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Verbs in the Present and Past Tense

Many Chicanos cross back and forth across the US-Mexican border repeatedly, keeping in close contact with Mexican culture and the Spanish language.

Mexican Border.photo.
Mexican Border

The Present Tense

Read this text and notice the boldfaced verb forms:

Many Chicanos cross back and forth across the US-Mexican border repeatedly, keeping in close contact with Mexican culture and the Spanish language. Also, because many Mexican-American families move around in the USA – as migrant workers – their children do not attend school regularly. As a result these families do not easily integrate into the American society but remain basically Mexican. This lack of integration has unfortunate consequences.

The entire text above is in the present tense, and we find both affirmative forms (cross, move, remain, has) and negative verb forms (do not attend, do not integrate.)


In English we can use either the simple present tense (does/do) or the present continuous (am/is/are doing).

The simple present

We use the simple present about actions that occur regularly or repeatedly. That is why the simple present is correct in the above text. The simple present is also used about what is true at the moment of speaking and about universally accepted facts.

The Present Continuous

The present continuous is used about what is happening at a particular moment about a temporary or incomplete situation which is going on at a particular moment.

Simple present Present continous
You read a lot in your English book. But: You are reading this now/at the moment.
Water boils at 100 C. But: The water is boiling now.
The sun sets in the west. But: The sun is setting now

The Past Tense

When we want to express something that belongs to the past, we use the past tense. We can use either the simple past tense (rained) or the past continuous (was raining).

Simple Past

  • It rained all day yesterday.
  • I helped my daughter with her homework.


Past continuous

  • It was raining when I got home this morning.
  • I was searching for you this morning.


We use the simple past tense to express a finished action which took place in the past.
We use the past continuous form (was raining) when we want to show that the action is not finished, or when we want to show that something was going on while something else happened.

  • As he was crossing the street, a bus hit him.
  • The headmistress suddenly entered the room while the students were having a test.

Conjugation of verbs in the simple present, present continuous, simple past and past continuous forms.

  • Regular verb: walk.
  • Irregular verb: go
Simple present Present progressive Simple past Past progressive

Singular:

I walk/go

am walking/going

walked/went

was walking/going

You walk/goare walking/going walked/wentwere walking/going
He/she/it walks/goesis walking/going walked/wentwas walking/going

Plural:

We/you/they walk/go

are walking/going

walked/went

were walking/going

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