HOW TO TEACH YOUR CHILD “THE TENSES”

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It can be a tense time for parents when children jumble up their tenses 😊. The tenses are one of the fundamental building blocks in the English language. Tenses are the words by which we indicate the time for the particular action. We all know that verbs are action words. However, tenses help us communicate WHEN those actions took place. Tenses are an important element to master in the English language.  When writing a coherent passage, it is critical that students use the right tense, are consistent in their use of tense and do not jump from one tense to another.

Since, the tense of a sentence tells us when an action or verb has taken place, it could be past, present or the future.  The past tense tells you whether the action has already happened, the present tense tells you if the action is currently happening and the future tense tells you if the action is expected to happen in the future.

Before we launch into learning tenses, it is important that we are familiar and thorough with the usage of the three verb forms:

Verb(V1) Past(v2) Past Participle(v3)
Break Broke Broken
Begin Began Begun
Choose Chose Chosen
Bite bit Bitten

It is important that verbs are used properly in all these forms before we understand how they are used in a sentence with the proper ‘tense’ structure.

So how do you show your children the difference in the sentence structure in these three tenses? The following chart will help:

  PAST TENSE PRESENT TENSE FUTURE TENSE
Definition An action that has taken place already An action that is currently happening An action that is expected to happen in the future
Structure Subject +Verb+ ‘ed’ + Rest of sentence Subject + is/are + verb + ing + rest of sentence Subject +will +verb+ Rest of sentence
Example The dog + jump + ed + onto the bed. The dog + is + jump + ing + onto the bed The dog will jump onto the bed.
The dog jumped onto the bed The dog is jumping onto the bed The dog will jump on to the bed

 

There are totally 12 tenses.  It is basically the three tenses in four possible combinations.

  1st 2nd` 3rd 4th
Present Simple Continuous Perfect Perfect Continuous
Past Simple Continuous Perfect Perfect Continuous
Future Simple Continuous Perfect Perfect Continuous
 

 

Simple is also called as indefinite. Continuous is also called as Progressive. Perfect is also called as Simple Perfect and Perfect Continuous is also called as Perfect Progressive.

Since Math, is similar to grammar in its precision, it is best to represent the structure of grammar through a table:

PRESENT TENSE

  SIMPLE PRESENT CONTINUOUS PERFECT PERFECT CONTINUOUS
When should you use it? Action is regular or habitual, a fact or general truth like ‘The sun rises in the east’ Action is happening at the moment Action just ended Action has been going on for sometime
Verb form  V1-Present tense of verb, like walk, take, see V1 + am/is/are + ing V3 + have /has V1+ have/has+been +’ing’
Examples I take, You take, she takes, he takes.

I usually wake up at 6am.

I am taking
I am waiting for the bus. 
I have taken
You have takenIt has taken
I have already written the letter
He/She/It has been taking.
She has been living here for a year

 

PAST TENSE

  SIMPLE PRESENT CONTINUOUS PERFECT PERFECT CONTINUOUS
When should you use it? Action has taken place in the past Action going on in the past Action took place before another action Action lasted for some time before another action.
Verb form V2- Past tense of verb. V1+ was or were + ing V3+ had V1+ had been +ing
Example I/she/he   took
They took
I watched a movie yesterday
I/she was taking
He was walking in the park.
I/We had taken

When I came, he had finished his work

You/she/It had been taking.
‘When I returned, he had been working for 2 hrs.’

 

FUTURE TENSE

  SIMPLE PRESENT CONTINUOUS PERFECT PERFECT CONTINUOUS
When should you use it? Action will take place in the future Action will be going on in the future Action will take place before another action Action will last for some time before another action
Verb form V1+ Will or shall V1+’will be’ or ‘shall be’ +ing V3+ will have or shall have V1+ will or shall+ have been+ing
Example I/We/you/They will take
I will meet him next week
I/She will be taking
He will be reading a book when I return
She will have taken.
She will have prepared the food before I return
I will have been taking
By the time I return, she will have been waiting for 2 hrs.

 

It may seem complicated at first, but once you read a book with your child and point out the tenses as you go along, it comes more naturally and effortlessly. You can print practice work sheets on the internet. This will help your child practice the tenses so that they are internalized better and applied easily. Even grammar experts sometimes argue over the finer nuances of the English language, so if your child makes a few mistakes, don’t get ‘tensed’. As with everything, it will definitely only get better with constant exposure and practice.

 

 

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