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- 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.
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, this is not correct. Tense means changes in the verb itself. English often uses "auxillary words" to do the same job.
- Concise Oxford Dictionary, 9th ed, p1436.