English Language Guide: Tense

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Verb phrases can vary with tense, in which case they are called "tensed verb phrases."
  • "They have accomplished a lot this year, but they had accomplished even more last year."
There are many non-tensed forms as well:
  • base form of a lexical verb used as an imperative. Example: "Halt!"
  • base form of the lexical verb occurring as a subjunctive. Example: "'If he is a spy,' said Gorgik, 'I would rather he not know who I am."
  • the infinitive with "to." Examples:
    • "Did you see her, chief - did you get a glimpse of her pleasant countenance, or come close enough to her ear, to sing in it the song she loves to hear?'"
    • "She got so she could tell big stories herself from listening to the rest. Because she loved to hear it, and the men loved to hear themselves, they would 'woof' and 'boogerboo' around the games to the limit."
  • the "-ing" form, shared between the gerund and present participle. Examples:
    • "Biological diversity is plummeting, mainly due to habitat degradation and loss, pollution, overexploitation, competition from alien species, disease, and changing climates."
    • "Then it was swooping downward, and in the next second, a huge metal magpie, with wings outstretched in full flight, was plummeting toward them."
  • the "-ed" participle. Examples:
    • "I also know that the painter has dined twice with the Prince Regent."
    • "Which in all probability means that you had dined together," replied Monte Cristo, laughing, "I am glad to see you are more sober than he was."
The time frame of a non-tensed verb phrase is determined by examining that of the main clause verb. Examples:
  • "From the very beginning, Coltrane was an indefatigable worker at his saxophone spending hours upon hours practicing every day."
  • "By assuming a good position and by practicing every day he will in time acquire a feeling and an appearance of ease before people."
In the first case, the time frame (past) of "practicing" is determined by "was" in the main clause; in the second, the time frame (present and future) of "practicing" is determined by "will in time," also in the main clause.