Grammar: Verb tenses

Example errors

Look at the example errors below. Can you fix them?

Incorrect
– In recent years, climate change is worsening.
– The researchers have published the paper in 2017.
– When ice is heated, it will melt.

What are the grammar rules?

1.  English has many tenses. However, in academic writing, some tenses are used much more frequently than others. We will focus on the most common tenses: simple present, simple past and present perfect.

2.  We use the simple present to talk about general truths.

– It is generally accepted that a weaker currency has a positive effect on the economy.
– When water is heated, it boils.
– During an economic downturn, central banks usually lower interest rates.

3.  The simple present is also the most common verb tense used with reporting verbs, except when the results of research are being presented (see point 4).

– Jones (2010) argues that greater attention should be paid to academic outcomes.
– Xin and Chen (2017) disagree with Smith (2016) regarding the most appropriate solution.

4.  We use the simple past to talk about finished events and situations in the past. If you do research and write up reports, it is the verb tense you need to use in the method and results sections.

– Four hundred undergraduate students were recruited to participate in the study.
– A strong correlation was found between stress and turnover.
– Smith (2019) found a strong correlation between self-confidence and happiness.

5.  If you use a past time reference (e.g. yesterday, three years ago, in 2017), you must use the simple past.

IncorrectCorrect
– The First World War has begun in 1939.– The First World War began in 1939.
– The study has been published last week.– The study was published last week.

6.  The exception to this rule is when we use a past time reference with since, when we use the present perfect.

– He has been a professor since 2011.

7.  We use the present perfect, not the simple present, to say how long something has been going on.

IncorrectCorrect
– He is a professor since 2011.– He has been a professor since 2011.
– The economic downturn is affecting the country for over two years.– The economic downturn has been affecting the country for over two years.

8.  In most cases, we also use the present perfect with these words: ever, never, yet, recently, lately, already.

– Climate change has recently become a more serious issue.
– I have never published an article.
– He hasn’t finished his thesis yet.

Corrected errors

Here are the corrected errors from the start of the lesson.

IncorrectCorrect
– In recent years, climate change is worsening.– In recent years, climate change has been worsening.
– The researchers have published the paper in 2017.– The researchers published the paper in 2017.
– When ice is heated, it will melt.– When ice is heated, it melts.

Quiz

Complete each sentence using the correct tense of the verb in brackets. You may need to use the passive voice.
__________

More top 10 grammar errors