Top 5 Most Useful English Tenses

Master basic grammar tenses and speak better conversational English after learning these 5 most useful English tenses.
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Instructed by Shawn Roe Language / English
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  • Lectures 29
  • Length 1.5 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
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About This Course

Published 9/2013 English

Course Description

In this course you will practice listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in English with a strong focus on speaking. We will review how to use five main tenses in English:

  1. Past tense
  2. Present tense
  3. Present Continuous tense
  4. Future tense
  5. Present Perfect tense

Perfecting the basics is much more important than knowing advanced English grammar. If you can perfect these five basic tenses in English, you will be able to speak and practice English in everyday life!

Speaking & Listening

Each section contains an explanation of how to make and use each tense. These explanations are meant to be a review of the tense before the main practice. You should already have a basic understanding of each of these tenses.

Following the explanation are videos with example questions, sentences, and conversations. Use these videos as listening and speaking practice. Repeat after me in the questions and sentences videos. Speak out loud! This is very important. Active learning is much more effective than passive learning. Actively practice speaking your English.

Reading & Writing

Each section also contains a handout that you can download and print for your own use. Practice your reading for each tense. Also, use these handouts to help you make your own sentences and questions in English. You should write down your OWN questions and sentences to practice using each tense. Don't simply copy the examples. Try different verbs, different nouns, and different time phrases. The examples are designed to help you understand and make a variety of different questions and sentences in English. Use the handouts to help you!


Watch the videos as many times as you would like. Go back and practice speaking after me to help your pronunciation. Actively learning is the best way!

Have fun practicing the Top 5 Most Useful English Tenses for second language learners!

What are the requirements?

  • a basic understanding of English
  • the courage to speak OUT LOUD

What am I going to get from this course?

  • to be able to use each of the five tenses in everyday English conversations

Who is the target audience?

  • ESL students
  • Non-native English speakers
  • High-beginner to low-advanced ESL students

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Introduction to Useful English

The 7 subject pronouns: I, You, We, They, He, She and It.

1 page

This is a super useful chart of MANY irregular verbs in English. Use this as a "cheat sheet" to learn and use the correct forms of verbs in the Past tense and Present Perfect Tense.

Hint: It's in alphabetical order.

No, it's not all irregular verbs, but it's a lot of the common ones.

Section 2: How was your weekend?
Simple explanation of the English past tense.

  • happened BEFORE NOW

  • know WHEN the action happened

  • Change the tense of the VERB (action word)

    • most verbs add -ed to the END of the verb

      • to play → played / to learn → learned / to watch → watched

    • some verbs are Irregular (not regular, not normal)

      • to be → was/were / to eat → ate / to see → saw

      • I created an irregular verb chart that you can download to learn MANY common irregular verbs. You can use it as a cheat sheet to make sure you are using the correct form of the verb. Use it – it's awesome

  • Common time phrases used with past tense

    • yesterday

    • last weekend, last month, last Tuesday, last year

    • 2 minutes AGO, 4 hours AGO, 1000 years AGO.

    • earlier today, earlier this week, earlier this evening

    • (more but these are the most common)

  • Past tense – used when talking about anything that happened before NOW!


How was your weekend?

How was your day?

How was the party?

How was the movie?

How was the pizza?

What did you do?

Where did you go?

Who did you meet?

Did you fall asleep?

Did you eat it?

Did you have fun?

Did you work hard?

Did you meet any new people?

When did you fall asleep?

Why didn't you eat it?


It was good.

I went to the beach.

Yes, I had a good time.

It was okay.

I went to work.

Yeah, I worked pretty hard.

It was awesome!

I met tons of people.

Yeah, I met 3 girls from Europe.

It was boring.

Yeah, I fell asleep.

About half way through the movie.

It looked okay.

No, I just ate some bread.

Because I'm a vegetarian and it was a meat pizza.  

Simple example conversations using the past tense. You can use these model conversations to build and create your own English questions and sentences. Simply change a few words and you'll be telling stories in the past tense like a native English speaker!
1 page

You can download and print this out to practice reading past tense English. Also, use these examples to help you make your own sentences and questions in the past tense!

