What is Verb Tense? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
Verb tenses are clues to help us figure out when the action in a sentence is happening. In this lesson, we will learn about different verb tenses and see a chart with examples that will help us know when to use the correct tense.

What is Verb Tense?

Imagine that you are very hungry. You had pizza for dinner yesterday (past), but pizza for lunch today sounds great (present). So, you and your friend decide that you will buy a pizza for lunch (future). Past, present, and future are the three main verb tenses in English. Tenses help us understand when the action is happening.

What Is A Verb?

A verb is the action that is going on in a sentence:

I eat pizza. (I = subject, eat = verb, pizza = object) (present tense)

I ate pizza. (past tense)

I will eat pizza. (future tense)

Pizza: yesterday, today and tomorrow!
pizza

What Is Tense?

past = the action has finished or just recently finished

present = the action is happening now or the action happens every day

future = the action has not happened yet or will be happening in the future

How Many Tenses Are There in English?

In total, there are 12 verb tenses in English, plus conditional tenses that talk about an action that may or did not happen. Do not get scared! While English does not have as few as German (only six tenses), it does not have as many as French (eight but then there are seven lower tenses)! There are a few tenses in English that are very rarely used nowadays, like the future perfect and future perfect continuous.

Verb Tense Chart

Since you are interested in studying English, let's use the example to study to explore the various verb tenses. Sometimes, the continuous tenses are also called the progressive tenses.

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