Past, Present, and Future

English learners often make mistakes switching between tenses in spoken and written language.  In English, it is important to know which tense (past, present, future) to use. 

Past Tense – has already happened.  ex. "I rode my bike yesterday"

Present Tense – is happening now ex. "i am typing on my computer"

Future Tense – will happen anytime in the future "I will go to the zoo tomorrow"


Let’s have a look at a mistake ESL learners often make.  Here is an example conversation. 

Bobby:  "What did you buy at the store?"

Sue:  "I buy a Ferrari." 

Hopefully you notice the problem.  Sue forgot that she already bought the Ferrari and isn’t buying it now.  She is talking in the present tense even though she already bought the car.

Sue should have said, "I bought a Ferrari".


Knowing which tense to use:

There are usually clues to help you know which tense to use. In our example conversation, the clue is the tense Bobby already used.  He said "did" so Sue should have realized which tense to use.  Also, she should have realized it was the past because she already bought the car.

Present tense of Bobby’s question, "What are you buying?"

Future tense, "What will you buy?"