Section 3: What do you usually do during the week?

An explanation of the present tense in English.

Adverbs of Frequency

~ always, all the time

~ usually, normally, regularly, often

~ sometimes, occasionally, every-now-and-then

~ rarely, hardly ever

~ never, not + ever (don't ever)


There are four irregular verbs in the present tense. Two are irregular: to be, to have. And two simply have irregular pronunciation: to do, to say.

to be:
am / is / are

to have:
have / has


Repeat after me to practice speaking some example questions that use the simple present tense.


Example sentences in the present tense. Practice your speaking and listening by repeating after me.



Olivia: What do you usually do during the week?

Brett: I'm usually at school or the library.

Olivia: Are you in high school?

Brett: No, I'm a freshman in college.


Grace: What do you do?

Chuck: I'm an accountant.

Grace: Do you work for a small company?

Chuck: No, I work for a large accounting firm.


Evan: Where do you go for fun?

Whitney: My friends and I usually hang out at clubs and bars.

Evan: Don't your parents get mad?

Whitney: No, they don't mind.

Movie fan

Yuna: Which theater do you normally go to?

Min-jun: I normally go to the big theater near the river.

Yuna: Is that where you always watch movies?

Min-jun: No, sometimes I go to the smaller theater.


Jack: Who do you eat lunch with normally?

Lina: I almost always eat with co-workers.

Jack: You don't eat with your boss?

Lina:No, my boss rarely invites me to lunch.

1 page

Download this handout to practice your reading. Try to make your own sentences and questions using the present tense. Use these written examples to help.

Section 4: What are you doing now?

Present Continuous - be + base verb + -ing.

Watch this video to understand how and when to use the present continuous.


Example questions using the present tense. Notice the difference between Wh- questions and Yes/No questions.


Repeat after me to practice your speaking of the present continuous tense.


What are you doing?

Olivia: What are you doing now?

Brett: I'm watching surfing videos.

Olivia: Are you watching them online?

Brett: Yeah, I'm watching them on YouTube.

Where are you working?

Grace: Where are you working?

Chuck: I'm working at SilverTop at the moment.

Grace: Is that where you're going now?

Chuck: Yup, I'm heading there now.

Are you drinking?

Evan: Are you drinking already?

Whitney: Yeah, we're drinking imported beers.

Evan: Who are you drinking with?

Whitney: I'm drinking with the girls I met last weekend.

Are you watching a movie?

Yuna: Are you watching a movie at home?

Min-jun: Yeah, I'm eating dinner and watching a movie.

Yuna: What are you watching?

Min-jun: I'm watching the new sci-fi movie.

What are you thinking?

Jack: When are you thinking about eating?

Lina: I'm thinking we should leave soon.

Jack: Are you searching for a place to eat?

Lina: Yeah, I'm searching online right now.

1 page

You can download this handout to help you understand the English present continuous tense.

Section 5: What are you going to do later?

Understand the English future tense.

  • any action happening after NOW
  • 4 ways to talk about the future. 3 main ways: “will”, “be going to”, or present continuous ('-ing' form), can also use simple present tense HOW to make the future tense and WHEN to use the different ways.
  • 1. pres continuous (-ing): plans and intentions decided before now (The train is leaving tomorrow. I'm going to the party next week.)
  • 2. “be going to” + base verb: plans and intentions decided before now
    • going to is pronounced [gunna]. Listen and pronounce it the same way I do, but always WRITE it “going to”! (The train is going to leave tomorrow. I'm going to go to the party next week.)
  • 3. “will” + base verb: facts (The train will leave tomorrow), predictions (I will go to the party next week), and plans decided NOW (knock on the door, I'll get it. I'll answer the door.) Hey, we're having a party next week. Do you want to come?... Really?! Okay, I'll go. *decided now
    • Negative – “won't”. The train won't leave on time. She won't go to the party.
  • 4. simple present tense: scheduled events (The train leaves at 5:30 tomorrow. We have an appointment later.)

Listen to these example future tense questions. Notice which grammar structure is used. ALL of the questions are in the future tense.


These sentences will show you how to make the future tense using the different grammar structures. Practice your listening and speaking.


