Past Present & Future Sentence – English Grammar

In this lesson we discuss present, past, future sentence and English grammar.

conditional sentences

Sentences made up of two halves, where one half begins with the word “if” and the other half states what would have / will happen if the first half became true.

There are four types of conditional sentences.

Zero-conditional: state facts. If you don’t do X, Y will definitely happen.

First-conditional: state that the outcome is likely, but not guaranteed, to happen in the future. If you X, then Y will probably happen.

Second-conditional: state the the outcome is unrealistic or not going to happen in the future. It’s never going to happen, but if X, then Y.

Third-conditional: used to tell us how the present situation would be different if the past had gone a certain way. If you had X, then Y.

Remember that a comma is only needed if the if-clause comes before the other clause.

conjunctive adverb / transitional phrase

An adverb that acts like a conjunction. 

It joins two sentences or independent clauses and shows how the two are related. 

Because they give a smooth transition between sentences and clauses, they are also known as transitional phrases

Commas do not come before conjunctive adverbs; they come after.

→ You failed to meet the deadline; therefore, the deal is off.
→ You failed to meet the deadline. Therefore, the deal is off.
→ as a result
→ as a consequence
→ for example
→ on the contrary


A further understanding of the word’s meaning.

The denotations of the words difficult and challenging are similar. However, their connotations are very different.

→ Difficult (negative connotation)
(This suggests there are problems ahead.)

→ Challenging (positive connotation)
(This suggests the problems ahead will be overcome.)


The basic meaning of a word. This is the meaning you will find in a dictionary.


An abbreviation spoken like a word.


correlative conjunctions

Pairs of conjunctions that link two equal things in a sentence.

→ I am removing not only your gun but also your permit.
(The equivalent elements being linked are your gun and your permit. They are both noun phrases.)

→ It was neither clever nor funny.
(The equivalent elements being linked are clever and funny . They are both adjectives.)

→ Either go home or shut up.
(The equivalent elements being linked are go home and shut up. They are both imperative verbs.)

en dash

Used in a number range or in a compound noun of two equal things.

→ 12 – 14 eggs
→ Johnson-Paktor case

em dash

Used in place of a colon, semicolon, ellipsis, and parenthesis; and when crediting a quotation.


Used in compound nouns or compound adjectives.

dependent adverb clause

A dependent clause that acts like an adverb. 

The otter surfaced occasionally.
(This is a normal adverb.)

→ The otter surfaced when we looked the other way.
(This is a dependent adverb clause.)


There are two meanings for this word:

A) The words chosen.
B) How clearly the words were spoken.

→ To get it sorted (to mates)
→ To solve the problem (to colleagues)
→ To overcome the challenge (to bosses)

indirect question

A question inside of a statement or another question.

→ Dad asked whether you want a hamburger.
→ Did he ask if Susan was coming?

emotive language

Words that are meant to make the reader or listener feel emotion.

Two hundred children were killed.
(This is factual. It does not use emotive language.)

→ Two hundred innocent kids were slaughtered in their beds.
(This is emotive language. It tries to make the reader feel disgust, anger, and fear.)

The woman was reading a novel.

→ The curvy beauty was flipping through Fifty Shades of Grey.
(This is emotive language. It tries to make the reader feel attraction.)

emphatic pronoun

A pronoun that refers back to a noun to emphasize it. This is also called an intensive pronoun.

→ She will do it herself.
(The emphatic pronoun herself emphasizes that she will do it. The waiter won’t do it. Her husband won’t do it. Her son won’t do it. SHE will do it.)

→ The scouts cooked these cakes themselves.
(The emphatic pronoun themselves emphasizes that the scouts cooked the cakes, i.e., not their mothers.)

→ I heard the lie myself.
(The emphatic pronoun myself emphasizes that I heard the lie.)

enumeration of adjectives

Using more than one adjective to describe something.


The use of inoffensive words to replace rude or offensive ones. 

→ They have both passed away.
(They have died)

→ I am between jobs.
(I am unemployed)

figurative language

The use of words in a creative way.

This covers a wide range of literary techniques, including:

• metaphors
• similes
• personification
• hyperbole
• idioms
• euphemisms
• puns
• alliteration
• assonance
• consonance
• onomatopoeia


A word which sounds like what it is used for.

→ moo
→ whizzed
→ bang


An exaggeration used for effect.

→ You spent a million years in the bathroom!
→ I almost died of fright.


A wordplay on two or more words that sound the same but have different meanings.

→ It’s an honest cheetah.
(An honest cheater?)

figure of speech

When words are used to mean something other than what they actually mean.

Metaphors, similes, idioms, personification, hyperbole and euphemisms are all included in this category.

future progressive tense

Used for an action that will continue for some time in the future. 

Form: will be + present participle

I will be finishing at that time.

future perfect tense

Used for an action that will have been completed at some time in the future.

Usually comes with a word or phrase indicating that time.

Form: will have + past participle

→ By the time you arrive, I will have finished getting ready.

future perfect progressive tense

Used for an action that continues for some time and will be completed at a specific time in the future.

