Presentation of The Bubble
Regardless of what you've been taught in school, English has only two primary verb tenses - Present and Past. We represent this with a Bubble. Everything that is inside The Bubble is Present and everything that is outside The Bubble is Past.
This is relative - ie, it depends on your perspective. If I ask my office mate whether Nicolas Sarkozy is Present or Past for her, she might say Past because he is no longer the president. But for me, Nicolas Sarkozy may be Present because I've just watched an interview with him.
Where is the Future you ask? In English, the future is not a verb tense but we will come back to that in the Future module... in the future.
The Present consists of four verb forms and the Past of four verb forms. So let's start filling The Bubble with the Present forms.
"I play" - Present Simple
We use this form for NOW in general. This includes general information and routines.
- I'm 36 years old.
- I come from the south of England.
- I live in Paris and work as a business analyst.
- I take line 6 to work every morning.
Key words: always, never, often, generally, normally, usually
"I am playing" - Present Continuous
We use this form for NOW at a specific time. This includes "right now" (at this very instant), "currently" (at the moment), so it can be a short moment or a long moment. We also use it for the future (but more about this in the future).
- "What are you doing?" "I'm thinking of examples of the present continuous." (right now)
- I'm reading a book about birds (currently, not this instant)
Key words: currently, right now, at the moment
Write three sentences about yourself in the present simple
- I come from Los Angeles.
- I like reading novels and thrillers.
- I work for Softeam Cadextan.
- I take line 6 to work.
Write three sentences about yourself in the present continuous
- I'm thinking about where to go on vacation next year.
- I'm currently reading a thriller by Harlan Coben.
- I'm trying to get used to my new job.
Presentation of The Bubble
Next we have the two Present forms that we use for NOW & BEFORE NOW.
"I have been playing" - Present Perfect Continuous
We use this for activities that began before and are still true now - and we want to say how long - for 10 years, since 2006.
- I have been working at SocGen for 4 years.
- I have been learning English since I was 10.
- How long have you been living in Paris?
Key words: for, since, how long?
"I have played" - Present Perfect
We use this to speak about our experience now and before now.
- I have worked for several French banks (in my career)
- I have learned how to program in C++ this year
- I have lived in three different countries (in my life)
- Have you ever studied abroad? (in your life)
Key words: ever, never, already, yet, so far, up to now, just, recently
Write three sentences about yourself in the present perfect continuous
- I have been living in my current apartment for 15 years.
- I have been working for AXA since 2013.
- I have been speaking French since I was 23.
- I have been looking for a new camera for a while (un bon moment)
Write three sentences about yourself in the present perfect
- I have worked for 3 companies in my career - HSBC, Barclays and EDF.
- I have been to Italy several times.
- I have never been to Japan, China or Thailand.
- I have never played the saxophone.
Presentation of The Bubble
There are also four Past forms but we are just going to look at two of them for now.
"I played" - Past Simple
We use this to speak about actions with a specific or finished time reference. It's about whether time is finished, not the action.
- I worked for Credit Agricole before joining Soc Gen.
- Last year I learned how to manage a team.
- I lived in Luxembourg when I was a child.
- I spent one semester in Germany in my third year of university.
Key words: last year/week, ~ years ago, when, in , before, after, then
"I was playing" - Past Continuous
We use this like the present continuous but in the Past - in other words, BEFORE at a specific time.
- I was watching Game of Thrones yesterday when you called.
- "Where were you last Friday at 6:00pm?" "I was probably working."
Key words: at that time, at [6:00pm]
Write three sentences about yourself in the past simple
- I was born in Hollywood in 1972.
- I studied at UCLA from 1990-1994.
- My first job was a sales representative for Swatch.
- I didn't eat McDonalds when I was in London but I had really good fish 'n' chips.
Write three sentences about yourself in the past continuous
- I was watching TV when my parents called last night.
- I was surfing the Internet at home when I heard about the terrorist attack at the Bataclan.
- At 7pm on Sunday I was leaving the cinema after watching Ghostbusters.
