions when adding ‘ed’ : 

  • when the final letter is e, only add d

Example:

love – loved

  • after a short, stressed vowel, the final consonant is doubled

Example:

admit – admitted

  • final l is always doubled in British English (not in American English)

Example:

travel – travelled

  • after a consonant, final y becomes i (but: not after a vowel)

Example:

worry – worried

but: play – played

Exceptions when adding ‘ing’ : 

  • silent e is dropped. (but: does not apply for -ee)

Example: come – coming
aber: agree – agreeing

  • after a short, stressed vowel, the final consonant is doubled

Example: sit – sitting

  • after a vowel, the final consonant l is doubled in British English (but not in American English).

Example: travel – travelling

  • final ie becomes y.

Example: lie – lying

Use

Both tenses are used to express that an action began in the past and is still going on or has just finished. In many cases, both forms are correct, but there is often a difference in meaning: We use the Present Perfect Simple mainly to express that an action is completed or to emphasise the result. We use the Present Perfect Progressive to emphasise the duration or continuous course of an action.

Result or duration?

Do you want to express what has happened so far or how long an action has been going on yet?

Present Perfect Simple Present Perfect Progressive
Result (what / how much / how often) 

I have written 5 letters. / I have been to London twice.

Duration (how long) 

I have been writing for an hour.

Certain verbs

The following verbs are usually only used in Present Perfect Simple (not in the progressive form).

  • state: be, have (for possession only)

Example: We have been on holiday for two weeks.

  • senses: feel, hear, see, smell, taste, touch

Example: He has touched the painting.

  • brain work: believe, know, think, understand

Example: I have known him for 3 years.

Emphasis on completion or duration?

Do you want to emphasise the completion of an action or its continuous course (how has somebody spent his time)?

Present Perfect Simple Present Perfect Progressive
Emphasis on completion 

I have done my homework. (Meaning: My homework is completed now.)

Emphasis on duration 

I have been doing my homework. (Meaning: That’s how I have spent my time. It does not matter whether the homework is completed now.)

Result or side effect?

Do you want to express that a completed action led to a desired result or that the action had an unwanted side effect?

Present Perfect Simple Present Perfect Progressive
desired result 

I have washed the car. (Result: The car is clean now.)

unwanted side effect 

Why are you so wet? – I have been washing the car. (side effect: I became wet when I was washing the car. It does not matter whether the car is clean now.)

Time + negation: last time or beginning of an action?

In negative sentences: Do you want to express how much time has past since the last time the action took place or since the beginning of the action?

Present Perfect Simple Present Perfect Progressive
since the last time 

I haven’t played that game for years. (Meaning: It’s years ago that I last played that game.)

since the beginning 

I haven’t been playing that game for an hour, only for 10 minutes. (Meaning: It’s not even an hour ago that I started to play that game.)

Permanent or temporary?

If an action is still going on and we want to express that it is a permanent situation, we would usually use the Present Perfect Simple. For temporary situations, we would prefer the Present Perfect Progressive. This is not a rule, however, only a tendency.

Present Perfect Simple Present Perfect Progressive
permanent 

James has lived in this town for 10 years. (Meaning: He is a permanent resident of this town.)

temporary 

James has been living here for a year. (Meaning: This situation is only temporary. Maybe he is an exchange student and only here for one or two years.)

Signal words

Present Perfect Simple Present Perfect Progressive
  • how often
  • … times
  • how long
  • since
  • for

Exercises :

Use either the present perfect or the simple past in the following sentences.

  • John____(write) his report last night.

Answer : Wrote

  • Bob______(see) this movie before.

Answer : has seen

  • Jorge______(read) the newspaper already.

Answer : has read

  • Mr. Johnson_______(work) in the same place for thirty-five years.

Answer : has works

  • We_______(begin; negative) to study for the test yet.

Answer : haven’t begun

  • George______(go) to the store at ten o’clock this morning.

Answer : went

  • Joan_______(travel) around the world.

Answer : has traveled

  • Betty______(write) a letter last night.

Answer : wrote

  • Guillermo_______(call) his employer yesterday.

Answer : called

  • We________(see; negative) this movie yet.

Answer : have not seen

Past Perfect Tense – Past Perfect Progressive (continous)

Past Perfect

The past perfect is used to indicate :

  • An action that happened before another action in the past; there usually are two actions in the sentence.
  • A state which continued for a time in the past, but stopped before now.

Past Perfect Progressive

The past perfect progressive puts emphasis on the course or duration of an action taking place before a certain time in the past.

Form

  • A: He had been talking.
  • N: He had not been talking.
  • Q: Had he been talking?

Use

  • action taking place before a certain time in the past
  • sometimes interchangeable with past perfect simple
  • puts emphasis on the course or duration of an action

signal words

  • for, since, the whole day, all day

Exercises :

Supply the past perfect or simple past in the following sentences.

  • The policeman read the suspect his rights after he_______(arrest)
  1. him.

Answer : had arrested

  • After John______(wash) his clothes, he began study.

Answer : had washed

  • George______(wait) for one hour before the bus came.

Answer : has waited

  • Maria______(enter) the university after she had graduated from the community college.

Answer : entered

  • Jeanette______(wash) the pipettes after she had completed the experiment.

Answer : washed

  • Jane sent a letter to her university after she________(receive) her scholarship check.

Answer : has received

  • After the stewardesses had served lunch to the passengers, they________(sit) down.

Answer : sat

  • The car______(flip) ten times before it landed on its roof.

Answer : had flipped

  • We corrected our papers after we________(take) the quiz.

Answer : had taken

  • John______(live) in Miami for one year when his parents came to visit.

Answer : had lived

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