English Grammar Verb Tenses

English grammar has twelve verb tenses. To score high on the TOEFL, you will need to know how to use all of them. These tenses can be divided into three categories: present, past, and future.

TOEFL verb tenses


The Present Tenses

The present tenses divide into the simple present, the present perfect, and the present perfect progressive.

Simple Present

Typically the simple present shows repetition, habits, or generalizations.

  • My friends runs every morning.
  • The world is round.

In addition, the simple present tense is used when writers summarize/analyze published articles and books.

  • The author in the reading passages defines a concept called photosynthesis, and the professor in the lecture gives two examples to further illustrate the idea.

Moreover, the simple present can be used to talk about scheduled actions in the immediate future.

  • Professor Indiana Jones speaks at a conference in just a few minutes.

Finally, the simple present can explain actions happening at the moment of speaking.

  • He has his laptop computer with him.

Present Perfect

Present perfect tense can be used to talk about unfinished actions/habits that started in the past and continue into the present time.

  • I have lived in Southern California for several years.
  • Since 2008, I have lived in Southern California.

In addition, the present perfect can be used to talk about finished actions. In this case, adverbs such as “recently” and “lately” often are used in the same context.

  • What movies have you seen recently?
  • Lately, John has exercised a few times.

Present Progressive

Present progressive tense talks about an on-going action at the moment of speaking.

  • ETS is offering the TOEFL iBT home edition right now due to the Coronavirus epidemic.

Present Perfect Progressive

It expresses how long an activity has been occurring. To put it another way, this tense expresses the entire length of an activity. The activity began in the past and continues in the present.

  • It has been snowing all day today.
  • I have been teaching all my college classes at home using Zoom platform for the last 60 days.

The Past Tenses

Past tenses divide into the simple past, the past perfect, and the past perfect progressive.

Simple Past

This tense expresses an action happening at one particular time in the past. As a result, the action began and ended in the past.

  • Shelly watched two movies last week.
  •  It rained for 20 minutes yesterday.

Past Perfect

Unlike the simple past, this verb tense expresses an activity that was completed before another activity in the past.  Therefore, the past perfect tense can help you to show the correct order of two past actions.

  • By the time the professor arrived, the students had already left.
  • Before the parents woke up, the children had opened their presents.

Past Progressive

This verb tense denotes two actions happening at the same time in the past. However, one action began earlier and was occurring when the other action began.

  • While I was running with my Siberian Huskies, it began to rain.
  • At 7:30 PM yesterday, I was attending my online history class.

In addition, the past progressive tense can be used in both parts of the sentence when the two actions are happening at the same time.

  • While I was completing a TOEFL writing practice test, my roommate was completing a speaking practice test in the other room.

Past Perfect Progressive

Similar to the present perfect progressive, the past perfect progressive focuses on an activity that was in progress before another activity in the past.

  • My date finally came at 7:30 PM. I had been waiting for him to show up since 5:30 PM.

The Future Tenses

The future tenses consist of the simple future, the future perfect, the future progressive, and the future perfect progressive.

Simple Future

The simple future can make a prediction.

  • The weather will get hot next week.

Future Perfect

The exact opposite of the past perfect tense, the future perfect talks about a future activity that will be completed before another activity in the future.

  •  I will finish my job in May. I will visit you in July. By the time I see you in July, I will have finished my job.

Future Progressive

The future progressive tense conveys an idea that will be in progress at a future time.

  • I will begin work on my research paper at 5:30 PM. You will arrive at my house at 6:00 PM. Therefore, I will be writing my research paper when you visit.


Future Perfect Progressive

Often the same meaning as the future perfect, the future perfect progressive highlights an activity that will be in progress before another activity in the future.

  • When the professor begins teaching his courses next month, he will have been teaching for 39 years.

English Grammar Verb Tenses Quiz: The Simple Past versus the Past Perfect


1. Last week I_______________my research project.

A. had completed

B. completed


2. Peter______________the meal by the time his girlfriend arrived.

A. prepared

B. had prepared


3. In the 5K race, Susan_________________3rd in the 30-34 age group.

A. had placed

B. placed


4. Most of the students at California State University, San Bernardino________________the exam several times before they reached their overall score and subtotal  scores.

A. had taken

B. took


5. After the contestant____________her song, the judges told her that she was the worst singer that they _________________.