Put the verb forms into the right place in The Bubble diagram
- He works
- He is working
- He has been working
- He has worked
- He worked
- He was working
Presentation of The Bubble (with French)
OK, so we've got six verb forms - four Present and two Past. Now let's put the French equivalents into the model.
Does that look right?
- I love Starbucks = J'adore le Starbucks.
- Currently I am reading a book about Ruby on Rails = Actuellement je lis un livre de Ruby on Rails.
- I have been living in France since 2004 = Je vis en France depuis 2004.
- I have been to 22 countries around the world = Je suis allée à 22 pays du monde.
- I went to China in 2014 = Je suis allée en Chine en 2014.
- It was raining when I left the house this morning = Il pleuvait quand j'ai quitté la maison ce matin.
Wow, the 6 main English verb forms = just 3 French verb forms. I guess French doesn't have much variety in this grammar, huh? (Haha, very funny).
The reason we show you this is to help you understand the most frequent areas of confusion, if you are a French speaker. They are in yellow and green below.
Later in this course, there are two modules dedicated to the je joue vs je joue (present simple vs present continuous) and j'ai joué vs j'ai joué (present perfect vs past simple).
Below is the full Bubble diagram in all its glory. Congratulations, you've completed Part 1!
Put the French verb forms into the right place in The Bubble diagram
- Il travaille (en général)
- ll travaille (en ce moment)
- ll travaille depuis
- ll a travaillé (en général)
- ll a travaillé (période précise)
- ll travaillait
ING and no-ING verbs
There's just one more thing we need to talk about. Not all verbs can be used everywhere in The Bubble framework.
Most verbs can and we call these ING verbs. But there are certain verbs that we never use in the continuous or progressive forms (bottom half of The Bubble). These are called no-ING verbs (verbes d'état).
You've probably learned most of them in school and below are the most common ones. (The full list is available here).
|be||He is married||not "He is being married"|
|exist||This software has existed for 10 years.||not "This software has been existing"|
|hate||Julie has always hated dogs||not "Julie has always been hating"|
|know||I've known Julia for 20 years||not "I've been knowing"|
|like||I like reading detective stories||not "I am liking"|
|love||I love chocolate||not "I am loving chocolate"|
|need||I needed a taxi yesterday at 3 o'clock||not "I was needing"|
|understand||I don't understand this question||not "I am not understanding"|
|want||I want to go to the movies tonight||not "I am wanting"|
In addition, there are some verbs that can be both ING and no-ING verbs, depending on the context - ie, have, think.
- I have a Twingo (no-ING)
- I have lunch with my parents every Sunday (ING)
You could never say "I am having a Twingo" but you could say "Sorry, I can't talk right now, I'm having lunch with my parents."
- I think that it's a good idea (no-ING)
- When my boss yells at me, I think about quitting my job (ING)
You could never say "I am thinking that it's a good idea" but you could say "I am thinking about quitting my job, what's your opinion?"
ING or no-ING?
Decide if the verb is an ING verb or a no-ING verb.
If you would like to check the list of no-ING verbs on the previous page, right-click on the "ING and no-ING verbs" page on the left and click "Open Link in a New Tab" (Ouvrir le Lien dans un Nouvel Onglet)
have (a dog, phone, car)no-ING
have (lunch, fun, a drink, a nap)ING
ING and no-ING verbs, continued
Let's say you want to make a sentence with a no-ING verb - for example, "be." Your colleague is married and you want to ask him "how long?" The Bubble framework says that with "how long?" as a key word, you want to be inside The Bubble in the bottom left (present perfect continuous). But wait, the verb "be" is a no-ING verb so it cannot be used in the continuous form (ie, you cannot say "How long have you been being"). You have to go up.This means you use the present perfect (inside The Bubble, top left) for your question - "How long have you been married?"
Congratulations! You have finished the theoretical part of The Bubble course. Now you can move on to:
- Present Simple vs Present Continuous, if you would like to focus more on je joue vs. je joue
- Reviewing Irregular Verbs, if you would like to refresh your memory of see-saw-seen and teach-taught-taught.
- Present Perfect vs. Past Simple, if you would like to focus more on j'ai joué vs. j'ai joué
- Sort the Sentences, if you want to put your Bubble knowledge to the test