Grammar Tips (3): Right Tenses for Correct Actions

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Tenses are a set of forms taken by a verb to indicate the time (and sometimes also the continuance or completeness) of the action in relation to the time of the utterance. They should be used correctly in every sentence.

While writing or speaking, apply the following rules so as to fix in the right tenses for the correct actions.

  1. Use the simple present tense for habitual actions.

The present tense is the tense used for anything done out of habit. The things you do every time are habitual actions and are described with the simple present tense. This implies that the first form of any verb should be used. No auxiliary or modal verb is needed.


Bankole goes for meetings every Wednesday.

Peter takes coffee at 7:30 a.m. every day.

Titi goes to the salon every fortnight.

  1. Use the present progressive tense for current actions.

The present progressive tense is the tense to be used for anything happening right now. All the progressive tenses are easy to spot as their verbs always end with “-ing” and always have a helping verb.


I am drinking Lemonade right now.

The howling helicopter is giving me a headache.

You are torturing me with that lovely aroma.

  1. Use the Present perfect progressive tense for past and unfinished action.

When the actions as well as the time is considered unfinished, the verb loads up on third form helping verbs (“to be” and “to have”) and changes to the progressive form.


I have been munching cookies all morning.

What have you been doing sweeping that corner for the past 20 minutes?

Do i need to ask what you have been doing?

  1. Use the past perfect tense for the first of two past actions.

When two actions happen in the past, take note of the one that happened first. That one changes to the third form and gets the helping verb “had”.


By the time I finished one cup of coffee, Alhaji’s dog had barked a million times.

When i saw Chidera yesterday, he had cut his hair already.

She cooked the stew and had put in all the stock before i could stop her.

  1. Use the present perfect tense for unfinished past actions.

This is one important rule. When people talk about things that have already happened but consider the time in which they occurred to be unfinished, the third form of the verb is used along with a helping verb. The helping verb for the present perfect tense is the present tense conjugation of “to have”.


I have eaten four cheese burgers today.

Tobi has typed twelve reports already.

The mice have messed up the place again.

See you next week for the next grammar tips.

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