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 »  Articles Overview  »  Language Specific  »  English Grammar  »  English Grammar Made Very Easy

English Grammar Made Very Easy

By Zoltan Bartok | Published  01/23/2019 | English Grammar | Recommendation:
Contact the author
Quicklink: http://wiki.proz.com/doc/4603
TO BE and the TENSES

Time components

Time is a basic component of our communication. Anything we say or hear has a time component. The time component dictates which of the following must be used:

1. Past Perfect
2. Past
3. Present Perfect
4. Present
5. Future Perfect
6. Future

We will learn a simple way to see which type of time component we have, so deciding which one of the above six we need to use will be very easy.

Each of the above has a simple formula, and one (or more) of the above is present practically in every sentence of the English language.

As for the formula: all we need to learn is the most important basic building block – which we will see shortly. Everything else is logically derived from it.


Let’s start by dividing all the possible time components into 2 major groups:

Group 1. Time components that clearly answer to the question “when?”

Examples: “yesterday”, “in 1965”, “when I was a child”

Group 2. Time components that do not clearly answer to the question “when?” because they express periods of time. These components answer to questions like “since when?”, “how long?”, etc.

Examples: “since I moved here”, “before he started his new job”, “during the last few weeks”, “until now”, “so far”, “recently”, “lately”, “already”

** Time components that appear to have duration, such as “yesterday”, “last year”, etc. will belong to Group 2 only when words in the sentence refer to a part of them as duration:
“during the first half of last year”
“before the postman came yesterday”
More words added can define the time period even more precisely:
“yesterday for fifteen minutes before the postman arrived”
“for a couple of more weeks this month”
“for years when I was a child”


The "to be” basic building block

1. “had been”
2. “was”/“were”
3. “have been”/“has been”
4. “am”/“is”/“are”
5. “will have been”
6. “will be”

1.) When what we want to say in a sentence relates to a Group 1 time component, we must use the “was” or “were”, the “am” or “is” or “are”, or the “will be” form of “to be”.

Obviously,

1a.) when the Group 1 time component indicates Past, we use “was” or “were”.

I “was”, you “were”, he/she/it/the cat “was”
we/you/they/the cats “were”

Example: I was not there yesterday.

1b.) When the Group 1 time component indicates Present, we use the “am” or “is” or “are”.

I “am”, you “are”, he/she/it/the cat “is”
we/you/they/the cats “are”

Example: The car is in the garage.

** The time component in the Present (and in the Present Perfect) is often missing from the sentence because the grammar used clearly indicates it. For example: We work in London. (The word “work” is the 1st form of the verb which indicates Present.)

1c.) When the Group 1 time component indicates Future, we use the “will be”.

I/you/he/she/it/the cat/we/you/they/the cats “will be”

Example: The guests will be here next week.

2.) When what we want to say in a sentence relates to a Group 2 time component, we must use the “had been” or the “have been” or “has been” or the “will have been” form of “to be”.

2a.) When the Group 2 time component is a time period that ended in the Past, we must use the “had been”.

I/you/he/she/it/the cat/we/you/they/the cats “had been”

Example: I had been in Rome three times before my son
graduated.

(The time component in this example is a time period that ended in the Past when the “son” graduated.)

2b.) When the Group 2 time component is a time period that started in the Past but never ended, we must use “have been” or “has been”.

I/you “have been”, he/she/it/the child “has been”
we/you/they/the children “have been”

Example: Since he arrived, I have not been in the garden. (Or: I have not been in the garden since he arrived.)

(In this example, the time component is a time period that started in the Past when “he” arrived.)

** This is the Present Perfect and the time component can be missing here as well. We will learn the formula for the Present Perfect grammar, so when we do not see a time component in a sentence, the formula will tell us when the sentence relates to a time period that never ended. For example: “I have been happy.” Of course, we can use additional words to narrow the time component: “I have been very happy since I met my wife.”

2c.) When the Group 2 time component is a time period in the Future, we use “will have been”.

I/you/he/she/it/the cat/we/you/they/the cats “will have been”

Example: I will have been in Rome three more times before this year is over.

Homework: Practice all the above also in negative and in question forms. (Use contractions, too, if you know how to use them correctly.)

Examples:

How many times had you been in Rome before your son graduated?

The car was in the garage yesterday.

They have not been in Rome since their son graduated.

I will have been in Rome once more before the end of the year.

*** Note: The “have” and “has” we see here as part of the “to be” forms are not the same as the possessive “to have”. Here, they have no real meaning, they are only helping words to create the grammatical forms.


