How to teach verb tenses in English

How to teach verb tenses in English

There are 12 tenses in English so it’s not surprising that learners can sometimes get a little confused! When it comes to teaching verb tenses, the best way is little by little, slowly but surely. As the learner’s proficiency in English grows, so will their ability to manipulate verb tenses for their own specific communication purposes.

The two important things to consider when teaching verb tenses in English are form and function. The form of the tense refers to what it looks like; in other words, what the construction is made up of. This is not only in its basic form but also for positive and negative statements and questions.

For example: present perfect -> verb to be + have/has + past participle

The function is what the structure is used for. The present perfect, for example, is used to refer to an action in the past that is related in some way to the present time, indicating a link between the past and the present.

For each verb tense, learners need to be familiar with these aspects in order to be able to not only identify the tenses and their meanings, but also to use them in their own communication. To help learners with the form of the different tenses, it is necessary to create a table identifying each form of each tense. This will give your learners a guide for reference for when they do activities to consolidate the form of the tenses.

Once this has been done, it is time to have a little fun! There are many different games which you can incorporate into your lessons to allow your learners to practice using verb tenses. Here are a few favourites:



20 questions


Running dictation

These games are all flexible, in that they can be used for various tenses and in various ways. However you decide to use them, they are sure to be enjoyed by learners of all ages. What’s more, they will help your learners improve their usage of English verb tenses.