English Grammar Step by Step
VERB TENSES: USES
Write the verbs in brackets in the correct tense.
Paul normally has nightmares.
Does she walk a lot as a rule?
Hens lay eggs, but cocks don’t (lay eggs).
The simple present is used for habits and universal facts
a Liquids (boil) when they (be) heated.
b The sun (rise) in the east and (set) in the west.
c The sun (not revolve) around the earth.
d They never (take) things easy.
e He usually (work) on Sundays.
My mother is resting now. Could you ring back later?
I’m taking maths lessons. (Not necessarily now, but these
‘What are you drinking? Punch?’
‘No, we are not drinking punch. There is not any left.’
She lives in Germany, but at the moment she is living in
The present continuous is used for unfinished actions (since
they are still going on) and temporary situations.
a This tap (drip). You should have it seen to.
b Is the old lady who (get) off that bus your grandmother?
c You (watch) the new TV serial?
d How your daughter (get) on at school?
e ‘What they (do)?’
‘They (build) a labyrinth.’
I’m playing billiards with Philip at six.
The present continuous is also used for future plans.
a He (take) her out this evening.
b I (stay) at home today. I’m very tired.
c We (invite) Walter over for a snack tonight.
d My husband (take) me to the opera this evening.
e He (leave) for Australia at six.
4 Revision exercise.
a Diana (lodge) with some friends till she finds a flat to
b Penguins (not fly).
c I’m afraid she (have) a shower. Can I take a message?
d Peter (water) the plants now. He generally (water) them at
e You usually (leave) a light burning at night?
f This train normally (arrive) late.
g I reckon you (make) a fuss about nothing. Why don’t you try
to calm down?
h Her thoughtlessness (destroy) her marriage little by little.
i Granny! He (smoke) again!
j It has stopped raining and now it (begin) to clear up.
k This path (lead) to a charming forest.
l Look! Rain (pour) in through those broken tiles.
m He (not get) along very well with his girl-friend at present.
n My mother (cook) meatballs. Would you like to come home for
o Love is what (make) the world go round.
p She never (iron) anything.
q Iron (expand) with heat, and (contract) with cold.
r ‘You (go) out now? It (pour)!
s Cows and bulls (eat) grass.
t They (learn) karate now?
u I always (give) my horses some oats in the mornings.
v ‘You ever (not pray)?’
‘No, I don’t. And you?’
‘Yes, I (pray) every night before I (go) to bed.’
w We (gather) here every Sunday morning to talk about our
x We (have) a party tomorrow evening.
y That vessel over there (make) for Africa.
z His godfather (mark) exam papers at the moment.
He does not believe in God.
We have (got) two children.
I don’t think so.
Do you understand her?
Some verbs are not used in continuous tenses. These verbs
do not tell us whether or not an action is completed.
Therefore, neither the beginning of the action nor the end
a They (be) frozen to death. Bring them in!
b She (dislike) appearing on television.
c He (know) her by sight.
d Timothy (seem) to be far from reality.
e I (not mind) being alone.
She is seeing (= ‘visiting’) a patient now.
I (can) see (= a perception verb) a beautiful girl.
What are you thinking about? You look worried! (A mental
process, hence the action is not yet completed.)
I think (that) you should give up smoking. (This is my
Some verbs do not take continuous tenses in some meanings,
or senses, but they do in others. Despite this, we can
sometimes use both continuous and simple tenses: I am
looking/I look forward to hearing from you.
a I (expect) a baby next month.
b I (expect) her to do it.
c This tart (taste) delicious.
d Why you (smell) that lemon flan? It (smell) off?
e My legs (hurt).
They are cutting the grass. (active) = The grass is being
You are being too optimistic.
The verb be is not normally used in continuous tenses,
except for passive sentences, and when we are clearly
referring to a momentary situation. See section 11
a She (be) very stupid today.
b My house (be) painted at the moment.
c You (be) very generous! I can’t believe it!
d He (be) very patient with her this evening!
e The earth (be) destroyed by mankind. We should do something
to preserve nature.
You are constantly pulling my leg.
He is always studying.
She always gets up early.
The present continuous is very often used with adverbs,
or adverbial phrases, such as all the time, always,
constantly, continually, forever, perpetually to
indicate that something irritates us, as in the first
example. In the second sentence, the speaker can express
approval or disapproval, depending on the context. In
the third, we refer to a habit.
a He constantly (boast).
b I always (arrive) in good time. I’m very keen on punctuality.
c They always (cheat) in examinations. They shouldn’t do
such a thing.
d They continually (get) into trouble.
e He perpetually (smoke) that horrible cigars.
Would you mind waiting for her a bit? She is just finishing
The structure be + just + verb-ing means be on the point of
a We just (sit) an examination, and feel very nervous.
b He just (win) the race. He is in the lead and the finishing
line is a few hundred yards ahead.
c Don’t go now. They just (go) to serve the dessert.
d —He’s done up like a dog’s dinner.