Form: will have been + present participle

→ I will have been running for two hours by then!

gender-specific noun

A noun that refers only to males or only to females.

Most nouns are neuter. They have no gender.

Some nouns are feminine:
→ sow
→ actress
→ wife

Some nouns are masculine:
→ bull
→ actor
→ husband

gerund phrase

A gerund phrase consists of a gerund, its object, and all modifiers. 

→ Eating blackberries without washing them will make you ill.

Eating is the gerund.
(A gerund phrase always starts with the gerund.)

The word blackberries is the object of the gerund.
(The object of a gerund is also called the gerund complement.)

The phrase without washing them is a modifier.
(In this case, the modifier is an adverbial phrase.)


A type of homonym. The words sound the same, have different meanings AND have the same spelling.

→ bear (a furry animal)
→ bear (to produce, as in “to bear children”)


A type of homonym. The words sound the same, have different meanings AND have different spellings.

→ bear (a furry animal)
→ bare (uncovered)


Words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings.

These include homophones and homographs.

indefinite pronoun

A pronoun that refers to a non-specific person or thing. 

→ A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.
(The indefinite pronouns are “something”, “everybody”, and “nobody”)

indefinite tense

Also known as “simple tense”, this tense does not tell us whether the action is finished or ongoing.

indicative mood

A verb form that makes a statement or asks a question.

→ The aliens will be unable to breathe our air.
(will be)
→ Is that a whelk?

imperative mood

A verb form that states a command or request.

subjunctive mood

A verb form that states wish, a suggestion, a command, or a condition that is contrary to fact.

→ I suggest that Lee play the guitar.

→ I propose that Lee be asked to play the guitar.

→ If I were Lee, I would play the guitar.

infinitive phrase

The infinitive form of a verb plus any complements or modifiers.

→ He likes to knead the dough slowly.

(The infinitive verb is to knead. The complement is its direct object (the dough). The modifier is the adverb (slowly). They all make up the infinitive phrase “to knead the dough slowly”.)


A word that strengthens or weakens another word without changing its meaning.

→ It’s very hot out! 

→ Last week’s test was insanely easy.


Interjections are words used to express strong feeling or sudden emotion. They are usually at the start of a sentence.

interrogative adjectives

Adjective that ask a question. 

You can memorize them: whose, what, which.

interrogative adverbs

Adverbs that ask a question.

You can memorize them: why, where, when, how.

When an interrogative adverb begins a question, the next word will always be the verb.

→ Why are there empty beer bottles in the garden?

→ Where is your sister?

→ When are you going to grow up?

→ How can you eat a freezer full of pizza in one evening?


An expression used to mean the opposite of what it actually means.

Sarcasm and irony are the same thing.

There is verbal irony:

→ I’m so glad it started raining. (I’m not.)

And situational irony:

→ James Bellamy, who has campaigned for years against the Dangerous Dogs Act, was hospitalized after a vicious attack by his neighbor’s dog.


A word that looks like what it refers to.

→ bed (looks like a bed)
→ pools (look like two round pools)


A word used in place of a closely related word.

→ Washington is trying to pass a new policy.
(Washington is a metonym for the lawmakers in Washington DC)

→ The big wigs are in an uproar.
(Big wigs is a metonym for the managers. This comes from the tall wigs worn by nobility.)


A word, phrase, or clause that acts like an adverb or adjective. It makes the meaning of the word it describes more specific.


The form a verb takes to show how it is regarded. Is it a statement or question? A request or command? A wish or a hope?


A new word that has become commonly used.

→ woke (intelligent, questioning what’s commonly accepted)


A word where two contradictory terms are put together.

→ act naturally
(Acting means you’re not being natural.)

→ jumbo shrimp
(Shrimp means small, so it can’t be jumbo.)

→ four-ounce pound cake
(A pound means a pound not four ounces.)

→ non-working mother
(Being a mother involves a lot of work.)

→ plastic glasses
(Glasses are made of glass not plastic.)


A statement that seems to contradict itself.

→ I always lie.
→ Less is more.

Oxymorons are types of paradoxes.


A block of writing that covers one topic.

past tense

Used for events that started and ended in the past.

past progressive tense

Used for events that continued for some time in the past. It usually sets the scene for another action.

Form: was / were + present participle

→ Mrs Sun was running when I saw her.
→ I was painting while he was drawing.

past perfect tense

Used to emphasize that an action in the past was completed before another action took place.

Form: had + past participle

→ He had finished his paper before the bell rang.
→ Had you eaten dinner by then?
→ The weather had changed, but the team had not yet planned their next play.

past perfect progressive

Used to emphasize that an ongoing action in the past has ended.

From: had been + present participle

→ He had been working on the dock all afternoon.
→ Before you walked in, I had been talking to Mom.
→ Had she been sleeping well?

periodic sentence

A sentence that has the main point placed at the end on purpose.

They are usually used to create suspense.

→ Because she knows the filing system, has more experience than the rest of the team, and can get into work at a moment’s notice, Sarah will be charge next week.
(The main clause, “Sarah will be in charge next week”, is at the end.)

positive degree

An adverb or adjective that is not in the comparative or superlative form. 

