In this article we will discuss the following articles:

  • Why the errors in Sequence of Tenses
  • Tenses
  • Introduction of Sequence of Tenses
  • Illogical Time Sequence
  • Inconsistency in Tenses
  • Irregular Verbs
  • Helping Verbs
  • Troublesome Usage of Helping Verbs


Writers sometimes use an incorrect tense or don’t know how to use the past participle forms of irregular verbs.

So, as far as verb sequence is considered we have to look for the errors in tenses and its sequence, errors in verb forms (regular forms and irregular forms), errors in helping verbs (be, do, have forms), errors in modal verbs, and errors in conditional clause. Here we start with tenses.


A tense is a form taken by a verb to show the time of an action. There are three main tenses

  1. Present tense: things that are true when the words are spoken or written; or are generally true; or for some languages will be true in the future
  2. Past tense: things that were true before the words were spoken or written
  3. Future tense: things that will or might be true after the words are spoken or written

In this section, we have different sentences which denote the tense usage. To get an idea of tenses let us be conceptually correct in the usage of tenses as per time of action. Below given examples transcribe an idea about present time and the connectivity with action.


Simple present tense to convey general or universal truth and habitual action.


  • The earth revolves round the sun. (a universal truth)
  • I always brush my teeth after the meals. (habitual)


Present continuous tense to show the continuity of the action, for a short period.


  • He is playing golf with his friend.(the action which is in progress for a while)


Present perfect continuous to convey the completion of an action that has some bearing on the present.


  • It has been raining for many hours. (an activity that has continued for quite some time)


Present Perfect Tense is to look back on actions in the past from the present.


  • We have visited many temples. (reminisce from present situation)


Conclusion: The concept of tenses changes the verb form to give us the meaning of the action for a time period. The sentence can be incorrect if the actions denote wrong sequence of action. Here we take you to the domain of sequence of tenses.


Sequence of Tenses is governing of an action. It’s a matter of looking at our clauses and sentences, and determining when each action is happening.

The past must come before the present, and the present before the future, etc. Pay particular attention to the verb sequence when we have a dependent clause before the independent clause.


  • I felt that she was a little worried. (not is)

The above example, feeling happened in past, sequence it with past action- was worried.


  • I forgot that they were coming today. (not are)

In the above sentence, although the given period is in present ‘today’, yet the action ‘forgot’ happened in past. That means ‘they would have come’.


  • I saw that the machine had stopped.

The first action that would have happened ‘machine stopped’ then the next action, he would have seen. So, to denote time gap between two clauses, we make use of perfect tense and simple tense.


All the above-shown examples make us focus on verb with its happening time. If we know the method to find illogical or inconsistency in time sequence of a sentence and its correction it will be great isn’t it?

So, here we take you to the examples of illogical as well as inconsistency in time sequence.


Recognize time sequences in our writing and choose verb tenses that logically reflect that sequence. Sometimes the choice of a verb tense affects our meaning of communication.


  • Jhansi worked at the library for a year.

As the previous sentence shows, the past tense indicates a completed action. Jhansi no longer works at the library.


  • Jhansi has worked at the library for a year.

Here, the present perfect tense indicates that a past action is continuing in the present. Jhansi is still working at the library.


  • Jhansi had worked at the library for a year.

In this sentence, the past perfect tense indicates that something else happened after Jhansi’s year at the library. For example, Jhansi had worked at the library for a year when she was asked to take over technology development.


Conclusion: In the case of the simple tenses (past, present and future)- The time referred to is also the time of the state of affairs denoted by the sentence.

By contrast, in the case of the relative tenses, e.g., the past perfect- The time that the speaker is referring to is a time that either precedes or follows the time of the state of affairs denoted by the sentence.


Another common error is illogically mixing tenses in a sentence or in a piece of writing. Choose the verb tense you want to use in your sentence or in your essay. Then make sure that all verbs are consistent, either by being in the same tense or by reflecting past and future times in relation to your main tense.



Incorrect: Syed went into the market, walks over to the produce section, and picks through the tomatoes. (inconsistent tenses)

Illustration: In the preceding sentence there is no logical reason to move from the past tense ( went) to the present tense ( walks, picks). Use the past tense or the present tense—not both. Rewrite the sentence using consistent tenses.

