Teaching Tenses

As a teacher it is important for you to understand that the 12 or so structures we call tenses in TEFL are not actually tenses as such. They are a combination of future markers, aspects and tenses. Arguably, English has only two tenses: present and past. At Language Link, we like to joke with our advanced-level students that English has no future. Lower-level students, however are probably best left uninformed about this – not just because they wouldn’t understand the intended pun but because all the EFL books we use teach that English has 12 or more (depending on whether they treat passive separately) tenses.

That being the case, in this section we will deal with how best to teach each of these “TEFL tenses” separately. Each sub-section contains just one 'TEFL tense' and begins with a discussion on the various uses of the tense concerned and at what levels these are usually introduced. The following sub-sections are not intended to be strict ‘you must do it this way' rules, but merely helpful advice aimed at focusing you on the task at hand. If you feel you need more information about the tenses in English and how they combine with aspects please refer to the 'Teaching Knowledge' section.