Teaching Simple Verb Tenses

simple verb tenses

simple verb tenses

Native English speakers typically master the correct use of simple verb tenses at an early age. However, some students, especially English language learners, will still need direct instruction and support with simple verb tenses. Likewise, native speakers also need a solid understanding of simple verb forms to correctly use more sophisticated verb tenses (i.e., progressive and perfect).  Teaching simple verb tenses also presents an excellent opportunity to reinforce subject-verb agreement.

If your students are beyond this verb aspect, then check out these posts on progressive verb tenses and perfect verb tenses

Using verb tense timelines helps students conceptualize and visualize the appropriate use of each aspect. The timelines become especially helpful when learning progressive and perfect verb tenses. 

Simple Past Verb Tense

This verb tense is used to express a completed action or a past state of being. If your students do not know the difference between action verbs and linking verbs, you may want to begin with this verbs unit before proceeding.

Adding an -ed ending will form most past tense verbs. However, your students will also need to be familiar with irregular verbs.

teaching simple verb tenses

  • The children walked to school.
  • Sebastian ate the apple.
  • The girl was a remarkable writer. (linking verb)

Simple Present Verb Tense

Unlike the past and future aspect, this verb tense can express two different situations: repeated actions and generalizations.

Repeated actions express routines or habits.

teaching simple verb tenses

  • The children walk to school every day.
  • Sebastian eats apples to stay healthy.

Generalizations are stated in the present tense by using linking verbs (forms of the verb “to be”).

  • The girl is a remarkable writer.
  • Tigers are fierce hunters.

Simple Future Verb Tense

This verb tense expresses an action that will occur or a future state of being. Use the helping verb “will” to form this verb tense.

simple verb tenses

  • The children will walk to school.
  • Sebastian will eat the apple.
  • The girl will be a remarkable writer. (linking verb)

Teaching Ideas

Teaching simple verb tenses can be overlooked or minimized, but this topic is a valuable launch point for teaching progressive verb tenses and perfect verb tenses

1. Anchor Chart

You can use the timelines and examples from above to create an anchor chart with your students. The timelines are excellent visuals to reinforce each verb tense. Students can then reference the anchor chart as needed.

simple verb tenses anchor chart

2. Mini-Book

After you complete the anchor chart, guide your students through completing this free mini-book. It comes in two versions: One version is completely filled out, and the second version contains blank spaces where students can take their own notes. Just enter your email address in the form below, and I will immediately send it to you. If you don’t see it in your inbox, check your spam/promotions folder. To ensure delivery, avoid using a school email address.

3. Simple Verbs Grammar Unit

For more in-depth instruction, check out this unit on simple verb tenses. It includes everything you need to teach, reinforce, and assess this grammar topic.

4. Khan Academy

You can always count on Khan Academy if you’re looking for quality (and free) content for your students. This unit is a great introduction to verb tenses. It’s perfect for accessing prior knowledge before proceeding with progressive or perfect verb tenses.