The perfect tense aspect can be divided into three tenses: past perfect, present perfect, and future perfect. The perfect progressive aspect (also called perfect continuous) can be divided into three tenses as well: past perfect progressive, present perfect progressive, and future perfect progressive.

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How Many Tenses and Aspects Exist in the English Language?

There are three verb tenses in the English language: Past, Present, and Future. These tenses are divided into four aspects: The Simple, Progressive, Perfect, and Perfect Progressive.

The following tables explain all three tenses in each aspects:

The "Simple Aspect" Tenses
Examples
The simple aspect is used to describe facts and habits.
Simple Present TenseThe dog eats meat.
Simple Past TenseThe dog ate meat.
Simple Future TenseThe dog will eat meat.
The "Progressive (or Continuing) Aspect" Tenses
Examples
The progressive aspect describes ongoing actions that began.
Present Progressive TenseThe dog is eating meat.
Past Progressive TenseThe dog was eating meat.
Future Progressive TenseThe dog will be eating meat.
The "Perfect (or Complete) Aspect" Tenses
Examples
The perfect aspect describes completed actions or state.
Present Perfect TenseThe dog has eaten meat.
Past Perfect TenseThe dog had eaten meat.
Future Perfect TenseThe dog will have eaten meat.
The "Perfect Progressive Aspect" Tenses
Examples
The perfect progressive aspect describes the end of an ongoing action.
Present Perfect Progressive TenseThe dog has been eating meat.
Past Perfect Progressive TenseThe dog had been eating meat.
Future Perfect Progressive TenseThe dog will have been eating meat.

Perfect Tenses in English: Past, Present and Future

Past Perfect

The past perfect tense is used to show that one event happened before another. It refers to a time that has already passed. The past perfect is formed from the past tense of the verb have (had) + the past participle of the main verb (the en/ed/ne form).

Examples

In the following examples, Event 1 has already begun and ended before Event 2 takes place.

Event 1                                                                               Event 2

Ansue had finished her homework                             before I got home.

Event 1                                                                              Event 2

Had you already done the dishes                                before we arrived?

Event 2                                                                              Event 1

By the time we arrived,                                                  everyone had already finished eating.

Event 2                                                                             Event 1

When I woke up,                                                            I felt that I hadn’t slept well.

Regular Verbs – Past Perfect
AffirmativeNegativeInterrogative
I had dancedI had not dancedHad I danced?
You had dancedYou had not dancedHad you danced?
He/she/it had dancedHe/she/it had not dancedHad he/she/it danced?
We had dancedWe had not dancedHad we danced?
You had dancedYou had not dancedHad you danced?
They had dancedThey had not dancedHad they danced?

Tips:

  • This tense may resemble a tense in your home language, the meanings are probably NOT the same
  • Use the past perfect + just to express an event that happened only a short time earlier before now.
  • The plane had just left when I arrived at the gate.

Present Perfect

The present perfect tense is used to link a time in the past to the present. It describes an action that happened sometime before now. It is formed with the present tense of the verb have (have/has) + the past participle of the main verb (the en/ed/ne form).

Examples

A situation that began in the past and continues in the present:

  • I have lived in New York for 20 years.
  • She has worked for the same company since she moved here.

An action performed in a certain period of time that has not ended yet:

  • She has already gone to the gym three times this week.
  • It has snowed a lot this winter.

A repeated action between the past and now:

  • We have been to Canada every year since then.
  • She has eaten there only once.

An action completed in the recent past:

  • I have just left work.
  • They have just arrived.

When the time of the action is unknown or unimportant:

  • Have you ever seen “Citizen Kane”?
  • Someone has broken my car window!
Regular Verbs – Present Perfect
AffirmativeNegativeInterrogative
I have dancedI have not dancedHave I danced?
You have dancedYou have not dancedHave you danced?
He/she/it has dancedHe/she/it has not dancedHas he/she/it danced?
We have dancedWe have not dancedHave we danced?
You have dancedYou have not dancedHave you danced?
They have dancedThey have not dancedHave they danced?