The “there is”/“there are”

*** Note: the word “there” in these forms is not the same as the word “there” which means “not here, there”.

When we want to express that something exists, we use “there is” for singular and “there are” for plural.

There is an apple tree in the garden.
There are apple trees in the garden.

Also for living creatures:

There is a boy in the car.
There are boys in the car.

Now, let’s look at the 6 forms of “to be” again:

1. had been
2. was/were
3. have been/has been
4. am/is/are
5. will have been
6. will be

Using “there is”/”there are” with Group 1 and Group 2 time components is as easy as adding “there” in front of the “to be” forms. (Exception: “there am” is not possible)

1. there had been
2. there was/there were
3. there have been/there has been
4. there is/there are
5. there will have been
6. there will be


1.) When what we want to say relates to a Group 1 time component, we must use the “there was/there were” or the “there is/there are” or the “there will be”.

1a.) When the Group 1 time component indicates Past, we use “there was” or “there were”.

Example: There were nice flowers in the garden yesterday.

1b.) When the Group 1 time component indicates Present, we use “there is” or “there are”.

Example: There are nice flowers in the garden.

1c.) When the Group 1 time component indicates Future, we use “there will be”.

Example: There will be many people in the church next Sunday.

2.) When what we want to say relates to a Group 2 time component, we must use the “there had been” or the “there have been” or “there has been” or the “there will have been”.

2a.) When the Group 2 time component is a time period that ended in the Past, we must use the “there had been”.

Example: There had been nice flowers in the garden before the kids started playing there.

2b.) When the Group 2 time component is a time period that started in the Past but never ended, we must use “there have been” or “there has been”.

Example: Since the city installed this new traffic light, there have not been any accidents in our street. (Or: …, there have been no accidents in our street.)

2c.) When the Group 2 time component is a time period in the Future, we use “there will have been”.

Example: There will have been more accidents in our street before the city finally decides to install a traffic light at the corner.


The Tenses

Once again, first we look at the “to be” forms:

1. had been
2. was/were
3. have been/has been
4. am/is/are
5. will have been
6. will be

Where we see the “been” (which is the 3rd form of “be”), we will use the 3rd forms of the verbs instead (or the 3rd form of the possessive “have” which is “had”), and where we see the “was/were”, the “am/is/are” or the “be”, we use the 2nd or the 1st forms of the verbs (or the possessive “have”). It is that simple. Of course, again, the time component of our sentence will determine which of the above six we need to work with.

The 1st form of a verb is the basic form: “go”, “see”, “work”, “sleep”
The 2nd form of a verb is the Past version. Verbs can be regular or irregular. The 2nd form of regular verbs add a “d” or an “ed” at the end to create the Past version. Usually only “d” when the verb ends in a vowel (save, saved), and “ed” when the verb ends in a consonant (work, worked). Some verbs that end in a vowel will also get the “ed” ending (echo, echoed – radio, radioed – veto, vetoed).
The 3rd form of a verb (the Participle) can be the same as the 2nd form or in case of irregular verbs it can be different. Some irregular verbs have three different forms for 1st, 2nd and 3rd form. The list of all three forms of the frequently used irregular verbs is at the end of this book.

1.) When what we want to say relates to a Group 1 time component, we must use the 2nd or 1st forms of the verbs (or the possessive “have”).

1a.) When the Group 1 time component indicates Past, we use the
2nd forms of the verbs (or the possessive “have” which is “had”).

SUBJECT + 2ND FORM

I worked
You worked
He/she/it/the teacher worked
We worked
You worked
They/the teachers worked

I had
You had
He/she/it/the dog had
We had
You had
They/the children had

Examples:
The teacher worked a lot yesterday.
The teacher had five lessons yesterday.

1b.) When the Group 1 time component indicates Present, we use the 1st forms of the verbs (or the possessive “have”)

SUBJECT + 1ST FORM

I work
You work
He/she/it/the child works (“s” ending in third person singular)
We work
You work
They/the teachers work.

I have
You have
He/she/it/the teacher has
We have
You have
They/the teachers have

Examples:
We work every day.
We have a nice car.

1c.) When the Group 1 time component indicates Future, we use the “will” in front of the 1st forms of the verbs (or the possessive “have”).

SUBJECT + WILL + 1ST FORM

I will work
You will work
He/she/it/the teacher will work
We will work
You will work
They will work

I will have
You will have
He/she/it/the teacher will have
We will have
You will have
They/the teachers will have

Examples:
The guests will arrive tomorrow.
The guests will have a lot of fun next Monday.


