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Tense (past, present, future)

When we talk about tense (tiempo verbal in Spanish) we generally refer to the temporality that conjugated verbs express, i.e. actions in the present, past or future

Present:

Verbs in the present tenses reflect actions that happen or are happening at the moment of speaking:

Tengo dos coches.
I have two cars. 
(Tengo reflects a present action)

 

Past:

Verbs in the past tenses reflect actions that happened, were happening, had happened in the past, i.e. prior to the present time:

Ayer vi a Laura.
I saw Laura yesterday.
(Vi reflects a past action)

 

Future:

Verbs in the future tenses reflect actions that are still to happen, at a future moment:

Mañana iré a la playa. 
I will go to the beach tomorrow. 
(Iré reflects a future action)

 

Note: Tenses communicate more nuanced details of time than merely 'past', 'present' or 'future'. They can convey time relative to other events, whether actions finish(ed) or are/were ongoing, even things that are 'out of time': imagined events, events that could happen, or that we hope will or won't happen.

These extra qualities are captured by subcategories called 'mood' and 'aspect'. When most people talk about a verb's tense, they're usually referring to its mood and aspect at the same time.

 

See: Tense / Mood

 

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