Tenses





Let us see how the tenses should be used in various sentences.


1. If the action was started in the Past and is continuing still now, You should use the PRESENT PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE, and not the present continuous tense.

Example-1:

• He is working in this office for the last five years.

Here, in this sentence, it has been stated that he started working in the office five years back and he still works there. So the correct tense to be used is not the present continuous tense, but the past perfect continuous tense.

The correct answer is:

• He has been working in this office for the last five years.

Example-2:

• Mary is living in New York for the last seven months.

This also has the same mistake.

The correct tense is:

• Mary has been living in New York for the last seven months.

Examples:

These sentences are correct ones.

• Mr. Clinton has been working as the Chairman of this Company for the last two years.

• She has been working as a Professor of Chemistry for the last twenty five years.

• It has been living with me for the last three months only.


2. If an action had happened at a particular point of time in the past, you should use only the simple past tense, not the present perfect tense or past perfect tense.

Examples:

• Incorrect: My mother had visited the Niagara Falls last year. My mother has visited the Niagara Falls last year.
• Correct: My mother visited the Niagara Falls.

• Incorrect: Philip’s father has died last month. Philip’s father had died last year.
• Correct: Philip’s father died last year.


3. When the main clause is in the simple future tense, the subordinate clause should not be in the future tense but should be in simple present tense.

Examples:

• Incorrect: When I shall find out Clinton’s address, I shall tell you.
• Correct: When I find out Clinton’s address, I shall tell you.

• Incorrect: Nita will start crying, if we will tease her.
• Correct: Nita will start crying, if we tease her.

• Incorrect: As soon as we will receive your order with payment, we shall ship the goods to you.
• Correct: As soon as we receive your order with payment, we shall ship the goods to you.


4. In the sentences in the subjunctive mood (containing a command, an order, a suggestion, a warning or a request), You should not use the future tense in the subordinate clause, but use simple present tense.

Examples:

• Incorrect: Take care that you should not trip over the carpet.
• Correct: Take care that you do not trip over the carpet.

• Incorrect: Please ensure that you will not be late for the meeting.
• Correct: Please ensure that you are not late for the meeting.

• Incorrect: We expect that the bill will be paid very soon.
• Correct: WE expect that the bill is paid very soon.


5. In a sentence mentioning two mutually related past events of which one had happened earlier than the other, they should not both be mentioned in the simple past tense. The earlier event must be mentioned in the past perfect tense and the later event must be mentioned in the simple past tense.

Examples:

• Incorrect: The bus already left by the time I reached the station.
• Correct. The bus already had left by the time I reached the station.

• Incorrect: Before I bought this house last month, I lived in it as a tenant for three years.
• Correct: Before I bought this house last month, I had lived in it as a tenant for three years.

• Incorrect: The teacher complained to the headmaster that the students misbehaved in the class.
• Correct: The teacher complained to the headmaster that the students had misbehaved in the class.

• Incorrect: He left the hotel before I reached it.
• Correct: He had left the hotel before I reached it.


6. When the main clause is in the past tense, the subordinate clause can be either in the past tense or in the past perfect tense. It can not be in any of the present or future tense forms.

Examples:

• Incorrect: Clinton told me that he will come to the office tomorrow.
• Correct: Clinton told me that he would come to the office tomorrow.

• Incorrect: Did you tell me that you have visited Taj Mahal?
• Correct: Did you tell me that you had visited Taj Mahal?

• Incorrect: The accused asserted the Judge that he is innocent.
• Correct: The accused asserted the Judge that he was innocent.

• Incorrect: The students told us that they will take their examinations without fail.
• Correct: The students told us that they would take their examinations without fail.


Exceptions:

When the subordinate clause mentions an eternal truth (namely, a statement that is forever true), it should be in simple present tense even the main clause is in past tense.

Examples:

• The teacher said that the Sun rises in the east.
• Columbus proved that the Earth is round.
• Newton discovered that it is the gravitational force that keeps the planets moving round the Sun.



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