2.) When what we want to say in a sentence relates to a Group 2 time component, we must use the 3rd forms of the verbs (or the 3rd form of the possessive “have” which is “had”) in place of the “been” of the ”to be” forms.

2a.) When the Group 2 time component is a time period that ended in the Past, we must use the 3rd forms of the verbs (or the 3rd form of the possessive “have” which is “had”) in place of the “been” of the “to be” forms, so the formula is: “had + 3rd form”.

SUBJECT + HAD + 3RD FORM

I had studied a lot (before graduation.)
You had worked much (before moving to Europe.)
He/she/it/the teacher had worked hard (before the storm arrived.)
We had worked hard (before the guests arrived.)
You had eaten much (before the doctor told you to go on a diet.)
They/the teachers had paid close attention (before the examination ended.)

I had had a lot of money (before I got married.)
You had had two bicycles (before…)
He/she/it/the teacher had had... (before...)
We had had… (before...)
You had had… (before...)
They had had… (before…)

Other examples:

By the time the family moved back to the USA, they had lived in five different European countries.
(In this example, the time component “By the time the family moved back to the USA,” indicates a time period that ended in the Past when the “family moved back to the USA,”)

My brother had had many friends before he moved to the USA.

2b.) When the Group 2 time component is a time period that started in the Past but never ended, again we must use the 3rd forms of the verbs (or the 3rd form of the possessive “have” which is “had”) in place of the “been” of the “to be” forms, so the formula is: “have” or “has” + 3rd form”.

SUBJECT + HAVE/HAS + 3RD FORM

(It is HAS only for 3rd person and other singular SUBJECTS.)

I have called my friend twice since it stopped raining.
You have just dropped your pen.
He/she/it/the teacher has not worked much lately.
We have not eaten any bananas for quite some time.
You have drunk too much already.
They have not sent the money yet.

I have had plenty of time to prepare for the test.
You have not had much luck so far (trying to catch that butterfly.)
He/she/it/George has had no chances.
We have had plenty of time to solve this puzzle.
You have not had a vacation this year.
They have had only one accident so far.

2c.) When the Group 2 time component is a time period in the Future, we use the 3rd forms of the verbs (or the 3rd form of the possessive “have” which is “had”) in place of the “been” of the “to be” forms, so the formula is: “will have” + 3rd form”.

SUBJECT + WILL HAVE + 3RD FORM

(The HAVE never changes to HAS if it is modified with another “helping word”. Here, the other “helping word” is the WILL. The “helping words” are actually called “helping verbs”. There are different types of “helping verbs”. The WILL is a “modal verb”. Of course, for our purpose the different names of the “helping verbs” are not important, so we continue referring to them as “helping words).

(Of course, the “future” has not happened yet, so using grammar that indicates Future often makes our sentence hypothetical.)

I will have visited
You will have visited
He/she/it/George will have visited
We will have visited
You will have visited
They will have visited

I will have had
You will have had
He/she/it/George will have had
We will have had
You will have had
They will have had

Examples:

I will have visited Rome three more times before this year is over.

I will have had two more slices of pizza and then I am done eating.

**In everyday language, the Future Perfect is often replaced by the simple Future.

Homework:

Practice all the above also in negative and in question forms. (Use contractions, too, if you know how to use them correctly.)

*** Note: Forming questions (and negatives) in Present, we need the helping word “do”. In 3rd person and any other singular, it changes to “does”. It is not the same as the Verb “do”, here it is used only as a grammar accessory. In American English (“Am.” from here on), this helping word is used to create questions (and negatives) with Verbs as well as with the possessive “have”. British English (“Brit.” from here on) uses it only when creating questions (and negatives) with Verbs. Grammatically it functions like the Verb “do”, so in Past it changes to “did”. When forming the question, this helping word precedes the subject of the sentence.

[The subject in a sentence is the thing or the person that is doing or being something. It can also be a place or an idea.]


The Continuous Tenses

**Either at a certain time in the Past or in the Future, or at the moment of speaking in the Present, or continuously during a given period of time in the Past or in the Future. Of course, in the Past, we can have a certain time period that ended in the Past [Past Perfect], and a certain time period that never ended [Present Perfect].

Again, first we look at the “to be” forms:

1. had been
2. was/were
3. have been/has been
4. am/is/are
5. will have been
6. will be

The formula to create the Continuous is simple:

We use the “to be” form determined by our time component + 1st form of the verb (or the “have” or the “be”) with “ing” ending.


