A tense is a pattern of verb forms that shows when an action happens. There are three main tenses:
- Present tense: things that are true when the words are spoken or written; or are generally true; or for some languages will be true in the future
- Past tense: things that were true before the words were spoken or written
- Future tense: things that will or might be true after the words are spoken or written
The tense can be shown in the verb. For example, am, is, and are are always present tense, and was and were are always past tense. Or the tense can be shown by adding words to the verb. In English, the words that we add to the verb are "helping verbs" or "auxiliaries", like be, have, shall, will, and so on. So we get the continuous present with is taking, the future with will take, and so on.
[change] Popular ideas of tense
In English as a second language (ESL) classes, 'tense' usually means any verb form that indicates a time. For example, many people say that will go is the future tense and that He is loved by many is the present passive tense. But linguists (people who study language and grammar) say this is not technically correct.