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Review of all upper-intermediate verb tenses (CEFR B2.1)

In this grammar lesson, you will review key upper-intermediate verb tenses, including present simple and continuous, past simple and continuous, present perfect simple and continuous, past perfect simple and continuous, future simple and continuous, and future perfect simple and continuous. Each tense is explained with clear usage rules and examples, helping you understand when and how to use them correctly.

Present simple and present continuous

Grammar chart comparing present simple and present continuous tenses for B1+ English learners, with usage rules and examples.

The present simple tense is used for regular habits, permanent states, future timetabled events, and conditional clauses. Key indicators include words like “always,” “never,” and “usually.” In contrast, the present continuous tense describes actions currently in progress, temporary actions, and future arrangements, with indicators such as “now,” “these days,” and “at present.” Stative verbs, which describe states rather than actions, are not used in continuous forms.

Present perfect simple and present perfect continuous

Grammar chart comparing present perfect simple and present perfect continuous tenses for B1+ English learners, with usage rules and examples.

Situations that started in the past and still continue

We can use either the present perfect simple or continuous for situations that started in the past and still continue. But we must use the present perfect simple with stative verbs, and we normally use the present perfect continuous with dynamic verbs (although the present perfect simple is also possible.)

  •  Weve had this car for years.
  • haven’t been sleeping well lately.

We use the present perfect continuous with dynamic verbs for situations that started in the past and still continue when we want to emphasise how long the situation has lasted.

  • I have been waiting for hours! (=I want to emphasise that I’ve been waiting for a long time).
  • I couldn’t do the dishes. I’ve been working all day.

Finished and unfinished situations

We use the present perfect simple for finished actions in the past, and the present perfect continuous for situations (happening from the past till now) that may or may not have finished.

  • Who has eaten my cookies? (=We would say this if there are no cookies left)
  • Who has been eating my cookies?  (=We would say this if there are some cookies left)
  • I’ve been watching the series you recommended. I’ll tell you about it when I finish watching it.
  • I’ve watched the series you recommended. I watched the last episode yesterday.

Actions with present results

We can use both present perfect simple or continuous for recent actions with a present result, but we use the present perfect simple when the present results come from having finished the action, and we use the present perfect continuous when the present results come from the process of performing the action (which may or may not have finished).

  • Look how nice my car looks. I’ve washed it.
  • Sorry I’m so sweaty. I’ve been washing my car.
  • Something is different in this house. Have you painted it?
  • How come you are so dirty? Have you been painting?

Past simple and past continuous

Grammar chart comparing past simple and past continuous tenses for B1+ English learners, with usage rules and examples.

The past simple tense is used for finished actions, actions in chronological order, habitual past actions, and situations that started and finished in the past. Key indicators include words like “yesterday,” “last week,” and specific time references. The past continuous tense, on the other hand, describes actions in progress at a specific time in the past or when another action occurred, and is used in narratives to set the scene. It often includes phrases like “while,” “when,” and specific times such as “at three o’clock yesterday.”

Past perfect simple and past perfect continuous

Grammar chart comparing past perfect simple and past perfect continuous tenses for B1+ English learners, with usage rules and examples.

The past perfect simple tense is used for events that occurred earlier in the past and for speaking about past situations that happened before other past events. It includes indicators like “by the time,” “already,” and “never.” The past perfect continuous tense, however, is used with dynamic verbs to discuss longer continuous actions and repeated actions that started earlier in the past. It employs phrases such as “how long,” “for,” and “since.”

Future simple and future continuous

Grammar chart comparing future simple and future continuous tenses for B1+ English learners, with usage rules and examples.

The future simple tense is used for predictions, instant decisions, promises, suggestions, offers, and requests, often indicated by “will” or “shall.” Examples include making promises (“I will always love you”) and requests (“Will you help me?”). The form be going to is used to talk about predictions with present evidence or intentions and plans. The future continuous tense describes actions that will be in progress at a specific time in the future and future arrangements, with indicators such as “this time tomorrow” or “in two weeks.” It includes scenarios like “I’ll be flying to Rome at this time tomorrow” to indicate future arrangements, or ongoing future actions.

Future perfect simple and future perfect continuous

Grammar chart comparing future perfect simple and future perfect continuous tenses for B1+ English learners, with usage rules and examples.

The future perfect simple tense is used for actions that will be completed before a certain time in the future and for states that will continue until a specific future time. Indicators include phrases like “by tomorrow,” “by the time,” and “in three days.” Examples are “By 2050, we will have found a cure for cancer” and “I will have graduated by this time next year.” The future perfect continuous tense focuses on the duration of actions that will be in progress at a specific future point, using indicators such as “by 2030” and “for.” An example is “By the end of the day, we will have been exploring the cave for 9-10 hours.”