English Tenses: A Practical Usage Map

By David Rose

Do you ever have any doubts about the correct tense to use when speaking or writing in English? Do the same doubts sometimes make it hard for you to properly catch what you’re reading or listening to?

I’d ask you to consider these two quotes:

(i) Writer Bill Bryson on how English grammar is ‘different’ to other languages:

“Making English grammar conform to Latin rules is like asking people to play baseball using the rules of football”

 (ii) The American poet and journalist Walt Whitman on how English has evolved as a language

“Viewed freely, the English language is the accretion and growth of every dialect, race, and range of time, and is both the free and compacted composition of all”

So, as I’m sure you’ve already realised to some extent, English grammar is different to Latin grammar and the Language itself is a complex mix of inputs from many languages.

Hardly surprising you have some doubts then, is it…!

So, without any further preamble, I’m now going to outline a practical usage map of the most frequently ‘problematic’ tenses and forms to hopefully take away your doubts:

1. Past and Present Tenses











2. Future Forms












3. Follow Up

These maps should provide you with a handy reference to guide your choices in writing and clarify your doubts for speaking.

If you would like some exercises to practice your English tenses and forms, I recommend the following:

Happy studying!


Does your organisation need training? Please contact me at lacstraining@gmail.com so your organisation can benefit from my consultancy’s personalised, highly practical and cost-effective communication training services.

I invite you to visit www.lacstraining.com to download a full catalogue of our training offer.

We offer made to measure training for:

● Professional Writing (reports, minutes, memos, briefings etc.)

● Writing for Impact (web, position papers, policy papers etc.)

● Presentations (core skills and advanced techniques)

● Public Speaking (speeches, press conferences, interviews)

● Meetings Facilitation/Chairing

● Negotiations

● Relationship Building

© David Rose LACS Training 2011

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