Use the present simple:
- To talk about habitual events and fixed truths:
- Example: Most authors write about 1000 words a day.
- To talk about how often you do something. Frequency adverbs (always,usually,often,sometimes,never) are often used:
- Example: Carla checks her text messages every few minutes.
- For states that imply permanence or for those that are true for a long time:
- Example: The president of the United States works in the White House.
Use the present continuous:
- For temporary states:
- Example: He is acting as manager while his boss is away.
- To talk about an activity that is taking place when you speak or around the time of speaking:
- Examples: Listen! This computer is making a strange noise
He’s studying at evening class at the moment.
Use the past simple:
To express an event that took place at a definite past time. Past time words are often used to fix the action or state in the past. For example: when, yesterday, last week, three months ago,etc..
- Examples: When did you last write a letter by hand?
I think it was about a year ago.
When there are no past words, the context often places the action or event in the past:
- Examples: Where did you learn to do those magic tricks?
Karl Benz invited the first motor car.
The action can either last for a period of time in the past or finished at a fixed time in the past:
- Examples: Henry ran 15km every day for 60years.
He gave up running in June and died in July.
Use to past continuous:
- To talk about things that were in progress in the past. They may or may not be finished:
- Example: Last week, the police were watching the house on the corner.
- To talk about background activity:
- Example: We were lying on our backs looking at the stars.
A single past event often interrupts the background activity, so the past continuous and the past simple are used together:
- Example: We were lying on our backs looking at the stars when a comet flew across the sky.
But when two or more events happen consecutively, the past simple is used for both:
- Example: The Titanic hit an iceberg and sank a few hours later.
PRESENT PERFECT SIMPLE
Use the present perfect simple:
- When there is a connection between the past and the present. The connection can either be implied or obvious. The exact timing is not important:
- Examples:The explorers have just reached the North Pole.
He’s lost a lot of weight in the last few months.
- For things that have just happened or when the event is still relevant or still ¨news¨.
- Example: Oh, no! The wheel has fallen off!
You must use the present perfect simple form when you mention the numbers of time:
- Example: That train has broken down three times so far this week.
The event might have started at some time in the past and still continues:
- Example: I have known about the problem for a long time, but I haven´t done anything about it yet.
- To give general news or information. This is followed by more detail using the past simple:
- Example: A new zoo for endangered species has opened in the Lake district. It took five years to built and runs entirely on solar energy.
PRESENT PERFECT CONTINUOUS
Use the present perfect continuous:
- For events that began in the past and continue into the present. Like the present perfect simple, it is often used with since (+starting point), for (+period of time) and how long:
- Examples: They have been going out with each other since Christmas.
That dog has been chasing its tail for about ten minutes.
- To talk about long or repeated actions that have just finished, but where the consequence is still clear:
- Examples: You’re late for the meeting!
Sorry! I’ve been trying to park my car.
PAST PERFECT SIMPLE
Use the past perfect simple:
To talk about what happened before a certain point in the past:
- Example: The robber had run away by the time the police arrived.
PAST PERFECT CONTINUOUS
Use the past perfect continuous:
To emphasise a longer action. This action continues up to the time of the main action (expressed by the verb in the past):
- Examples: I wasn´t surprised that Dave and Amy emigrated.
They had been thinking about it for years.
But use the past perfect simple to say ¨how many times¨:
- Example: By the time he was 25, he had already been married twice.
USED TO AND WOULD
Use used to (+infinitive):
To talk about past habits:
- Examples: Believe it or not, but people used to write letters by hand and send them to their friends.
To ask questions use did + name/pronoun + use to (not used to ):
- Examples: Did your parents use to allow you to ride a motorbike?
The negative form is didn’t use to (not didn’t used to):
- Example: Policemen didn’t use to carry firearms.
It is sometimes possible to use would instead of used to when talking about past personal habits, but usually only in the positive. Would is quite a literary style and is often found in continuous narrative:
- Example: When we were young we would go to the river and throw stones in the stream, then go to a little tea shop and buy cakes.
Use used to for past situations and states that no longer exist or are no longer true ( would cannot be used):
- Examples: In the 1930s that bar used to be a very famous little theatre.
Did Shakespeare use to live in London?
Note: Don’t use used to to say how long something lasted in the past. Use the past simple.