Brett is going to surf.

Olivia: What are you going to do next week?

Brett: I'm going to go surfing at South beach.

Olivia: Are you going to ride your new board?

Brett: If the waves are big enough, I will.

Chuck will start his own business.

Grace: Will you start your own business?

Chuck: Yeah, I'm going to be the boss one day.

Grace: When are you going to do it?

Chuck: I'll probably have my own business in 5 years.

Whitney is going to the new club.

Evan: Who are you meeting tomorrow?

Whitney: The girls and I are going to the new club downtown.

Evan: You're going out again this week?!

Whitney: Yeah, I'm going out on Friday too!

Min-jun will buy tickets.

Yuna: When will you see the new Brad Pitt movie?

Min-jun: I'll buy tickets later today.

Yuna: Are you going alone?

Min-jun: No, you're coming with me.

Lina always goes to the sandwich place.

Jack: Where are you going to eat lunch today?

Lina: I always go to the sandwich place on Wednesdays.

Jack: Are you going to eat the club sandwich as usual?

Lina: No, maybe I'll try the meatball sub this time.

1 page

Download this handout to help your reading and writing skills using the future tense. Write your own example conversations using the future tense to practice.

Section 6: Have you ever seen Avatar?

This is my favorite tense in English! I know, it sounds strange. But seriously - you can have some REALLY interesting conversations if you know how to use this tense.

Combined with the past tense, you can really have fun and practice A LOT of English if you can use the present perfect tense correctly.


These aren't just questions. These are conversation starters. If you want to practice your PAST tense English speaking, just ask one of these questions to start a conversation. The first response should be in the PRESENT PERFECT, but every question and answer after that will likely be in the PAST tense. It's so easy! Try it!


Here are sentences to answer present perfect questions correctly. But usually we only use one or two sentences in this tense. Then we switch to using simple PAST tense to continue the conversation.


Brett has been bungee-jumping.

Olivia: What's the most exciting thing you've done?

Brett: I've been bungee-jumping before.

Olivia: Have you ever gone sky-diving?

Brett: No, I've never gone sky-diving.

Chuck has worked at lots of start-ups.

Grace: Where else have you worked?

Chuck: I've worked at lots of start-ups.

Grace: Have you worked at any famous companies?

Chuck: I've worked at a few famous ones.

Whitney hasn't been recently.

Evan: Why haven't you been to the Western Bar recently?

Whitney: I haven't been because I got too drunk last time.

Evan: You haven't gone back since then?

Whitney: No, they haven't let me in since that night.

Min-jun has seen Avatar.

Yuna: What's the best movie you've ever seen?

Min-jun: The Godfather is the best movie I've seen.

Yuna: Have you ever seen Avatar?

Min-jun: Of course I've seen Avatar.

Lina has met Tony.

Jack: What's the best restaurant you've eaten at?

Lina: Tony's Kitchen is the best restaurant I've eaten at.

Jack: Have you ever met Tony?

Lina: Sure, he has been my friend for years.

1 page

A handout for you to download, print, and use to study the present perfect tense.

Section 7: Review

Practice speaking with me. I'll ask some questions that you've learned in the previous lessons, and you should answer the questions OUT LOUD as if you and I are having a conversation. That's right - DON'T repeat after me. ANSWER me! ;-)

There are short pauses after the questions so you can speak the answers. Actually SAY your own responses out loud to the screen. Seriously! This will help you in real situations where you will use English.

If you can't think of an answer quickly, that's okay - pause the video while you speak your answer out loud. Then continue. You should be able to answer ALL of my questions naturally. That's your goal!

Watch this video over and over again! Practice speaking English by answering the questions I ask with different answers.

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Instructor Biography

Shawn Roe, Head Instructor at

Shawn Roe has been teaching English as a Second Language since 2006. He has taught students from all over the world including Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Turkey, Switzerland, and Iran. His students range from elementary level to university professors.

Shawn has also taught English at university for 3 years, including at Chonnam National University in Gwangju, South Korea. He has a BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia. He is working on his MA in Digital Media and Instructional Design from the Extension School at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.

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