What are the Simple Tenses? Past, Present, Future Tenses in English

Simple tense definition: The simple tense is a tense in English with no aspect that expresses actions occurring in the past, present, and future.

What is the Simple Tense? Past, Present, and Future Tenses in English

What are simple verb tenses? The simple tense in English is the most basic way to express action. The simple tense is a verb tense for past, present, and future events.

The simple tense is outlined in the example below using a regular verb.

Infinitive verb for example: to jump

  • Simple past: I jumped.
  • Simple present: I jump.
  • Simple future: I will jump.

Examples of The Simple Tense

The simple tenses are usually just called past, present, and future. Below we will go over each grammatical tense and explain how to use them.

What is the Simple Past Tense?

Past present future tenses of verbs The simple past tense (also called the past tense) is used to express actions that are completed at any time (recent or distant past) or for any duration (length of event).

For regular verbs, add “-ed” to the end of the verb to create the simple past tense.

Verb conjugation for simple present tense regular verb:

  • I: jumped
  • you (singular) : jumped
  • he/she/it: jumped
  • we: jumped
  • you (plural): jumped
  • they: jumped

Simple past tense used in sentences:

  • My voice echoed in the cavern.
  • Garry walked to the park after he finished his meal.
  • We shared our meal with strangers.

What is the Simple Present Tense?

Present future tense in English grammar The simple present tense (all called the present tense) is used to express action that is happening in the present, now, relative to the speaker or writer.

The simple present is generally used for actions that are factual, normal, or regular in occurrence, sometimes called habitual actions. Habitual actions are actions that occur in the present but are not necessarily happening right now.

For example,

  • The Yankees win a lot.

This is sort of a timeless statement. The Yankees might not be playing right this second, but it is understood that they win a lot as a team that presently exists. Compare this to the present progressive tense,

  • The Yankees are winning.

This clearly indicates that the Yankees are playing right now, and they are winning.

Some examples of actions the present tense expresses include: habits (habitual actions), directions, general truths, and unchanging situations.

Verb conjugation for simple present tense regular verb:

  • I: jump
  • you (singular) : jump
  • he/she/it: jumps
  • we: jump
  • you (plural): jump
  • they: jump

Simple present tense used in sentences:

  • She bites her nails. (habit)
  • Do not bite your nails. (direction/instruction)
  • Skunks smell (general truth)
  • I live in San Francisco. (unchanging situation)
  • We love chocolate cake. (unchanging situation)

NOTE: The simple present tense is not always used for actions happening now. Sometimes the simple present can be used for things not currently happening or for future events.

  • My plain leaves tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.
  • Steve says you sold your house.

The first sentence is in the simple present tense, but it indicates a future event. Similarly, the second sentence indicates an event that has already happened.

What is the Simple Future Tense?

The simple tense of verbs The simple future tense (also called the future tense) is used to express action that will certainly occur at any time later than now.

Add “will” or “shall” before the first person present conjugated verb to create the simple future tense.

Verb conjugation for simple present tense regular verb:

Verb: to jump

First person present: jump

  • I: will jump
  • you (singular): will jump
  • he/she/it: will jump
  • we: will jump
  • you (plural): will jump
  • they: will jump

Simple future tense used in sentences:

  • They will go to New York tomorrow.
  • You shall see a play this fall.
  • I will walk to school tomorrow.

Beware of the Simple Present

Past and present tense As noted above, the simple present is not only used for actions happening in the present. It can be used for actions not currently occurring and for actions in the future.

To express habitual actions or repeated events:

  • We ride horses every afternoon.
  • The sun rises in the East.
  • The rain falls heavily in February.

To express future after a conjunction:

  • We won’t leave for the party until you are ready.
  • I eat dinner when my mom says it is time.

The Simple Aspect

Past future verb tenses grammar The simple aspect is the verb form used to express a fact.

The simple aspect can be confusing because it does not delineate if the action is a complete action or a habitual action.

The audience must use context clues to determine the nature of the fact.


  • He chews gum.
    • This is a fact; however, it is unclear whether this action is habitual or just a fact.
    • To provide more context:
      • On Sundays, he chews gum.
      • Now it is clear that this is a habitual action, not just a fact.

Summary: What is Simple Tense?

Simple tenses and simple verbs Define simple tense: the definition of simple tense is a verb category that covers the simple present, simple past, and simple future tenses.

Define past tense: the definition of past tense is a verb tense expressing an action or state of being that occurred in a time before now, the past.

Define present tense: the definition of present tense is a verb tense expressing an action or state of being in the present time.

Define future tense: the definition of future tense is a verb tense expressing an action or state of being that will happen in the future.

In summary,

The simple tense is the “simplest” way to express past, present, and future events.

Present regular verbs are conjugated by adding “-s” to third person singular.

Past regular verbs are conjugated by adding “-ed” to all verb forms.

Future verbs are conjugated by adding “will” before the first person singular form of the verb.