Verb Tenses (Part Two)

Let’s continue our lesson on English verb tenses. In part one we looked at simple and progressive tense verb forms. Now we’ll dive into the perfect and perfect progressive verb tenses.


Perfect Tenses


A perfect tense verb is formed by adding has/have/had to the past participle form of a verb. The perfect tense verb forms all convey the idea that a particular action or event occurs before another time or action.


Present Perfect

A present perfect verb is composed of has/have + past participle. It signals an action that began in the past and has already been completed sometime before the present.


Present perfect:

Emily has written her paper.

Emily completed her paper at some point before the present. Exactly when she finished it is not relevant.


Amy and John have already left work.

Since Amy and John worked all of part one, I decided it would be nice to send them home for part two. We don’t know when they were finally able to leave their workplace, only that they’re not there right now.


Past Perfect

Just like simple past verbs, past perfect tense verbs designate actions that have already been completed. However, they also show that the action indicated by the past perfect verb took place before some other past action in the sentence. Past perfect verbs use the following construction: had + past participle


Emily had submitted her paper when she thought of a better conclusion.

Emily came up with a better way to conclude her paper after she had already turned it in.


Amy and John had already left work when Mark arrived.

Mark arrived at some point after Amy and John left their workplace.


Future Perfect

Future perfect tense (will have + past participle) expresses a future event that will be finished before a second future event occurs.


By Tuesday afternoon, Emily will have submitted her paper.

Emily expects to turn in her paper at some point before Tuesday afternoon arrives.


Amy and John will have left work when Mark arrives.

Amy and John plan to be completely gone from their workplace by the time Mark arrives.


Perfect Progressive Tenses


The perfect progressive tenses are constructed by combing “has/have/had” with “been” and a present participle. English uses the perfect progressive forms to indicate the duration of one event by introducing a second event. They express the idea that one action is in happening (is in progress) up until another event occurs.


Present Perfect Progressive

The present perfect progressive tense (has/have + been + present participle) expresses an action that has been in progress up until the present moment.


Emily has been writing papers for two days

Two days have passed from when Emily began writing papers until right now.

Amy and John have been resting for eight hours.

As of this moment, Amy and John have enjoyed eight hours of rest.


Past Perfect Progressive

Past perfect progressive expresses an action that had been in progress up until another event occurred. Consisting of had + been +present participle, this tense lets us know how much time passed between the beginning of the perfect progressive action and the second event.


Emily had been writing for two days before Sarah started her paper.

By the time Sarah began to writer her paper, Emily had already been working on hers for two days.


Amy and John had been resting for eight hours before their boss called.

Eight hours passed from the time Amy and John began resting until the time that their boss called them.


Future Perfect Progressive

Future perfect progressive tense helps us convey how much time we expect will pass between an event that has yet to happen and second event that has yet to happen. Since these are potential future events, they use the following construction: will + have + been + present participle. The action expressed by a future perfect progressive tense verb will have been in progress for a specific duration before another future event occurs.


Emily will have been writing for two days by the time Sarah begins her paper.

This expresses the expectation that two days will pass between the time Emily begins to write her paper and the time Sarah begins to write hers.


Amy and John will have been resting for eight hours by the time they have to work again.

Amy and John expect to have a solid eight hours of rest before they have to return to work.