Guide for Mixed Tense Exercises


Part 1: The Basics

                Learning the basics of forming a verb tense is usually easy, and so is using that tense by itself.  However, when the tenses are mixed together in grammar or writing, there can be a lot of confusion. 

Here are some tips to remember:

1.       Look for the use of time words.  A chart is given below.
2.       Remember the purpose(s) of each tense.
3.        Look at the context.   There may not be any time words in the sentence, but the surrounding sentences will give a clue as to what should come next. 


Tense

Time words

Examples

Simple present
Every day, month, week, year; always; sometimes; never; frequently
George jogs three miles every day.
Mary always has salad for lunch.
I sometimes go to New York City.
Simple past
Yesterday; # years, weeks, months, days, hours ago; in (past year); last (month, week, year)
Tom went to Los Angeles yesterday.
Charles Lindbergh flew to Paris in 1927.
Simple future
Tomorrow; in (future year, month, week); on (future day); next (month, week, year, name of day); # days, months, weeks, years from now; this month, week, afternoon, year; someday
Mary will go to Hawaii in two weeks.
Ed will drive to Toronto next Saturday.
George will paint his house six days from now.
Present Progressive
Now; right now; at this moment
You are reading sentences about verb tenses right now.
Many students are taking calculus this semester.
Future progressive
        At this time tomorrow
At this time tomorrow, I will be cleaning my house.
Present Perfect
For; since; yet; never; always; so far; # times; many times; lately; recently; already
Sam has visited Hawaii many times.
Paul has been here for six hours.
Yoko has known Mary since 1994.
I have already written a letter to the president.
Present perfect progressive
For; since; lately; recently
Rita has been jogging for two hours.


Part 2: Time Clauses


Some verb tenses often work with time clauses. 
Sentences with time clauses have two parts:

1.       The clause with the time word
2.        The main clause

Remember the following tips:

Ø       The part with the time word is always dependent.  
Ø       Most time words work with more than one tense.
Ø       In the present, past, and future perfect progressive tenses, for is not always necessary, but it is frequently used. 
Ø       *Before and after do not require the use of the past perfect, but it is possible.



Time Clause Patterns

Time word
Time clause tense
Main clause tense

Examples

While

Past progressive

Simple past (short action)

While Anna was sleeping, a plane flew over her house.
Past progressive (action at same time)
While George was frying fish, Rita was peeling potatoes.
Present progressive

Future progressive

While Anna is working tomorrow, her sister will be paintingthe living room.
Before
Simple present
Simple future
Before Karen leaves for work, she will roller-skate around her house three times.
Simple past
Simple past or past perfect*
Before Karen left for work, she (had) roller-skated around her house three times.
After
Simple present
Simple future
After Karen takes her motorcycle to the mechanic, he will take a look at it.
Simple past or past perfect*
Simple past
After Karen took [had taken] her motorcycle to the mechanic, she drove to work in a rented car.
When
Simple present
Simple future
When John finishes this semester, he will take a trip to France.

Simple past
Simple past
When the sun rose, John got up.
Past progressive
When the pizza arrived, John was checking his e-mail.
Past perfect
When John’s friend came to pick him up, he had alreadychecked his answering machine for messages.
Past perfect progressive
When John got home, his brother had been surfing the web for five hours.
Until

Simple present

Simple future
Until Mary finishes her scuba-diving course, she won’t takethe advanced diving class.
Simple past

Past perfect

Until Mary lost $50,000 in Las Vegas, she hadn’t realizedthat she had a gambling problem.

As soon as
Simple present

Simple future

As soon as I get home, I will take a nap.
Simple past

Simple past

As soon as I got home, I took a nap.
Whenever
Simple present

Simple present

Whenever Sam goes to Canada, he always visits Niagara Falls.
The first time
Simple past

Simple past

The first time that Ingrid visited New York, she went to the Empire State Building.

The last time
Simple past

Simple past

The last time that Nancy played hockey, she scored three goals.
The next time
Simple present

Simple future

The next time I buy new sneakers, I will walk around in them first.

By the time
Simple present

Future perfect

By the time the plane arrives, we will have completed the crossword puzzle.

Simple past

Past perfect

By the time John finished his essay, most of the class had left.
Since (time)

Simple past

Present perfect

Tom has been unhappy since his team lost the championship.