→ good
X better
X best

predicate nominative

A word or group of words which renames the subject and is connect to the subject by a linking verb.

→ She is a monster.
(The predicate nominative “a monster” is connected to the subject “she” by the linking verb “is”)

object of a preposition

The word or words that follow a preposition.

There is always an object of a preposition. A preposition cannot be by itself.

→ She hid under the bed.
(The preposition “under” is followed by the object of the preposition “the bed”)


A word that shows the relationship between two things.

→ It is a container for butter.
(The preposition for shows the relationship between butter and container.)

→ The eagle soared above the clouds.
(The preposition above shows the relationship between clouds and soared.)

→ He is the president of the United States.
(The preposition of shows the relationship between the United States and President.)

present tense

Shows a present habit or state.

→ He plays tennis.
→ She is a teacher.

present progressive tense

Shows an action that continues for some time in the present. 

Used for actions that are happening right now.

Also used for actions that will happen in the future, so long as a time is stated.

Form: is/are/am + present participle

→ I am skipping rope.

→ I am going to New Zealand this summer.

present perfect tense

Used for actions that started in the past but have some impact on the present.

Form: has / have + past participle

→ The board has decided not to uphold the appeal.
(Connotation: The board continues to uphold the appeal.)

→ I have taken the wrong path again.
(Connotation: I am still on the wrong path.)

present perfect progressive tense

Used for an activity that began in the past, continued for some time and either A) continues into the present or B) finished very recently.

Form: have/has been + present participle

→ I have been living in Singapore for five years.
(I am still living in Singapore.)

→ She has been studying hard this week.
(She may or may not have finished studying. However, the studying began in the past and continued for some time.)


The normal form of writing, not poetry or lyrics. Prose is always written in paragraph form.


Basic and simple. Prosaic writing does not contain figurative language.

reciprocal pronouns

Pronouns that show a mutual action.

You can memorize them: each other, one another.

Each other: used when the antecedent is two things.

One another: used when the antecedent is three or more things.

reflexive pronoun

Used to show an action done to the pronoun’s self.

You can memorize them: myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves.

→ I pinched myself.
→ She hurt herself running.

relative adverb

An adverb that starts an adjective clause.

You can memorize them: where, why, when.

→ I can remember a time when I could eat four hamburgers.


Unneeded repetition.

relative pronoun

A word that comes after a pronoun to give more information about it.

You can memorize them: that, which, who, whom, whose.

→ The lady who made your dress is waiting outside.
(The relative pronoun is “who”. The adjective clause is “who made your dress”.)

restrictive modifier

A restrictive modifier is a word, phrase, or dependent clause which modifies another element in a way which is required to understand the meaning completely.

It is not surrounded by commas like an unrestricted modifier, but it will have a comma after it if it begins a sentence.

→ The girl who stole the bread is back.
(who stole the bread)

→ The ornament that the dog chewed was worth more than my car.
(that the dog chewed)

→ The horse which led the way for the whole race fell at the last fence.
(which led the way for the whole race)

→ My vase

→ The vase

rhetorical question

A question asked to make a point or introduce a new idea. It is not supposed to be answered.

→ Who doesn’t like pizza?
→ What have you ever done for me?

comma splice

Placing a comma between two independent clauses.

This can be fixed by replacing the comma with a period, semicolon, or em dash. It can also be fixed by adding a conjunction.

run-on sentence

Two independent clauses connected without proper punctuation.

A comma splice is an example of this.


Satire is the use of humor, sarcasm, irony, or exaggeration to expose the flaws or vices of humanity.

→ When I was a boy, I was told that anybody could become President. Now I’m beginning to believe it.


Punctuation mark used in:

Complex lists: when items in a list contain commas within them.

Sentence merging: when the sentences are related, the transition can be made smoother with a semicolon instead of a period.

Before a conjunction: if two sentences are connected by a conjunction and the sentences contain commas, you can use the semicolon to connect before the conjunction.

split infinitive

When the adverb splits the “to” from the base verb.

→ You have to really want it.
→ I want to slowly walk home.

subordinating conjunction

A conjunction which links the dependent clause to an independent clause.

If it comes at the beginning of a sentence, it should have a comma after it.

→ After John arrived home, he took off his shoes and socks.
(The subordinating conjunction is “after”)

as soon as
by the time
even if
even though
every time
in case
in order that
in the event that
just in case
now that
only if
provided that
rather than
so that
whether or not


One sound produced with a single pulse of air from the lungs.

→ signal – sig nal
→ rhythm – rith um
→ Korea – Kor e uh


A word, usually a verb, that acts on two or more parts of a sentence.

→ Tommy lost his wallet and his phone.
(This is everyday zeugma. The verb lost is acting with wallet and phone.)

→ Lee likes cakes; Mark, scones.

title case

All words are capitalized unless they are prepositions, articles, or conjunctions. Note: even those are capitalized if they are the first word in the title.


A verb that acts like a noun or adjective. 

There are three types in English: participles, gerunds, and infinitives.