—Well, he just (get) married.
e He can’t come to the park with you at this moment! He just
10 Revision exercise.
a Cows and goats (produce) milk.
b Let me alone. I (try) to do business.
c I (want) to buy that pink jumper.
d My stomach (ache) terribly now.
e I (feel) ill now.
f ‘What she (do) now?’
‘She (watch) a soap opera. She (love) soap operas.’
g ‘What you (do)?’
‘Nothing. I’m a beggar.’
h You normally (work) very hard, but today you (be) very lazy.
i I (be) very fond of gardening.
j Moles (live) underground.
k This powder (make) people invisible.
l She (be) on the dole, and (look) for a job. Can you offer
m They (invite) her to a meal tomorrow evening.
n This cologne (smell) very good.
o She (do) the cooking. Would you like to help her?
p They (consider) him a spy.
q ‘Why all these people (clap)?’
‘Because there (be) a very good juggler.’
r ‘What the children (do)?’
‘They (play) at being soldiers.’
‘They all the time (play) at being soldiers. You (not think)
it (be) too violent a game?’
s My record (prove) that I (be) very well qualified for the
t ‘Why you (taste) the soup?’
‘Because I (be) the cook, and I (like) to taste everything
before serving it.’
u ‘You always (tell) blue jokes. You (know) I (hate) them!
v She just (arrive) home. If I were you, I’d wait for her.
w I (feel) faint. Could you bring me a glass of water?
x He often (not perspire).
y Would you shut up! You (be) very silly!
z She (rot) in prison now.
‘Can’t you read that notice?’
‘No, I can’t. I’m not wearing my spectacles.’
He is wearing a pair of jeans and a pullover.
They aren’t coming today because their car has broken down.
She generally stays at home on Monday nights, but today
she is going out because it is Peter’s birthday.
We do not usually wear or carry the same things.
Circumstances oblige us to do things we do not
normally do. In cases of this type, the present
continuous is necessary.
a ‘Why you (carry) a stick?’
‘I broke my leg in a car accident a month ago.’
b I generally (not wear) vests, but I (wear) one today because
I’ve got a terrible cold.
c He (not join) the queue today because he doesn’t need
to buy anything.
d She (not come) to play cards this afternoon because she is
e They (use) a bow this time because it is noiseless.
What time does the show start?
Your plane takes off at 9.00.
We arrive in Berlin on 5th May, spend two nights there, and...
Brutus kills Julius Caesar. Then...
The book tells the story of a young princess who is in love
with a peasant.
When we refer to things that we do not control (because
they are controlled by somebody else), such as timetables,
we use the simple present. In itineraries, the usage of
simple present is quite common. It is also common in the
historic present in order to give more realism to the
facts being described, and when we tell somebody what
something is about.
a My coach (leave) at four o’clock.
b We (stay) in Madrid for a few days. Then we (go) to Bilbao,
and (spend) the night there. The next morning, we (leave)
Bilbao, and (head) for Santiago de Compostela. We (arrive)
there at noon, and (have) lunch. In the evening, we
(continue) our journey.
c Christopher Columbus (think) that the earth is not flat, but
round; and with the help of Isabella the Catholic —Queen of
Castile—, he (sail) for the Indies. Instead of finding the
Indies, he (discover) America.
d When the volleyball match (finish)?
e I’m writing a novel about two young girls who (run) away from
When I entered that old house (a completed action), some rats
were nibbling a loaf of stale bread (an uncompleted action).
They were just going to light a cigarette when their teacher
came into the classroom.
My wife was cooking a special meal, since some friends were
coming for dinner.
Needless to say, the simple past is the past of the simple
present, and the past continuous is the past of the present
continuous. Apart from a few exceptions (such as the
historic present), the uses given for the simple present
and the present continuous are therefore applied to their
respective past tenses. For instance, if we use the simple
present for habits in the present, the simple past should
be employed for habits in the past.
a He just (go) to ring her up when he (trip) over the mop,
and (tumble) down the stairs.
b When we (see) the warship in the distance, a pirate flag (fly)
from the masthead.
c She (take) me to the cinema that evening, so I (put) on my
d My stepson forever (snatch) all you had in your hands when he
e They gradually (forget) all their bad experiences in prison;
but, unfortunately, the police (catch) them stealing some
jewels, and they (be) taken to jail again.
14 Revision exercise.
a Why you (not bring) a ladder? It’ll make things easier.
(a suggestion, or a word of advice)
b ‘Why he (not wear) his monocle? He always (wear) it!’
‘I (not know). He may have lost it.’
c Why you (not come) to see us yesterday?
d Sheila (find) a hedgehog in the shed last week.
e ‘You (suffer) hay fever every spring?’
‘I (be) afraid so. I (be) allergic to pollen.’
f I (think) fairy-tales (be) most interesting, because they
(make) you dream.
g He (go) along the street when a terrorist (approach) him
and (shoot) him.
h ‘I (wonder) if you could lend me a thousand pounds.’