 

Part 3: Other Uses


                Some time words may go with more than one tense.    In this case, meaning and context become especially important.  The time given is relative to the present moment—it may be present, past, or future, depending on when the event happened, is happening, or will happen.   
The story below will demonstrate this.  Present time is in bold type, like this.   Future time is in italics, like this.  Past time is in normal type.

Theresa’s Day

                Today is Saturday.  Theresa had been sleeping for eight hours when the doorbell rang.  She got up to answer the door, but no one was there.  The sound of the doorbell had also woken up Maria, Theresa’s roommate.  Because neither of them could go back to sleep, they decided to have breakfast.  While Theresa was making breakfast, Maria was taking a shower.  While they were eating their breakfast, they heard a loud crash from outside.   They ran to the window and looked outside.  Their friend, Tom, had been skateboarding, but he had lost control of his skateboard and crashed into the garbage cans.  Theresa and Maria ran outside to see how Tom was.  He had a few scrapes and bruises, and he was wearing a banana peel and broken eggshells on his head.  Theresa and Maria gave him some antiseptic and bandages.  They wanted him to go to the nurse, but he said he was all right.
                After that, Theresa and Maria went back inside, finished their breakfast and watched a tape.     Now it is 12:00, and Theresa is eating lunch.   She is eating a salad.  Lately, she has been trying to eat more leafy green vegetables. Everyone tells her this will make her healthierbut it’s not easy for her because it’s hard to for her to find leafy green vegetables that she likes.   She will be doing many things this afternoon and evening.  At 1:30, she will go to the swimming pool and swim some laps.  She practices swimming four times a week because she is on the swim team. She has been on the swim team for two years. When she finishes swimming, she will take a shower and get ready for her evening.  First, she will eat dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  Next, she plans to watch Citizen Kane with Maria, Tom, and Ed, Tom’s brother.  By the time the movie ends, they will have seen it sixteen times.  After the movie, they will go to a local dance club.  By midnight, they will have been dancing for three hours.  At 3 a.m., Theresa and Maria will come home and go to sleep.  Tomorrow will be less busy.

Theresa’s Day

Time

Main and non-time clause(s)

Time clause

12:00 a.m.-11:59 p.m.
Today is Saturday.

1 a.m-9 a.m.
Theresa had been sleeping for eight hours.

9 a.m.

(When) the doorbell rang.
9:01 a.m.
Theresa got out of bed to answer the door, but there was no one there.

9:15 a.m-9: 30 a.m.
She was making breakfast
(While) her roommate was taking a shower.
9:31 a.m.-9: 45 a.m.

(While) they were eating their breakfast
9:45 a.m.
They heard a loud crash from outside.

 

Before 9:45 a.m.
Their friend, Tom, had been skateboarding

9:45 a.m.
(But) he had lost control of his skateboard and crashed into the garbage cans.

9:46:00 a.m.
They ran to the window and looked outside.

9:46:30 a.m.
Theresa and Maria ran outside to see how Tom was.

9:47 a.m.
He had a few scrapes and bruises, and he was wearing a banana peel and broken eggshells on his head.

9:50 a.m.
Theresa and Maria gave him some antiseptic and bandages.

9:55 a.m.
They wanted him to go to the nurse, but he said he was all right.

10:00-11:59
After that, Theresa and Maria went back inside, finished their breakfast, and watched a tape.

12 p.m.
Theresa is eating lunch.

She is eating a salad.
Before now and up to the present moment
Lately, she has been trying to eat more leafy green vegetables. 

General truth with a future prediction
Everyone tells her this will make her healthierbut it’s not easy for her because it’s hard for her to find leafy green vegetables that she likes.

1 p.m. – 12 a.m.
She will be doing many things this afternoon and evening.

1:30 p.m.
At 1:30, she will go to the swimming pool and swim some laps.

Habit
She practices swimming four times a week because she is on the swim team.

Situation that began in the past and continues to the present moment
She has been on the swim team for two years.

3:00-4:30 p.m.
She will take a shower and get ready for her evening
(when) she finishes swimming
6:00 p.m.
She will eat dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

7:00-8:30
She plans to watch Citizen Kane with Maria, Tom, and Ed, Tom’s brother.


They will have seen the movie sixteen times
(by the time) it ends.
9:00
They will go to a local dance club.

12 a.m.
By midnight, they will have been dancing for three hours.

3 a.m.
Theresa and Maria will come home and go to sleep.

Tomorrow
Tomorrow will be less busy.


  
Written by Dale Egan,  ELRC tutor

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