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Spot the Mistakes 2 – A Short History of Piers

history of piers exerciseOne of the things Brighton is most famous for, and a common sight in any great English seaside resort, is piers. Following on from my brief tale of Walking on the Beach, then, the subject of piers is a good topic for our next spot the mistake reading exercise. Again, the passage below contains mistakes that focus on the rules of the English tenses and verb use. These are designed to be tricky! Continue reading

Walking on the Beach – Spot the Mistakes 1 (Tenses)

english spot the mistakes beachAn excellent way to test your understanding and boost confidence in learning English is to approach a full text and see if you can spot the mistakes. This is especially challenging if you don’t know where the mistakes are – as to decide if a sentence is incorrect, you need to know what makes a sentence correct! With that in mind, this is the first in a series of reading exercises to practice this skill.

In the following reading exercise, see if you can identify 14 mistakes. The number of mistakes in each paragraph is indicated in brackets. Your only clues is that all the mistakes are something to do with English tenses. The answers are given below. This is a true story about Worthing beach. Continue reading

More On Mixed Tenses – A Comparison Exercise

mixed tenses exerciseThe following quiz was originally posted on Goodreads – it’s a quick exercise to test understanding of different tense forms. The questions are based on the 12 basic English tense forms. Complete the following sentences using the appropriate tense form. In the given context, one answer is correct for each question. Continue reading

What English tenses exercises would YOU like to see?

Since I published The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide, I have been working on an exercise book to accompany it, 101 English Tenses Exercises. Containing no less than 101 exercises to really drill all the rules of the tenses. I need your help, though – my original idea was to exercise each lesson in the book, following a similar structure. It’s the wrong approach, it’s too complicated and simply not fun!

So, if you have a spare few minutes, I’d like to ask for some feedback. What English grammar exercises would you like to see? What are your favourite types of English exercise? Which do you like least?

On my site, I usually post gap fill exercises – either with individual sentences (e.g. this future tenses exercise) or in the form of a reading text (e.g. The Christmas Mess). These would be the bulk of the exercises in the book. Are there other styles you’d prefer to see?

I’m dividing the exercises into grammar themes (e.g. Past Simple or Past Continuous?) and more general themes for mixed tense exercises, which can build specific vocabulary (for example Christmas vocabulary). What topics would you like to see most?

Please comment below or contact me here if you have any thoughts on my upcoming project. After all, above all else I am trying to write something that is both enjoyable and useful to you!

Negative Simple Questions – A Mixed Tenses Exercise

negative simple questions exerciseFollowing on from the quick exercises for negative simple statements, this exercise will test understanding of negative simple question forms. Negative simple questions are formed by placing do, did or will before the subject and not after the subject, or by forming a negative contraction, don’t, didn’t, won’t before the subject. If we’re asking a question of the person who made the statement, any first person statements should be changed to second person (i.e. I -> you, we -> they). The following exercise has 15 negative statements in mixed tenses that can be converted to negative questions. The answers are given below the exercise. Continue reading

Exercise – Forming Simple Tense Questions

simple tense questions exerciseQuestions are formed in the simple tenses by using either do, does, did or will before a bare infinitive, or with the verb to be. The following exercise will help you practice converting simple statements into question form in the past, present and future. Use the example sentences to make questions – while these cover simple tense forms, the sentences are not necessarily easy. And remember, first person questions (I, we) should be converted to the second person (you, they)!

For example:

  • The red bird flew through the trees.
  • Did the red bird fly through the trees?

Continue reading

Ongoing time and the past simple – when a past action is really complete

ongoing time past simpleI was recently contacted with a question about my Mixed Tenses Exercise, which demonstrates that different tenses can fit into the same sentence structure. The question came from the past simple use in the first example, I played tennis every Tuesday this month. In a sentence with an ongoing time, such as this month, it may seem strange to refer to complete action with the past simple. This is a prime example of a situation where the present perfect is appropriate – to show a complete action that has the ability to influence the ongoing time period. So why is the past simple also appropriate? Continue reading

The English Tenses: Practical Grammar Guide

english tenses grammar guide

“Phil Williams may have just released the most realistic approach to aide in understanding the English tenses.” – Meg, Amazon review

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Have you ever wanted to know why we say “I am reading this book now”, but “I am happy now!” and not “I am being happy now”? This guide explains these differences, and many more – giving a detailed study of how the simple rules for the English tenses can be expanded, compared and bent.