‘Why you (not ask) your parents?’
‘Well, they (not want) to lend me any money because,
according to them, I (squander) it.’
i The plane (fly) at an altitude of 27,000 feet when the UFO
(come) into sight.
j You (belch) all the time! It (get) on my nerves!
k When I (see) how badly he (treat) her last night, I (feel)
pity for her.
l He (be) caught in a downpour when he (walk) along the street.
m When the gale (arise), we (be) at sea. Everybody (be) drowned,
but I (manage) to save my life. I (see) a timber floating next
to me, and I (succeed) in grasping it. Since then, my life
has changed completely, for the memories of that night have
been torturing me day after day.
n The full moon (rise) slower than usual, and I could also
perceive a strange scent. At first, I (not pay) too much
attention to it, and simply (follow) a track that I had
come across. But when I (hear) the howl of a wolf, I
(remember) something that a very peculiar man had told me
the previous night: ‘The werewolf, beware of the werewolf!’
o Last night I (dream) that very tiny men (creep) along my body,
and that I (be) tied to the bed. Then, I (look) at my husband,
and he (crawl) with worms.
p Luckily, when I (awake), I (realise) that everything had
been simply a dream.
q ‘They (hang) him yesterday. They (accuse) him of robbing
a bank, but I’m afraid that he (be) innocent.’
‘How you (know) he (be) innocent?’
‘Well, I (rob) the bank myself!’
r She (hang) some sheets out yesterday, and somebody (steal)
s She (hit) him with a shoe, and he (run) away from her
as fast as he could.
t She (not forgive) him, and he (feel) very sorry about that.
In the end, they (have) to split up. Now, she has married
again, and he (live) with his parents.
u I’m sorry to tell you that I (forget) to phone her last night.
v When she (have) her daughter, all her wishes (come) true.
She (have) a very deep maternal instinct. Now she (consider)
the possibility of having another child, but her husband
(not want) to, as he (detest) children.
w Young people (think) the world (be) their oyster, and I (dare)
say they (be) right.
x She (stab) him while they (have) a bitter argument, and (run)
off. The police (look) for her at the moment.
y ‘How she (get) the job?’
‘Well, a clerk (make) her fill in a form and sign it.
In a couple of days, she (work) for the firm.’
z You perpetually (leave) the phone off the hook.
He has lived in Andorra for twenty years.
I met an old friend of mine yesterday morning.
The present perfect simple indicates that an action began
in the past, and is still going on in the present, or has
just stopped. The simple past must be used if we say when
something happened. Consequently, the present perfect is
connected with the present, but the simple past is not.
a ‘He (draw) near her, and (shoot) her.’
‘Why he (use) his revolver on her?’
‘I don’t know, but probably she was seeing another man.’
b It (not rain) much lately.
c He (write) thirteen pages so far.
d She (not clear) the table last night.
e When he (tell) her that their relationship (be) over, she
(burst) into tears.
For the form of each verb tense, see unit 7.
Use the past continuous tense, as we are emphasizing the
idea of something happening step by step, and very slowly.
Note that ‘forget’ does not generally take continuous tenses.
Author: Miquel Molina i Diez
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and the key
1 Negative and interrogative sentences (Page 2 and the key)
2 Short answers (Page 2 and the key)
3 Question tags (Page 2 and the key)
4 Questions and exclamations (Page 2 and the key)
5 So, neither, nor, either (the key)
6 Be, used to, would, be/get/become used to, dare, have, get, become, grow, go, turn, fall and feel (Page 2 and the key)
7 Verb tenses: forms (Page 2 and the key)
8 Irregular verbs
9 Verb tenses: uses (Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5 and the key)
10 Personal pronouns, possessives and reflexive pronouns (Page 2 and the key)
11 The genitive case (the key)
12 Singular and plural nouns (Page 2 and the key)
13 Gender (the key)
14 A, an, some, any, no, not, none, each, every and the; compounds of some, any, no and every (Page 2, Page 3 and the key)
15 Neither, not...either, none, not...any, both and all (the key)
16 A few, few, a lot, lots, a little, little, many, much, no and plenty (the key)
17 Enough, too, so and such (the key)
18 Comparative and superlative sentences (Page 2 and the key)
19 Adjective order (the key)
20 Relative clauses (Page 2 and the key)
21 Do and make (the key)
22 Modal verbs (Page 2, Page 3 and the key)
23 Infinitives, gerunds and present participles (Page 2 and the key)
24 Conditional sentences (Page 2 and the key)
25 Passive sentences (the key)
26 Reported speech (Page 2 and the key)
27 Purpose (the key)
28 Word order (the key)
29 Inversion (the key)
30 Connectors (Page 2 and the key)
31 Prepositions (Page 2, Page 3 and the key)
32 Phrasal verbs (the key)