A. had performed, had ever heard

B. performed, ever heard


6. While I was visiting my sister-in-law and her family in Arizona, I_____________on a hike in the Grand Canyon, one of the eight wonders of the world.

A. went

B. had gone


7.  The students_________________their oral presentations by the end of class.

A. had completed

B. completed


8. The ship’s captain_________________to increase its speed on the way to New York City.

A. had decided

B. decided


9. We_______________our Disneyland passes before we realized that I would be taking a pay cut at my job.

A. had renewed

B. renewed


10. Two years ago, I__________Disneyworld, located in Orlando, Florida.

A. visited

B. had visited

English Grammar Verb Tenses Quiz: The Simple Past Versus the Present Perfect


1. Patty______________in San Bernardino for more than 35 years.  She____________me last week that she would never leave her beloved city.

A. has lived, told

B. lived, has told


2.  Many years ago, I__________________Death Valley National Park.

A. visited

B. has visited


3. What movies________________recently?

A. did you see

B. have you seen


4. I_________________at that mall two weeks ago, but I was not able to find the running shoes I was looking for.

A. shopped

B. have shopped


5.  My friend__________her professor about the group chat cheating, but the professor has not done anything about it so far.

A. has told

B. was told


6.  Last month, John__________________his car a new color.  This month he will put some new tires on this vintage auto.

A. painted

B. has painted


7. I _________________ in this class for more than an hour now, and I still have no idea what my professor is trying to teach us.

A. have been

B. was


8. Since last year I__________more than 550 miles.

A. ran

B. have run


9. In 1988, Michael Jackson_________________live at Wembley Stadium in London, England.

A. performed

B. has performed


10.  I _____________California State University, San Bernardino for more than two years, and I will have finished my BA in Computer Science by the next school year.

A. have attended

B. attended

English Grammar Verb Tenses Quiz: The Simple Future versus the Future Perfect


1.  I______________the Back Street Boys concert next week with my friends.

A. will have attended

B. will attend


2.  The students_______________their term projects by the end of the semester.

A. will have submitted

B. will submit


3.  I ___________ up all of Christmas decorations by Thanksgiving.

A. will have put

B. will put


4. Educational Testing Service________________testing at all centers due to the Coronavirus.

A. will postpone

B. will have postponed

Answer = A


5. Felipe______________ from a pharmacy program by next year.

A. will graduate

B. will have graduated


6. Keiko_____________the TOEFL exam in two weeks.

A. will have taken 

B. will take


7. Hopefully by 2021, scientists________________ a vaccine to eradicate the Coronavirus.

A. will develop

B. will have developed


8. I think I____________to a new song in a few minutes.

A. will listen

B. will have listened


9.  The company_______________out of business by next fall unfortunately.

A. will go

B. will have gone


10.  My brother_______________fishing for large mouth bass in two weeks.

A. will go

B. will have gone

English Grammar Verb Tenses Quiz: The Simple Present versus the Present Progressive


1. Rice__________________in most countries since it is a staple crop.

A. is grown

B. is being grown


2.  My friend_______________a letter right now that he wants to mail to his best friend.

A. writes

B. is writing


3. Christopher Columbus discovered that the world_______________round.

A. is

B. is being


4. My friend_____________to complete his writing assignment before he turns it in later on today.

A. tries

B. is trying


5. Dogs___________to be loyal to their owners.

A.  tend

B. are tending


6. Most lizards____________during the winter time.

A. are hibernating

B. hibernate


7. Maria_________a race right now to see if she can qualify for the state track meet.

A. runs

B. is running


8. Lance___________every day before he goes to work.

A. works out

B. is worked out


9. Reem_________to her teacher to see what important concepts she should study for the biology exam.

A. listens

B. is listening


10.  Almost every day of the week, Tien____________his parents right before he attends his first university class.

A. is calling

B. calls

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3 thoughts on “English Grammar Verb Tenses”

  1. This is a really good site to learn grammar. I understand it quickly because you made everything simple and easy to understand.

  2. Just wanted to thank you, a huge thank you. I did well in this quiz, just had 3 mistakes. I was worried I couldn’t find any qualified online quiz on the Internet but thank God, I found your website. Extremely helpful!

    Lots of love from Iran

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