The tenses allow us to move through time and express our ideas, actions, desires and wishes whenever we want. We should keep in mind that time is divided into three main time groups: the past, present and future.
Each group has 4 tenses in the English grammar: simple, continuous, perfect simple, perfect continuous.
Past perfect simple
Present perfect simple
Future perfect simple
Past perfect continuous
Present perfect continuous
Future perfect continuous
That is 12 tenses in total. Let’s see how tenses are easily divided and understood. In order to comprehend them better we are going to divide the four tenses of each group into 2 similar groups. We will name Simple Tenses all the simples and continuous ones and Perfect Tenses the perfect simple and the present continuous.
The Simple Tenses
Tenses always talk about a moment in time. Our first group the simple tenses talk about one moment in time. Therefore the simple present and continuous talk about one moment in present, the past simple and continuous about one moment in the past and the future simple and continuous about one moment in the future. They do not connect different time groups but remain within their own time group.
All these tenses use key or signal words in sentences to show us the moment in time that they talk about. Remember that signal words are one of the main indicators of time in a sentence other than meaning so it is very important to look for these signals words in sentences before making your final decision about tense.
The perfect tenses
In contrast to the simple tenses, this group connects two moments in time. Perfect means completed therefore one moment included in all perfect tenses is the past. Depending on the tense we can find the second moment in time connected to the past. In this way the present perfect tenses connect a moment in the past with a moment in the present, the past perfect tenses connect two moments in the past, and the future perfect tenses connect a moment in the past with a moment in the future.
We must keep in mind that perfect means the verb: HAVE, so in present perfect tenses the verb uses its present form (have), in the past perfect tenses it uses its past form (had) and in the future perfect tenses it uses its future form (will have). We add the past participle form of the main verb to complete the perfect simple tenses. The continuous tenses have to follow the rule of all the continuous tenses (be + ing) and the rule of all the perfect tenses (have/had/will have). In order to form the perfect continuous tenses we combine the verb have + been + main verb ing.