Tag Archives: verbs

Drawing conclusions about tense (Part II)

by Anna Tarnow

This is a continuation of the previous post, which you can find here. Let’s learn about a few more tenses.

Present perfect continuous
This tense describes an event that began in the past and continues to the present moment. For example, “He has been painting for six hours.”

Anna Tense Present Perfect Continuous

Past perfect
This tense can appear in two forms.

First, the past perfect can describe a past even that both began and ended before a second event in the past occurred. For example, “I had eaten dinner before I went to the movies.”

Second, the past perfect can describe a past event that began before and continued to a more recent past event. For example, “The car had run until the oil line was cut.”

Anna Tense Past Perfect

Past perfect continuous
This tense is similar to the second form of the past perfect: it describes a past event that continued to a more recent past. However, this tense is used when a specific amount of time is referenced, and it uses a present participle instead of a past participle. For example, “The car had been running for ten minutes until the oil line was cut.”

Anna Tense Past Perfect Continuous

This tense indicates events that will happen but haven’t yet. For example, “He will brush his teeth.”

Anna Tense Future

Future perfect
This tense describes an action in the future that will be completed before another future action happens. For example, “You will have gone to the salon before you go to the party.”

Anna Tense Future Perfect

Future perfect continuous
This tense indicates that an event will be happening (starting in the past or present) up until a point in the future. For example, “You will have had a five-hour wait to get the pizza.”

Anna Tense Future Perfect Continuous

The tables you’ve seen here are simple breakdowns of many English verb forms, but for a more specific overview with visuals, check out englishpage.com, which is a very nice site. It’s designed for ESL students, but I (as a native English speaker) also find it very helpful!


Anna Tarnow is a senior majoring in English and enjoys working on the Pilot newspaper, where she is editor-in-chief.

“Verb Tense Tutorial.” Table. English Page. N.p., n.d., Web. 4 Oct. 2015. <http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/verbtenseintro.html>.

Drawing conclusions about tense (Part I)

by Anna Tarnow

Tenses can get pretty confusing in writing, even when you think you know what you’re doing. It can also be challenging to explain tenses because time is a confusing concept to talk about. That’s why I love thinking about tenses in terms of visuals. It can sometimes help to map out your tenses to get a better grip on grammar. This great chart (from englishpage.com) gives a really nice sense of tense through simple visuals.

Simple present
This tense is used in two kinds of ways.

First, simple present can be used to describe a series of repeated actions. For example, “She runs every day.” This action is happening repeatedly along a timeline, so it is described by simple present.

Second, simple present can be used to indicate generalizations, which describe something that is happening throughout all of time. For example, “Bob likes to drink coffee.” Bob’s enjoyment of coffee isn’t limited to any one moment, but to all, so this statement is a generalization.

Simple Present


Present continuous
This tense is used to describe an action that is going on in the present. It can be used either exactly or approximately. Examples: “He is eating” or “They are finding out that the food is gone.

Anna Tense Present Continuous

Simple past
This tense can also be used in two ways.

First, the simple past can describe a short completed action, such as “I called my lawyer.”

Second, it is used to describe an extended period of time that both began and ended in the past. For example: “I lived in Mexico for six years.”

Anna Tense Simple Past

Past continuous
This tense describes an action that happened and was interrupted in the past. For example, “I was cooking when the doorbell rang.”

Anna Tense Past Continuous

Present perfect
This tense can be used in two ways.

First, present perfect describes an event that happened at an unspecified time in the past. It always uses the present form of “to have” (has/have) and a verb in the simple past. Example: “I have seen Jeremy before.”

Second, present perfect may describe a change over a period of time. For example, “This flower has grown much taller.”

Anna Tense Present Perfect

Thinking of tenses in a different way can help make sense of confusing conjugations. Click here for Part II!

Anna Tarnow is a senior majoring in English and enjoys working on the Pilot newspaper, where she is editor-in-chief.

“Verb Tense Tutorial.” Table. English Page. N.p., n.d., Web. 4 Oct. 2015. <http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/verbtenseintro.html>.

Passive acceptance

by Genevieve Bergeson

Many of us have heard it before; many of us will hear it again: the infamous term “passive voice.”

Some instructors say in bold, capitalized, and not-at-all passive voices, “DO NOT USE PASSIVE VOICE,” as if it stands alongside splint infinitives and end-of-sentence prepositions as the cardinal (albeit mythical in some circles) sins of writing.

I have a confession. Let me whisper it to you.

It is okay to use passive voice. Sometimes it’s even preferable.

While it is true that passivization can impede clarity and concision (especially when used excessively), it is not a grammatical error; it is a stylistic tool for emphasis. Specifically, the subject of the sentence receives the action instead of doing the action.


The mouse ate the cheese. (Active)

The cheese was eaten by the mouse. (Passive)

In the first case, the subject, the mouse, performs the action of eating; in the second, the subject, the cheese, experiences the action of being eaten. A nifty trick: To switch between passive and active voices, move the main words (e.g., cheese, eat, mouse) of the sentence.

Use passive voice…

  1. To emphasize the object or recipient of an action, not the doer of the action. [Note, this can also divert or hide blame.]

The mice in the science lab were accidentally let loose by the teacher’s assistant.

  1. When the doer is unknown or you wish to make the doer anonymous.

Class is canceled! (Which, I must say, is much more exciting than “The science teacher canceled class.”)

Be alert! While forms of “to be” (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) are good clues, they do not guarantee passive writing.

  • As a linking verb, “to be” simply describes something’s state of existence: the cheese is holy, er,
  • In progressive tenses, “to be” is a helping verb that indicates continuous activity: The mouse was nibbling the block of Swiss when the cat entered.

I invite you, therefore, to counter resistance—passive and aggressive—to this misunderstood element of style. Intentionally employing the passive voice can bespeak a mouseterful command of the written word.

Genevieve Bergeson, a former Principia College writing tutor and post-graduate teaching intern, delights in all things creative—art, words, and music. She has authored and illustrated the children’s book Racing Pajamas (read more at drawstheeventide.com) and has several other stories in the works.