Perfect and Progressive Tenses in English

(And you thought past, present, and future was enough)



Something that is PERFECT is completed and finished.

You cannot do another thing to it.
You cannot add to it.
You cannot change it.

So it’s perfect. Get it?



The Perfect Tense is formed using some form of the verb to have as a helping verb.

These helping verbs show whether the “perfect” and completed action was completed in the past, is completed right now in the present, or will be completed in the future.


Present Perfect

I have completed that.

Have is present tense. I have now, in the present, completed that.

Example: “The students have finished their tests.”

(“Recently finished”, “have just now finished”—all are implied making the verb a kind of funny mix of something that has already occurred but just barely. So it is done but still present tense, that is, present perfect.)

Past Perfect

I had completed that.

Had is in the past tense of the verb to have, so the verb is past perfect tense.

Example: “The students had finished their tests, but the teacher kept them in class for another hour.”

Future Perfect

A future perfect verb will be completed in the future. I will have completed that by Tuesday. Will is in the future. Havemeans it’s completed and perfect, and therefore, it’s future perfect tense.

Example: “The students will have finished their tests by five o’clock.”

(It’s in the future, but in the future they will be done with it.)


An action that is ongoing or not completed yet is expressed in English using the “progressive” tense. (In Spanish a tense called the imperfect tense is used.) This imperfect, past continuous, or PROGRESSIVE tense is formed using the verb to be.


The progressive tense is formed with some form of the verb “to be” plus the “ing” form of the main verb.


Present progressive:

am eating

am walking

Past Progressive:

was eating.

was walking.

Future Progressive:

will be eating

will be walking


Now this one is a little different but you should be able to guess what kind of verb this is too:

I will have been walking  [as in: “I will have been walking for 30 minutes by the time I get to your house.”]


Answer:   Will= future,    have=perfect,   walking= progressive      Therefore, it is future perfect progressive.

Test yourself: Try to change the above verb phrase into present perfect progressive and then past perfect progressive. You should be able to do it now. 🙂


See also: Verb Tenses Chart


For more see this resource: