Many students face a problem when dealing with tenses in English. This problem resides in the fact that they don’t know when to use each tense. They may know how to write it but may have difficulties when to use it. One solution to this problem is to know the time expressions used with each tense.
Time expressions play the role of a policeman in the road. What does a policeman do? He regulates the movements of traffic (cars, motorcycles, bikes, lorries etc.). Time expressions do the same as policemen. They regulate the movement of verbs in the sentence. They tell each verb the right time.
Now let’s move to a list of the most frequently used tenses in English with the time expressions used with them.
The Simple present
The simple present tense can be used with:
- Always, usually, often, seldom, sometimes, never, hardly ever, ever….
Example:She always takes the bus to school.
I hardly ever watch classical films.
- Every day, every week, every month, every year, every now and then….
- Once a day, twice a week, on Sundays….
- with conditional type 1
He will do it if you ask him.
- on/at/in Mondays, weekdays, weekends, evenings, mornings…….
The present continuous / progressive
The present continuous tense can be used with:
- Now, at the present, at this moment….
- This week, this year, this month….
Example: I am reading a book about English culture this month.
He always calls, while she is having class.
The present perfect
The present perfect tense can be used with:
- Already, just, yet, as soon as, never, ever, till now, up to now, recently, lately, so far….
- Since + point in time / for + duration
I have lived here since 1987.
I have lived here for 29 years.
The simple past
The simple past tense can be used with:
- Yesterday, last day, last week, last year……
- in 2001, on Monday (referring to the past) etc.
- 6 months ago, 2 years ago, 5 minutes ago……
- With conditional type 2
If I were you I would revise my lessons.
The past continuous
The past continuous tense can be used with:
- While, This time yesterday,…
- with a specific time in the past
Example: Yesterday at 17h15 they were studying English.
The past perfect
Just as the Present perfect, The past perfect can be used with:
- Already, just, yet, as soon as, never, ever, till then.
- Since, for.
They went to sleep after they had finished their exercises.
The simple future
The simple future tense can be used with:
- Tomorrow, next day, next week, next month…..
- In a fortnight, in 2030…..
- The coming week, the coming month…….
The future continuous
The future continuous can be used with:
- This time next week, This time tomorrow…
The future perfect
The future perfect can be used with:
- By the time.
Before they come, I will have finished the exercise.
- By tomorrow, by 12h00, by next week, by the beginning of, by the end of…..