English Basics: verb tenses for gin lovers

There are so many tenses in English, it gives people tension, and what better way to ease tension than drinking a lovely gin and tonic, martini, or gin smash. Many of us use tenses without really knowing what they are or how to use them properly. Whenever we use the PERFECT tense we must use the PAST PARTICIPLE of the verb instead of SIMPLE PAST, so in this case we use drunk instead of drank. Here are simple explanations of all tenses using one thing I love: gin.


  • I drink gin. (present – used as a statement of fact)
  • I drank gin yesterday. (past – a statement of past fact)
  • I will drink gin tomorrow. (future – a statement of future fact)


  • I am drinking gin. (present – a current, continuous action answering the question: Paul, what are you doing now?)
  • I was drinking gin yesterday when you called. (past – a continuous past action best used with some other interruptive action)
  • I will be drinking gin tomorrow when you visit. (future – a continuous future action best used with a future interruption action)


  • I have drunk gin since 2010. (present – an action attached to a specific period in time)
  • I had drunk gin for ten years before switching to vodka. (past – a past specific time period that ended. Also a fallacy because I would never switch from gin to vodka–yuk.)
  • I will have drunk gin for ten years as of this July. (future – despite it’s “future” status it refers to a specific period of time that is continuing).

Perfect Continuous

  • I have been drinking gin. (present – often used with a non-specific period of time and the common answer to the question: Paul, are you drunk?)
  • I had been drinking gin when Julia came home. (past – a past action interrupted by a second action which is usually no longer drinking gin)
  • I will have been drinking gin for three hours when you come over. (future – a future action tied to a past time clause).

So there you have it: it’s Friday, it’s warm outside, and I’m getting thirsty. What should I drink tonight?


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