Common Mistakes in English Grammar Tenses

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Verbs can be tricky, particularly if a writer uses one verb tense in a main clause and another in subordinate clauses. If a writer does not maintain consistent tense throughout, the resulting sentences can sound clumsy and amateurish. The most common English grammar mistakes in verbs occur in the use of continuous, perfect and future tenses.

1 Continuous Tenses

Continuous tenses describe a continuing action in the past, present or future: "I was waiting for you, I am waiting for you, I will be waiting for you." The most common error occurs when we use present continuous describing an action that is still occurring: "I am waiting for you for hours." We should use the present perfect continuous: "I have been waiting for you for hours."

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2 Perfect Tenses

A second common error is the overuse of the perfect tense, a verb with a helper -- "he has waited" -- in place of the simpler past tense. "He has waited for you for hours" is more accurately stated as "he waited for you for hours."

3 Future Tense in Subordinate Clauses

Another common error is the use of future tense in a subordinate clause while the main clause is imperative. An imperative usage occurs in "I will wait for you." If the subordinate clause is future tense also, it is in error: "I will wait for you until you will come." The correct sentence uses the simpler present tense: "I will wait for you until you come."

Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.