The English Tenses: Practical Grammar Guide fully explains the different aspects of the English tenses and their uses. Its flexible approach to English grammar explores how native English speakers commonly use each tense, comparing uses across different tenses. It is designed to help English learners, teachers and speakers alike, to better understand the structure of our language, and its adapted uses. It can be used as an aide alongside core texts, as a reference or a standalone self-study guide. It is available now in PDF from this website, or in paperback and electronic forms from Amazon.

What’s included in The English Tenses: Practical Grammar Guide?

The English Tenses: Practical Grammar Guide provides explanations of grammar construction, typical tense uses, and tense comparisons, all with many examples.

” I have yet to find a more approachable, intuitive, practical resource that delivers on its promise of tangible, palpable success.” – Stephen Thergesen, TESOL teacher

The 12 tenses explained in detail in this guide are:

  • Past Simple
  • Past Continuous
  • Past Perfect
  • Past Perfect Continuous
  • Present Simple
  • Present Continuous
  • Present Perfect
  • Present Perfect Continuous
  • Future Simple (will, “going to” and present simple and continuous uses)
  • Future Continuous
  • Future Perfect
  • Future Perfect Continuous
  • Time Clauses

It also provides a glossary of terms used, and an analysis of time clauses.

It demonstrates how to use bare infinitives, and past and present participles, then gives typical forms for the simple, continuous, perfect and perfect continuous tenses, whether in past, present or future. The guide then takes each tense, from past to present to future, and demonstrates use with examples in tables that show affirmative, question, negative, and negative question form. Then, perhaps most valuably, it explores the various uses each tense can be applied to.

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What’s different about this guide

Whilst other grammar guides, with simple rules, are vital to start learning English, it is a flexible language, and eventually you need to explore the less common uses of grammar, and to start asking why certain uses appear to bend the rules.

This grammar guide demonstrates all the ways that the English tenses can be used, as well as many areas where they might be confused. It shows why some tenses might be used in almost the same way, and how some tenses can be used to demonstrate specific emotions or emphasis, when another tense might seem appropriate.

For example, the book questions why an English speaker can say both I have cooked dinner and I cooked dinner to describe the same event – which is not simply a matter of time, but may also show emphasis. It also explores the many forms of the future simple tenses, discussing the difference between the present tenses with future meaning (I am watching the football this evening) and will or going to forms (I will watch the football this evening).

Parts of the advice offered in this book are already available on this site, in different articles, if you want a sample of the style and substance of what the guide offers. For example, read my introductions to choosing between the past simple and the past perfect, or the simplified instructions for using the perfect forms in future tenses.

The English Tenses: Practical Grammar Guide is available on this site in PDF form, or from Amazon in print or digital form. You can also sign up to my mailing list to receive a free preview of the book, The Past Tenses, and other free content updates.

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What have other readers said about the book?

“Good information, simply written, concise and easy to follow.” – Betty Yoder, Amazon review


“This book was easy for my brain to digest, I was able to follow a long and the author kept things very simple. I enjoy feeling smarter after reading a book, mission accomplished!” – Erik, Amazon review


“Phil has given great detail to help one gain a deeper understanding of the English tenses and how to use them properly.” – Pammysue, Amazon review


Pictures worth a thousand words – textbook illustration examples

present tenseIn place of a lesson, today, I have some exciting new images for my upcoming grammar guide, The English Tenses. I enlisted the help of a local artist to produce these, following suggestions from a number of beta readers – and I am sure you will agree these pictures will add a lot of character and energy to the book.

The artist, Bob Wright (whose website is currently unavailable, but can be reached here), has studied existing English learning materials to produce work that is at the same time very effective and professional, but also uniquely stylised. These are line-work previews, with colour to be added soon. Note: as these are still works in progress, and will be part of the final commercial release of the textbook, these images are watermarked. Continue reading