Correct: Syed went into the market, walked over to the produce section, and picked through the tomatoes. (consistent tenses)

Look at the verb tenses in this group of sentences.



Incorrect: This new program will pay its own way. It specified that anyone who wanted to use the service has to pay a fee. People who refused to do so+receive the benefits. (inconsistent tenses)

Illustration: Notice that the changes in tense between sentences are not related to a clear time sequence. A rewritten version of this piece shows a more consistent, logical use of tenses.

Correct: This new program will pay its own way. It specifies that anyone who wants to use the service has to pay a fee. People who refuse to do so won’t receive the benefits. (consistent tenses)

Illustration: In this version, all verb tenses except the first ( will pay) and last ( won’t receive = will not receive) are in the present tense. The future tense is correctly used for the first and last verbs because these verbs indicate future consequences.


Conclusion: Using verb tenses imprecisely or inconsistently can also distract a reader and block communication. We know that we are very comfortable to use the verb forms with /d/ or /ed/ in past form. Many times the impromptu method selects the answer in regular pattern of /d/ or /ed/ which may be wrong while considering usage of irregular verbs.


Even when you understand the correct uses of verb tenses, you can run into trouble with irregular verbs. Irregular verbs form the past tense and past participle in a variety of ways, not by adding -d or -ed as regular verbs do.

Before we move on, let’s take a moment to review three basic tenses in the English language as this may help with our understanding irregular verbs.


The present tense of a verb stands alone and shows the present tense.

  • Fly the kite.
  • I feel great right now!
  • The past tense is used to represent past events.
  • I flew the kite.
  • I felt great yesterday, too!


The past participle is used with the helping verbs have, has, and had to form perfect tenses.


  • I have flown the kite.
  • I have felt great today!

  • I had flown the kite very well until the wind died down.
  • I had felt great until recently.

  • I will have flown the kite 5 miles by the end of the day.
  • I will have felt great three days in a row after tomorrow.

Combo Example:

  •  Lay the packages on the table.
  • Mohan laid the packages on the table.
  • Mohan has laid the packages on the table and now he’s going back for more.


The most common helping verbs are

   to be: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been

These are used in progressive tenses and passive voice verbs.



I am writing this sentence.
This sentence was written.


  • to have: have, has, had

These are used in perfect tenses.

Example: I have read many, many books.


  • to do: do, does, did

These are emphatic verbs. They emphasize the main verb.

Example: I do know your uncle.


Approved  List of Helping Verbs
to beto haveto doConditionals


Use of helping verbs instead of main verb

  • I speak French as he speaks
  • I speak French as he does


Use helping verbs to stand for longer verbs or verb phrases.

Wrong: I have never been to Mumbai, but my brother has been to Mumbai.

Right: I have never been to Mumbai, but my brother has.

The first instance of the verb should usually match the helping verb in tense. Need to change tenses, repeat the whole verb in the new tense.


Wrong: I have never been to Mumbai, but last year my brother did.

Right: I have never been to Mumbai, but last year my brother visited it.

In the rare cases in which the tenses do not need to match, the exact verb form missing after the helping verb should be present elsewhere in the sentence.


Wrong: I work hard to gain points, and I am. (am doesn’t mean ‘to gain points’)

Right: I work hard to gain points, and I do. (do means ‘to gain points’)

The helping verbs be, do, and have stand for the positive form of a verb phrase, even if the full verb phrase expressed elsewhere in the sentence is negative


Right: Some people do not eat soup, but others DO. (= do eat soup)

Right: Some people do not eat soup as others DO. (= do eat soup)

Use be, do, and have in this way only if you mean the positive form of the verb.


Conclusion: Helping verbs do just what they sound like – they help verbs by making them complete. More specifically, helping verbs can help a verb to tell us exactly when something occurred in time and refine the meaning of a sentence by setting the mood or tone. But, modal auxiliaries, or modal helping verbs, don’t change according to the subject. For instance, in the sentence ‘They can go to the concert,’ we could easily switch the word ‘they’ for ‘he’ and the helping verb ‘can’ still works.