Why so tense?

Written on April 23, 2012, 12:07 PM - 6 comments

Category: Art Category: --- Category: --- Category: --- Category: ---

Well, since it's been a while since my last message, I figured I'd show you an illustration project I did: a set of drawings explaining the usage of past, present and future tense in English. Sure, it's from last February, but since when is the past unimportant? (Har har, get it?)

I don't know how native speakers feel about this, but for many Dutch people, using English verbs correctly is fairly difficult. Especially when it comes to the past tense, the present tense, and all that jazz. I lost count of the times they tried to explain it to us in high school, but most of us just kept making the same mistakes.

But now, there's a website for Dutch folks who want to train their English skills. It mainly revolves around 4 daily questions for all users, but the website itself contains plenty of background information--- including when to use which tense and aspect. (Alright, I found that last term on Wikipedia.)

That's where I came in! I was asked to draw a number of simple illustrations, explaining the most common tense/aspect combinations in English. Here's the result! Personally, I like the overarching layout (a timeline at the top, a recurring character in the middle) and use of colour (all black, except in the details referring to time). I'm sort of proud of the fact that people found this effective. :)


Let's start out with the basics: a simple character waiting for the bus. The fellow looks quite British, doesn't he?

Present (1)

Present simple: I (often) do stuff.
Present continuous: I am currently doing stuff.

Present (2)

Present perfect: Something has happened!

Present (3)

Present perfect continuous: Something has been going on for a while.


Up next is the past tense. I emphasized the effect by letting the character (in the present) talk about past events through text balloons.

Past (1)

Past simple: I did something the other day.
Past continuous: I was (busy) doing something at that time.

Past (2)

Past perfect: After something had happened... (something else happened.)

Past (3)

Past perfect continuous: Something had (already) been going on for a while.


And finally, the future. Same idea, only mirrored: the character is on the left and he's thinking about what the future will hold. Note: I was asked to skip the more uncommon variants, such as "I will have been waiting for hours". No use in messing with people's minds too much, I guess.

Past (3)

Future simple: I will do stuff tomorrow.
Future continuous: I will be (busy) doing something by then.

Now, if you spotted a mistake in my writing, that'd be pretty ironic, right?

Written on April 23, 2012, 12:07 PM - 6 comments

Category: Art Category: --- Category: --- Category: --- Category: ---

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6 comments so far

Comment by lebadinage on August 11, 2012, 5:32 AM

These are really good! I'm a TEFL trainer and I was wondering if you would let me use your 'tense' illustrations in my training?

Comment by Wouter on August 15, 2012, 3:21 PM

Thanks for your reply!

Glad you like the illustrations. They were made for the website "Nu Beter Engels". I'd say you're free use them if it's for a training, and not for a published book, for example. It's alright as long as you mention the URL http://www.nubeterengels.nl/. You're not obliged -- but still allowed ;) -- to credit me personally, because my name is also on that website.

Comment by Cheri on September 24, 2012, 5:53 AM

Hi, Wouter.
I'm a member of the Teaching Research and Development Department at an English Study Center in Taiwan. We are making a free Teacher's Guide to provide to our new teachers and was wondering if I could put your illustrations in the Teacher's Guide. I assure you that the Teacher's Guide is provided at no expense, and is for teacher training purposes. Please let me know if it's alright. I'll be sure to link to the website you mentioned in a previous comment. Thank you so much for the wonderful illustrations.

Comment by Wouter on September 29, 2012, 3:37 PM

Hi Cheri,

Thanks for your reply! Glad to hear you like the illustrations.
Feel free to use these images under the conditions you mentioned (private/non-commercial purposes, with a reference to the website). Hope they'll be helpful!

Should you receive feedback from teachers or students, then I'd be happy to hear what they think. :)

Comment by Helen on July 20, 2016, 2:41 AM

Thank you so much for this - a real help to someone who is studying to be a teacher of English and is working late at night :-)

Comment by Wouter on July 29, 2016, 11:26 AM

You're welcome! :)



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