Remembering Tenses in Conversation

Remembering Tenses

Learning English tenses can be a long term activity – from learning present tense as a beginner to learning the perfect tenses at more advanced levels. You can endlessly study the rules and grammar to the point where you know them inside-out (know them 100%), but when it comes to talking and conversations, it can be very hard to recall the rules.

Today I’m going to discuss my view on remembering and using correct tenses in conversation.

Don’t Worry About It

If you get caught up in the grammar while talking, you’ll never say anything. Just be happy to make mistakes.

Tenses don’t usually affect people’s understanding of what you’re saying.

Even if you use the wrong tense, people will still get your meaning. It’s not the end of the world. Just politely ask them to correct you if you make a mistake so you can learn from it.

Put Down the Textbook

Use the textbook to learn the basic rules of the grammar, but at some point, you’ll need to experience these tenses in real situations.

Of course, textbooks and online grammar guides are really useful for learning the rules of tenses. I think it’s a good idea to do this, but you can’t use them forever. 

After you have a basic understanding, put down the textbook and start practising by talking and writing using the tenses. You can also pay attention to tenses you read in books or articles.

Here’s a good example of some stories that are written in different tenses, so you can see them in use.

Practise with Your Teacher

If you don’t have a teacher, try to find one online. Or at least someone who is willing to study with you. Tell your teacher you want to practice the present perfect tense (or any tense!) and spend the lesson talking about what you have done.

Eg. What have you done this week? I have been to school.

A really good teacher will also help you use past simple and present perfect in the right places. 

Eg. I have not been feeling well this week because I ate rotten tomatoes!

Practice Makes Perfect

Don’t beat yourself up (be too strict with yourself) if you don’t get it. Understand that just because you know the rules, doesn’t mean you will be able to use it in conversation perfectly naturally. Keep practising and it will make more sense over a long time. It’s a gradual process that’s always improving.

Homework

For some extra practice, leave a comment below this podcast and write a sentence in the following tenses:

  • Present simple

  • Past simple

  • Future simple

  • Present perfect

  • Past perfect

  • Future perfect

If you want to work really hard you could even use these tenses to talk about your week or a recent holiday you had.

Perhaps you could do something like this every week. Consider writing a diary entry where you practice using each tense. This is much more fun than reading a textbook and it’s allowing you to be creative with the language.

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