1a.) When what we want to say relates to a certain time in the Past, we use the “was” or “were” + 1st form with “ing” ending.

SUBJECT + WAS/WERE + 1ST FORM WITH “-ING”

I was eating
You were writing
He/she/it/George was working
We were walking
You were typing
They were singing

Occasionally, we formulate this type of sentences not only with “verbs + ing” but also with the “have + ing” as well as with the “be + ing”:

I was having, You were having, etc.
I was being, You were being, etc.

Examples:

At 7 o’clock this morning, I was eating my breakfast.
At the time the postman arrived, you were cleaning the bathroom.

I was having my lunch when the postman rang the bell.


1b.) When what we want to say relates to the time when we say it, we use the “am” or “is” or “are” + 1st form with “ing” ending.

SUBJECT + AM/ARE/IS + 1ST FORM WITH “-ING”

I am eating
You are running
He/she/it/the postman is drinking
We are thinking
You are watching
They are talking

I am having, You are having, etc.
I am being, You are being, etc.

Examples:

They are running around the house.

I am having a good time.

He is being warned about the danger.

1c.) When what we want to say relates to a certain time in the Future, we use the “will be” + 1st form with “ing” ending.

SUBJECT + WILL BE + 1ST FORM WITH “-ING”

I will be eating
You will be talking
He/she/it/George will be working
We will be sitting
They will be walking

I will be having

He will be being

Examples:

I will be talking with him exactly at midnight.

I will be having breakfast at 6 in the morning.


2a.) When what we want to say relates to a time period that ended in the Past, we use “had been” + 1st form with “ing” ending.

SUBJECT + HAD BEEN + 1ST FORM WITH “-ING”

I had been eating
You had been speaking
He/she/it/the teacher had been eating
We/you/they had been eating

I had been having

(“… had been being” is not really used)

Examples:

Before it stopped raining, I had been talking on the phone for about five minutes.
(In this example, the time component has two parts: “Before it stopped raining” indicates a time period that ended in the Past when “it stopped raining” and the “for about five minutes” shows the duration of that time period.)

Before he moved here, he had been living in London for years.
(Although, he probably visited other places and spent time away from London, he maintained his residency in London without interruption, therefore, we use the Continuous form. “He had lived in London for years” would not necessarily mean uninterrupted residency as it could mean, for example, that he had lived there once for two years and then years later for another five years.)

By the time the teacher arrived, they had been practicing for quite some time.

I had been having a good time until it started raining.


2b.) When what we want to say relates to a time period that never ended (Present Perfect), we use “have been” or “has been” + 1st form with “ing” ending.

SUBJECT + HAVE/HAS BEEN + 1ST FORM WITH “-ING”

I have been running
You have been thinking
He/she/it/George has been talking
We have been eating
They have been working

I have been having

(“… have/has been being” has little practical use)

Examples:

I have been trying to reach her ever since I heard the bad news.

George has been having fun playing that game of chess.


2c.) When what we want to say relates to a time period in the Future (Future Perfect), we use “will have been” + 1st form with “ing” ending.

SUBJECT + WILL HAVE BEEN + 1ST FORM WITH “-ING”

I will have been singing
You will have been trying
He/she/it/George will have been working
We will have been watching
They will have been thinking

I will have been having

(“… will have been being” has no practical use)

Examples:

You will have been cleaning the house for hours after the party is over.
George will have been resting comfortably for a few more hours.


Let’s look at all the formulas in one table based on the order of the “to be” forms:

1. had been
2. was/were
3. have been/has been
4. am/is/are
5. will have been
6. will be

1. subject + had + 3rd form
2. subject + 2nd form
3. subject + have/has + 3rd form
4. subject + 1st form
5. subject + will have + 3rd form
6. subject + will + 1st form

CONTINUOUS:

1. subject + had been + 1st form with “-ing”
2. subject + was/were + 1st form with “-ing”
3. subject + have/has been + 1st form with “-ing”
4. subject + am/are/is + 1st form with “-ing”
5. subject + will have been + 1st form with “-ing”
6. subject + will be + 1st form with “-ing”


The Passive

We start with the “to be” forms again:

1. had been
2. was/were
3. have been/has been
4. am/is/are
5. will have been
6. will be

The formula: appropriate “to be” form + 3rd form of verb or “have”.

