Tense indicates when in time the action of the verb occurs. In the English language we have three broad categories of verb tenses: present, past, and future.

  • Present: I learn / I am learning
  • Past: I learned
  • Future: I will learn

Tenses fall into two categories depending on how they are formed: there are simple tenses, which have one verb to create the tense, and compound tenses that consist of one or more auxiliary verbs and the main verb. An auxiliary verb is also commonly known as a helping verb because it assists another verb. In English, the auxiliary verbs are to be, to have, and to make. You will study the present participle and the past participle and how they are formed in a future section, but for now try to recognize them in the following examples when they appear after a helping verb in compound tenses:

  • I learned to snowboard years ago. (simple past tense)
  • Will you learn to ski? (simple future tense)
  • I have learned to knit already. (compound: present perfect tense)
  • They were studying. (compound: past progressive)

Mood indicates the attitude of the speaker toward a subject. The term comes from the word mode, and shows the manner or mode in which the speaker views the action. Is the action hypothetical? Is it a real event that has occurred or will occur? Is the speaker giving a command? 

There are three major types of moods: indicative, imperative, and subjunctive. The indicative mood tells us that the action of the verb really happens or is likely occur. Generally this means that the indicative is used to tell facts. Here are some examples:

  • New York City is a part of the United States.
  • I went to my friend’s house yesterday. 

The imperative mood indicates a command that is given by the speaker:

  • Give the toy back to your brother, please.
  • Don’t touch the stove because it’s hot. 

This mood will be discussed further in the next section.

The last mood is the subjunctive. In English, this mood expresses hypothetical or contrary-to-fact situations. However, it is important to note that it is not used as often in English as it is in other languages featured in this tutorial. Here are a few examples to note before looking at the topic in depth later on:

  • If I were rich, I would buy you a house. 
  • I wish she were here to celebrate with us. 


  • Brief explanation of tenses with many examples to review.
  • Video introduction to verb tenses. (1:45) *Note that there are more videos on the left side of the screen to review present, past, and future tenses.
  • Subjunctive examples.
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