Understanding And Using English Grammar – Tenses

Last Updated on May 16, 2024.

English Grammar Tenses form an important element of the English language. They are really the building blocks of the language and help explain situations and the “when” of actions.

We all have learned these tenses in school but to memorize them now is probably a bit grim. So here, for your GED prep, we’ll dig a little deeper into understanding and using English Grammar – Tenses.

The English Language has only 12 tenses. The present tense is telling about the existing or current situation. For example, ‘they do,’ ‘we do,’ etc. Another often used tense in English is the present continuous, for example, ‘they are going’ and ‘we are going.’

In the present perfect tense, the sentence should be ‘I have gone.’ Past tense tells about the things of the past. Here, the situation that has already happened can be considered, and the example is: He already did. This tense also includes other subtenses like past continuous, past perfect, and past perfect continuous.

Future tense tells about the future and directs a situation that is going to happen. An example is: I will do it. It also includes subtenses like future perfect, future continuous, and future perfect continuous.

There are several languages that don’t have tenses as English does. They don’t use tenses, but if we would do that in English, our grammar goes wrong, and we’ll never learn our English language perfectly well. Anyway, if you want to be successful on the GED Reasoning through Language Arts exam, you’ll have to understand the basic rules of using tenses in the English Language.

Fast & Easy Online GED Course

Get Your Diploma in 2 Months
It doesn’t matter when you left school

There are circumstances in English when you can use both present and future tenses, for example, when we use the present simple tense. It is quite challenging to form sentences by mixing all sorts of different tenses. Most students find it challenging when dealing with or making sentences in the passive or active voice, and English storytellers need to have a perfect and clear understanding of the best way to use the English tenses correctly.

Focus on the English grammar tenses and verbs which are used repeatedly. Simple verb forms are generally used. When writing a long essay, you will need a number of tenses. So, in an introduction, present tense will be used, and it will conclude with simple past. Present perfect continuous, past perfect continuous, future perfect tenses are used hardly in essay writing. You can look into details to check out how to begin essay writing.

Possibly, you have to start with present simple tense in the introduction. Do not get confused between past and perfect tenses, and keep the tense broadly reliable. Some of the sentences related to historical events are normally used in the past tense. In the English language, there cannot be historic present tense like in other languages like German, French, or other European languages.

Another methodology is if it is related to social sciences or engineering, then use past tense. You are describing what has happened, and so it becomes past tense. When you have to speak about the analysis of results, then be sure to use past and present tense both. Keep in mind that you may also take the GED exam in Spanish all across the country and online as well.

You should write about the previous years in the past tense and of current years in the present tense. Newspapers, that by the way, should be read with caution as the newspaper content may be shocking for kids, make tense mistakes on a regular basis as well.

Use English grammar tenses in the same way as they are, and do not change the tenses in the sentences that do not match. At last, the conclusion part comes where you have to use the proper past tense. An example is: ‘In this essay, my aim was to………’. This tells about the past. You can even use the future tense in the last sentence like ‘I hope that this study will be good for future…’.

In summary, we use English grammar tenses as forms of verbs to refer to time (past, present, future). Grammar tenses indicate an action’s incompleteness, completeness, or continuation in relation to time.

Altogether, we need to know just 12 English grammar tenses to master our English. Here they are:

1) Simple Present Tense (I write)
2) Simple Past Tense (I wrote)
3) Simple Future Tense (I will, or shall, write)
4) Present Perfect Tense (I have written)
5) Past Perfect Tense (I had written)
6) Future Perfect Tense (I will have written)
7) Present Continuous or Progressive Tense (I am writing)
8) Past Continuous or Past Progressive Tense (I was writing)
9) Future Continuous or Future Progressive Tense (I will be writing)
10) Present Perfect Continuous or Present Progressive Tense (I have been writing)
11) Past Perfect Continuous or Past Perfect Progressive Tense (I had been writing)
12) Future Perfect Continuous or Future Perfect Progressive Tense (I will have been writing)

What Tense To Use When Writing A Diary?

When writing a diary, what English grammar tense should we use? Here’s an example:

“… I woke up early this morning though I stayed up till 3 am last night. Strange though it may sound, I’m not an early bird … It was now time to be off to Adam’s house … It is always cold on Christmas day …” (quoted from my diary)

1. I wish to say that I am still not an early bird at the time of writing this diary, but that event (me getting up in the morning) actually happened this morning, which is already in the past.

2. Do I write “was now” or “is now”?

3. Is it “It is always cold …” or “It was always cold …”?

I wish to say that at the time of writing this diary (which is the night of Christmas, i.e., Dec 25), it’s still cold. In fact, it’s been cold on Christmas every year. 4. Which sentence is correct?

“We chatted away while we were having dinner” or “We were chatting away while we were having dinner.” I think the first sentence is correct, but the word “while” is used there. And according to the dictionary, “while” means at the same time as something else is happening. So, I think the present continuous English grammar tense should be used in both of the clauses, and many teachers would agree.


1. Events that occurred in the past at the time you are writing the diary should be written about in the past English grammar tense. For example, you were right in writing, “I woke up early this morning …”

And you were also right in using the simple present English grammar tense in writing about personal habits or conditions that occur regularly, as you did in “I’m not an early bird” and “It is always cold on Christmas day.”

2. You should write “is now” if, at the time of writing, you were about to go to Adam’s house. If you wrote about it later, then you should write “was then”.

3. I have answered this question in 1. You should write “It is always cold…”

4. Both actions – “chatting away” and “having dinner” – continued over the same period of time, so they should both be in the past continuous English grammar tense. But the sentence would read better if you don’t repeat “we were,”, and write: “We were chatting away while having dinner.”