It is important not to confuse the name of a verb tense with the way we use it to talk about time.
For example, a present tense does not always refer to present time:
- I hope it rains tomorrow.
“rains” is present simple, but it refers here to future time (tomorrow)
Or a past tense does not always refer to past time:
- If I had some money now, I could buy it.
“had” is past simple but it refers here to present time (now)
The following examples show how different tenses can be used to talk about different times.
|past time||present time||future time|
|present||simple||I want a coffee.||I leave tomorrow.|
|She likes coffee.|
|continuous||I am having dinner.||I am taking my exam next month.|
|They are living in London.|
|perfect||I have seen ET.||I have finished.|
|perfect continuous||I have been playing tennis.|
|We have been working for four hours.|
|past||simple||I finished one hour ago.||If she loved you now, she would marry you.||If you came tomorrow, you would see her.|
|continuous||I was working at 2am this morning.|
|perfect||I had not eaten for 24 hours.|
|perfect continuous||We had been working for 3 hours.||If I had been working now, I would have missed you.||If I had been working tomorrow, I could not have agreed.|
|future||simple||Hold on. I‘ll do it now.||I‘ll see you tomorrow.|
|continuous||I will be working at 9pm tonight.|
|perfect||I will have finished by 9pm tonight.|
|We will have been married for ten years next month.|
|perfect continuous||They may be tired when you arrive because they will have been working.|
|In 30 minutes, we will have been working for four hours.|