Errors in the Use of Tenses

Consistency in the usage of tense is intrinsic to good grammar. If, as a student of English language, you profess to write correct English, one of the first things that shall come under the scanner apart from spellings and vocabulary is the correct usage of Tense.

Some of the common errors made while using ‘Tense’ in English Grammar are:

1.       Subject / Verb Agreement: The Subject of the sentence has to agree in number with the Verb.

Examples: The boy is standing.

The girls are driving.

The boys likes fish (Incorrect)

The boys like fish (Correct)

2.  Frequently made errors are found in the case of words like ‘Everyone’ Or ‘Nobody’. These words are singular in tone and hence must follow singular Tense in Verb.

Examples: Everyone needs a partner.

Nobody needs unwanted criticism.


3. Usage of the past form with ‘did’: The word ‘did’ warrants the use of present tense. Using past tense form with ‘did’ is a grave error.

Examples: Maya did not went to school yesterday. (Incorrect)

Maya did not go to school yesterday.(Correct)


4. Usage of Simple Past with adverbs of time: Present Perfect or Past Perfect is never used with adverbs of time related to past, only Simple Past is brought into use.

Examples: I went to the cinema yesterday (Incorrect).

I had gone to the cinema yesterday. (Correct)

I had seen him yesterday (Incorrect)

I saw him yesterday (Correct)


5. Usage of Present Perfect instead of Simple Past: The Present Perfect cannot be used with adverbs of past time. Simple Past is used instead.

Example: I have seen the movie last week (Incorrect)

I saw the movie last week. (Correct)

6. Usage of the Simple Past in place of Past Perfect in case of continued actions.

Example: He stated that he was suffering from malaria for seven days. (Incorrect)

He stated he had been suffering from malaria for seven days. (Correct)


7. Usage of the Past Perfect in case of two actions: When two actions take place in the past, the first action uses Past Perfect while the second action makes use of Simple Past.

Examples: The doctor had left before I arrived.

The bell had rung before the child entered the school.

8.  Using future Tense in Subordinate Clause: If the Main Clause is in the imperative mood, future tense should not be used in the Subordinate Clause.

Example: See that you will do the work. (Incorrect)

See that you do the work. (Correct)


9. When the verb in Main Clause is in Future Tense, the Verb in the Subordinate Clause should be in Present and not Future tense.

Example: I will call when the work will be done. (Incorrect)

I will call when the work is done. (Correct)


10.   Confusion between Present Perfect and Present Continuous: Present Perfect Continuous is used for action that started in the past, has continued in the present and in all probability is still in process while Present Continuous is only used for work which is temporarily in progression in the present.

Example: It is snowing for two days (Incorrect)

It has been snowing for two days. (Correct)

English Grammar and Composition

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