There are 12 different tenses in the English language. When teaching children about tenses, educators need to cover as many of these 12 tenses as possible. The expectation should be for children to be able to understand and construct sentences in each of these 12 tenses by the time they are of age 6 or 7. There is absolutely no need to drill these tenses into children, because they will learn these intuitively if they read enough good books. The purpose of teaching them about tenses is to make it easier for them to read and understand simple English faster – since all 12 kinds of tenses can appear even in short children’s novels.

Let’s first make a list of the 12 tenses:

  1. Simple present
  2. Present progressive
  3. Present perfect progressive
  4. Perfect present
  5. Simple past
  6. Past progressive
  7. Past perfect progressive
  8. Past present
  9. Simple future
  10. Future progressive
  11. Future perfect progressive
  12. Future present

Educators and parents can go about teaching the 12 tenses by making a collection of sentences for each types of tense, then using these sentences in conversation with the child and making sure they they understand the meaning of each sentence. It really is as simple as that.

Here is an example of a collection of sentences for each tense:

1. Simple present

  • My car is fast.
  • My bag is heavy.
  • John is late.
  • The plane leaves tomorrow.
  • We study in school everyday.

2. Present progressive

  • The child is sleeping.
  • The engine is running.
  • It is raining.
  • She is working.
  • David is crying.

3. Present perfect progressive

  • I have been sleeping since 9 pm.
  • I have been singing for the past hour.
  • She has been crying since morning.
  • David has been studying since yesterday.
  • We have been looking for Jane since morning.

4. Perfect present

  • We have completed the task.
  • We have gone to school.
  • He has learned to play the guitar.
  • She has ran a marathon.
  • Billy has visited the ancient temple.

5. Simple past

  • Jane worked on her project last night.
  • Billy ran a marathon last week.
  • Joey used to bite his nails.
  • My mother used to kiss me every morning.
  • He used to smoke.

6. Past progressive

  • Jane was sleeping when the doorbell rang.
  • Billy was cutting the grass when the power went off.
  • Sally was crying.
  • John was working when he injured himself.
  • David was screaming.

7. Past perfect progressive

  • Billy had been working for a small business when he struck the lottery.
  • Jane had been crying all afternoon.
  • She had been cleaning the yard when the leaves fell.
  • John had been studying for the test.
  • Had he been fixing his car all morning?

8. Past perfect

  • David had run the marathon before he injured himself.
  • Jane had lived in Singapore before she moved to Vietnam.
  • Billy had worked in the grocery store before he became a policeman.
  • Sally washed the floor after the work was done.
  • He found her books after she left the room.

9. Simple future

  • I will write the letter after dinner.
  • When the boss arrives, I will give her an update.
  • You will get the parcel by post.
  • I will send you home after school ends.
  • You will do as I say!

10. Future progressive

  • By the time she gets here, I will be tired.
  • She will be dancing the whole night.
  • It will be sunny the rest of the week.
  • Where will she be waiting for us?
  • What time will she be studying until?

11. Future perfect progressive

  • By the end of this year, we will have been married for 10 years.
  • She will have been studying for 5 hours by dinner time.
  • By the end of this project, he will have made 10 presentations.
  • We will have been waiting for 2 hours by the time the car arrives.

12. Future perfect

  • I will have driven this car for 5 years by December.
  • The rain will have stopped by midnight.
  • By the end of this month, I will have lived here for 5 years.
  • We will be rested and relaxed by the time we end this holiday.

It is important for parents and educators to avoid the temptation to try and teach tenses to children using rules or sentence templates. This approach will leave them in a lurch when they come across an unfamiliar writing style. With the creative use of punctuation, the variations of sentences that can be created are almost infinite!

This means that educators and parents should never be asking children to identify “what kind of tense is this”, unless you are trying to raise an English language academic at home.

As we have mentioned on this site before, children must always be encouraged to gain an intuitive understanding of the passages they read without having to constantly refer to grammar rules they may have memorised.

Brought to you by the KidsEnglishCollege™ Editorial Team.

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