In this lesson we will work on English tenses and test ourselves on them. When you learn to speak a language through listening you get the benefit of learning the correct grammar automatically. If you use traditional approaches to study English, learning grammar can be difficult. In today’s English lesson, we hope to show you how listening can make it a little easier.
We’ve covered English tenses before. In fact, English tenses are one of the most commonly requested topics students ask us to help with. Tenses can sound complicated, especially when you use the correct English grammar terms. But you don’t really need to know the grammar terms of the tense being used if you want to speak English fluently.
What you need to know to speak English using the correct tense, is that speaking about a subject in the context of yesterday, today and tomorrow require that you change some words so a listener knows that you're talking about the past, present or the future.
Listening to a lot of native English being spoken will automatically give you the subtle changes that take place.
Tenses Distanced Decorating
|I Will Be||4|
|In The Future||3|
|In The Past||3|
|I’Ll Tell You||3|
|In The Afternoon||3|
Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. If you’re really keen to make progress with your English language learning and you like our podcasts, remember that you can buy 250 of our earlier podcasts, which aren’t available anywhere else. At an average of around 10 minutes per podcast, that would give you 2,500 minutes of quality English listening. I wonder how much that would improve your English?
OK, so today’s podcast. One of the things which people find difficult about learning English is verb tenses. The ‘tense’ of a verb, T-E-N-S-E tells you when the action, when the activity happened. Was it in the past, the present or the future? ‘Past’ means it’s already happened, ‘present’ means it’s happening right now and ‘future’ means it will happen, it’s going to happen, it’s about to happen.
So I’m just going to tell you the story of my day, the story of my Friday and I’m writing this podcast for next Thursday when you’ll hear it. But what I’m going to do, to give you some practice with tenses in English – is I’m going to tell you the same story, about my Friday three different times. But I’ll tell it first of all, how I’d tell it on Thursday, when the actions and the tenses are in the future.
Then I’ll tell you the same thing as though it was Friday, in the middle of the day. (Which it is, actually as I’m writing, it’s true!). And then I’ll tell you the same account as though it’s Saturday and the same events are all in the past. OK, here goes.
- So this is me, telling you about my plans for Friday, on Thursday – so I’m using Future Tenses.
Tomorrow I will finish work early in the morning and I will do some decorating and finish painting the wall in my therapy room. The wall will be green. Tomorrow afternoon I will be writing podcasts which I will record later in the day. And if I notice that the sun is out in the afternoon, after four days of working solidly – and four days of wind and heavy showers – I’ll be ready to go out into the garden for a bit. I’ve already done some dead-heading of flowers earlier this week, but I’m sure there’ll be more to do. Tomorrow evening, I’ll be going for a socially distanced meeting in my friend’s garden – and another friend will be going too. We will want to be able to have a glass of wine while we’re there, but we’ll have a long conversation on Whatsapp, trying to work out how to do the lifts or whether we’ll need to use a taxi.
A photograph of a man pruning an apple tree in a garden, used to in this English grammar lesson on English tenses.
OK, so let’s just look at the verbs there. ‘Tomorrow I will finish work’ – that’s Simple Future. I could say ‘I shall finish work’, but ‘will’ is more common in informal conversation and it also implies a bit of determination – ‘I will finish work’. I’ll make sure that happens. Similarly, ‘I will do some decorating and finish painting the wall’. ‘The wall will be green’ – simple future again. Then ‘Tomorrow afternoon, I will be writing’. That’s Future Progressive Tense – the writing will be in the future and it’s going to carry on for a time, perhaps most of the afternoon.
Next a conditional. ‘If I notice’ is conditional – so that’s present tense, but its meaning’s still in the future. And the part of the sentence which depends on the if ‘I’ll be ready’ – this is short for ‘I will be ready’, so that’s simple future. So this is a typical ‘Type 1 Conditional’ – If + plus Simple Present tense, followed by Simple Future. You can listen to previous Adept English podcasts on Conditionals for help on that one.
‘I’ve already done some dead-heading’ – so that’s Present Perfect tense, it’s in the past. And the verb ‘to dead-head’ is a gardening term and it just means to take off the finished flower heads, so that you get more flowers coming! ‘There’ll be more to do’ is Simple Future – ‘there will be more to do’. Then tomorrow evening ‘I’ll be going’ - that’s Future Progressive tense again, ‘I will be going’.
However, I could also say here ‘I’m going for a meeting’ – which is a particular way of expressing the future, or even ‘I’m going to go for a socially distanced meeting’. The last sentence for Thursday’s version is all Simple Future – ‘we will want’, ‘we will have a long conversation’ ‘we will need to use a taxi’ – these are all simple future tense.
Now I’ll tell you this story again as though I’m saying it on Friday, the actual day of these activities. Listen and see if you can understand the meaning of the tense of each verb. It’s the same story, just told the following day. If you want the answers to the tenses, have a look at the transcript – I’ve put them in there. What’s more important though is that you understand the meaning of the different tenses as you hear them. Good luck! So...
- This is me, talking to you about Friday, middle of the day.
Today, I finished work early this morning and I did some decorating and finished painting the wall in my therapy room. The wall is green. This afternoon I’m writing podcasts which I will record later today. And I notice that the sun is out this afternoon, so after four days of working solidly – and four days of wind and heavy showers – I’m ready to go out into the garden for a bit. I’ve already done some dead-heading of flowers earlier this week, but I’m sure there’s more to do. This evening, I’m going for a socially distanced meeting in my friend’s garden – another friend is going too. We want to be able to have a glass of wine while we’re there, but we’re having a long conversation on Whatsapp, trying to work out how to do the lifts – or whether we’ll need to use a taxi.
- Finally, this is the third version of this same story, but this is me talking on Saturday about what I did on Friday, so I’m using mainly past tenses here.
Yesterday I finished work early in the morning and I did some decorating and finished painting the wall in my therapy room. The wall is green. In the afternoon, I was writing podcasts, which I recorded later in the day. I noticed that the sun was out in the afternoon, so after four days of working solidly – and four days of wind and heavy showers – I was ready to go out in the garden for a bit. I’d already done some dead-heading of flowers earlier in the week, but I was sure there was more to do. In the evening, I went for a socially distanced meeting in my friend’s garden – another friend went too. We wanted to be able to have a glass of wine, while we were there, but we’d had a long conversation on Whatsapp, trying to work out how to do the lifts – or whether we needed to use a taxi.
Once you’ve understood the tenses and you get the differences between the tomorrow, today and yesterday versions of this story, listen to the podcast a number of times so that you can understand the different tenses and it becomes more automatic for you. Tenses in English are hard, because there are many of them and we use them in very particular ways.
If you’re learning English simply through listening, you may not be concerned with the names of the various tenses. In which case, it’s more important just to listen to the three versions, and understand them. But if you need to learn the names of the verb tenses, you can practise with the explanation from number 1 and then test yourself to see if you can name the tenses for the ‘today’ version of the story, number 2 and the ‘yesterday version of the story’, number 3. I’ve put the answers in the transcript for you.
Let me know if you find that useful as an exercise – and I will happily do some more of these for you to practise on!
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.