Tip:

The auxiliary (in this case, to have) is always have, EXCEPT in the third person singular (he/she/it has gone).

Future Perfect

The future perfect tense refers to an action that will have been completed sometime in the future. To form this tense, use the modal will + the auxiliary verb have + the past participle of the main verb (the en/ed/ne form).

Examples

  • I will have been here for three months on December 5th.
  • She will have arrived by the time you finish cooking.
  • Will you have had dinner when I pick you up?
  • By this time next week, we will have finished our group project.
  • Do you think you will have sold your apartment by this time next year?
Regular Verbs – Future Perfect
AffirmativeNegativeInterrogative
I will have dancedI will not have dancedWill I have danced?
You will have dancedYou will not have dancedWill you have danced?
He/she/it will have dancedHe/she/it will not have dancedWill he/she/it have danced?
We will have dancedWe will not have dancedWill we have danced?
You will have dancedYou will not have dancedWill you have danced?
They will have dancedThey will not have dancedWill they have danced?

Tip:

  • The future perfect tense is usually used with a time expression.
  • Make sure you pay attention to the word order compared to the other tenses.
    Present Perfect: We have not danced.
    Future Perfect: We will not have danced.

Perfect Progressive in English: Past, Present and Future

Past Perfect Progressive

The past perfect progressive tense is used to describe an action that was completed at some point in the past. It is formed with the past tense of the verb have (had) + been + the present participle of the main verb (ending in –ing).

Examples

  • I had been sleeping when the doorbell rang.
  • Had he been depressed before he met his new girlfriend?
  • They had been waiting for an hour when help finally arrived.
Regular Verbs – Past Perfect Progressive
AffirmativeNegativeInterrogative
I had been dancingI had not been dancingHad I been dancing?
You had been dancingYou had not been dancingHad you been dancing?
He/she/it had been dancingHe/she/it had not been dancingHad he/she/it been dancing?
We had been dancingWe had not been dancingHad we been dancing?
You had been dancingYou had not been dancingHad you been dancing?
They had been dancingThey had not been dancingHad they been dancing?

Tip:

There is no past perfect progressive for the verb to be! (ex. I had been being)

Present Perfect Progressive

The present perfect progressive tense is used to describe an action that has started in the past and is still going on. The action is usually of a limited duration. This tense is formed with the present tense of the verb have (have/has) + been + the present participle of the main verb (ending in –ing).

Examples

  • I have been doing my homework for almost three hours.
  • Has he been eating his vegetables?
  • They have been losing games since the start of the season.
Regular Verbs – Present Perfect Progressive
AffirmativeNegativeInterrogative
I have been dancingI have not been dancingHave I been dancing?
You have been dancingYou have not been dancingHave you been dancing?
He/she/it has been dancingHe/she/it has not been dancingHas he/she/it been dancing?
We have been dancingWe have not been dancingHave we been dancing?
You have been dancingYou have not been dancingHave you been dancing?
They have been dancingThey have not been dancingHave they been dancing?

Tip:

There is no present perfect progressive for the verb to be! (ex. I have been being)

Future Perfect Progressive

The future perfect progressive tense is used to describe a continuous action that will occur in the future. It is formed with the modal will + the auxiliary verb have + been + the present participle of the main verb (ending in –ing).

Examples

  • This time next year, I will have been searching for a job for two years.
  • When I arrive, will you have been cooking for a long time?
  • At 5:00, I will have been waiting for two hours.
Regular Verbs – Future Perfect Progressive
AffirmativeNegativeInterrogative
I will have been dancingI will not have been dancingWill I have been dancing?
You will have been dancingYou will not have been dancingWill you have been dancing?
He/she/it will have been dancingHe/she/it will not have been dancingWill he/she/it have been dancing?
We will have been dancingWe will not have been dancingWill we have been dancing?
You will have been dancingYou will not have been dancingWill you have been dancing?
They will have been dancingThey will not have been dancingWill they have been dancing?

Tips:

There is no future perfect progressive for the verb to be! (ex. I will have been being)

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