I had been promoted
I was beaten
I have been told
I am warned
I will have been watched
I will be shaken


1a.) When what we want to say relates to a time component in the Past, we use the “was” or “were” + 3rd form of the verb or the “have”.

SUBJECT + WAS/WERE + 3RD FORM

Examples:

Yesterday, I was told not to sign any more contracts.
You were warned about the danger in time.
He/she/it/George was defeated in his first game of chess.
We were sent here to finish the work.
They were taken to the hospital immediately after the accident.


1b.) When what we want to say relates to a time component in the Present, we use the “am” or “is” or “are” + 3rd form of the verb or the “have”.

SUBJECT + AM/ARE/IS + 3RD FORM

Examples:

I am satisfied.
You are often praised.
He/she/it/George is not easily scared.
We are never satisfied.
They are sent home again.


1c.) When what we want to say relates to a time component in the Future, we use the “will be” + the 3rd form of the verb or the “have”.

SUBJECT + WILL BE + 3RD FORM

Examples:

I will be kicked out of school.
You will not be warned again.
He/she/it/George will be buried tomorrow.
They will not be bothered again.

2a.) When what we want to say relates to a time period that ended in the Past, we use “had been” + 3rd form.

SUBJECT + HAD BEEN + 3RD FORM

Examples:

I had been promoted twice before I quit my job.
You had been asked that question many times before George came.
He/she/it/the teacher had been warned many times before the building collapsed.
We had not been taken seriously until we showed our IDs.
You had never been invited until you bought that nice tie.
They had been saved from that raging river before the rescue team arrived.


2b.) When what we want to say relates to a time period that never ended (Present Perfect), we use “have been” or “has been” + 3rd form.

SUBJECT + HAVE/HAS BEEN + 3RD FORM

Examples:

I have been advised not to go there again.
They have been promoted twice since they graduated.
He/she/George has been cheated many times.
It has already been cut.
We have been doubted over and over again.
They have not been promoted so far.


2c.) When what we want to say relates to a time period in the Future (Future Perfect), we use “will have been” + 3rd form.


SUBJECT + WILL HAVE BEEN + 3RD FORM

Examples:

I will have been given new chances before this year is over.
You will have been criticized repeatedly unless you change your style.
He/she/George will have been paid in cash for any work in the future.
Your hourly wage will have been raised at least a couple of more times this year.
We will have been promoted again as long as we continue doing our job well.
They will have been helped out a few more times.


Let’s look at all the formulas for the PASSIVE in one table based on the order of the “to be” forms:

1. had been
2. was/were
3. have been/has been
4. am/is/are
5. will have been
6. will be

1. subject + had been + 3rd form
2. subject + was/were + 3rd form
3. subject + have/has been + 3rd form
4. subject + am/are/is + 3rd form
5. subject + will have been + 3rd form
6. subject + will be + 3rd form


Summary

1) When we determine that the time component in what we want to say does not clearly answer to the question “When?” because it indicates duration – and answers to a “How long?” type question – then we must use either the Pas Perfect, the Present Perfect or the Future Perfect structure of grammar.

1A) If we want to talk about a period of time that ended in the Past, it has to be Past Perfect.

- “to be” form: had been
- TENSE: subject + had + 3rd form
- CONTINUOUS: subject + had been + 1st form with “-ing”
- PASSIVE: subject + had been + 3rd form


1B) If we want to talk about a period of time that is “unfinished”, it must be Present Perfect.

- “to be” form: have/has been
- TENSE: subject + have/has + 3rd form
- CONT.: subject + have/has been + 1st form with “-ing”
- PASSIVE: subject + have/has been + 3rd form


1C) The Future Perfect we use when the time period we talk about is in the Future.

- “to be” form: will have been
- TENSE: subject + will have + 3rd form
- CONT.: subject + will have been + 1st form with “-ing”
- PASSIVE: subject + will have been + 3rd form


2) When we determine that the time component in what we want to say clearly answers to the question “When?”, we use the following:

2A) Past:

- “to be” form: was/were
- TENSE: subject + 2nd form
- CONT.: subject + was/were + 1st form with “-ing”
- PASSIVE: subject + was/were + 3rd form

2B) Present

- “to be” form: am/are/is
- TENSE: subject + 1st form
- CONT.: subject + am/are/is + 1st form with “-ing”
- PASSIVE: subject + am/are/is + 3rd form

2C) Future

- “to be” form: will be
- TENSE: subject + will + 1st form
- CONT.: subject + will be + 1st form with “-ing”
- PASSIVE: subject + will be + 3rd form

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