233. Tense means
time. The tense of a verb is the form or use indicating the time
of an action or being.
Tenses in English.
Old English had only two tenses,—the present tense,
which represented present and future time; and the past tense. We still use the
present for the future in such expressions as, "I go away to-morrow;"
"If he comes, tell him to wait."
But English of the present day not only has a tense for
each of the natural time divisions,—present, past, and future,—but
has other tenses to correspond with those of highly inflected languages, such
as Latin and Greek.
The distinct inflections are found only in the present and
past tenses, however: the others are compounds of verbal forms with various helping verbs, called
auxiliaries; such as be, have, shall,
The tenses in detail.
234. Action or being may be
represented as occurring in present, past, or future time, by means of the
present, the past, and the future tense. It may also be
represented as finished in present or past or future time by means of
the present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect tenses.
Not only is this so: there are what are called definite
forms of these tenses, showing more exactly the time of the action or
being. These make the English speech even more exact than other languages, as
will be shown later on, in the conjugations.