Grammar Reference

Session 1 - Masterclass

Tenses in English are made of a time and an aspect. English recognises 3 times (past, present and future) and 3 aspects (simple, continuous and perfect.)

An aspect is the character of a verb. It adds extra information to the verb’s meaning and reflects the perception of the speaker. 

The simple aspect does not modify the verb in terms of its meaning, only in terms of its form, e.g. I go / he goes. The verb alone is enough to fully understand the speaker. There are broadly three categories:
Long term general truth: I like studying English. Water boils at 100C. He lived an unhappy life. Humanity will continue. 
Instantaneous: I now pronounce you man and wife. I walked through the town. Those books will fall!
Habitual: It barks all night when the moon is up. I woke up every day at 6am last year. She will constantly forget her keys.

The continuous aspect is formed with some sort of be plus verbING. E.g. I am walking. He was waiting. They will be eating. 
It makes events seem in progress, temporary and/or unfinished, and stretches them by giving them duration. For example:
I walked home and I fell. (First I walked home and the action finished. Then I fell, inside the home)
I was walking home and I fell. (I fell while walking. My walk action was not completed and my fall was in the middle of the walk.)
Actions can be:
At the moment of speaking: I am dancing.That man is singing.
Around a certain time: This week I'm staying with my parents. In those days people were wearing shoulder pads. This time next week I'll be in France.
Happening simultaneously with another action: I was walking and I fell. He was eating chips and watching TV when the phone rang. 

The perfect aspect is formed with some version of have plus the past participle. E.g. He has eaten. We had left the hotel. He will have finished.
Perfect aspects focus on joining the events or actions of two time periods together. E.g. The Present Perfect (Past to Present), The Past Perfect (Past 1 to Past 2), The Future Perfect (Present to Future).
Perfect verb phrases can describe:
States: I’ve loved you since I first met you. He had been happy for many years. We will have known each other for 5 years next week!
Actions: I have eaten. She had dropped her purse before leaving. I will have gone to the gym by the time you get home. 
Habits: My father had started work at 9 o’clock every day for the last 20 years.

We can combine aspects to make perfect continuous verb phrases. These combine the forms of the perfect aspect (have + the past participle) and the continuous aspect (be+verbING). For example, have+been+verbING. We can create verb phrases which focus on actions or events with duration with relevancy to more than one time period. For example:
I have been working here for 6 years.
I had been studying hard all that week.
I will have been studying English for 10 years by my next birthday.