Common mistakes in IELTS – Use of the wrong tense (Part 3)

121. Using the present continuous for a habitual action, instead of the simple present

Don’t say: Every morning I’m going for a walk.

✓ Say: Every morning I go for a walk.

Use the simple present (and not the present continuous) to express a present habitual action

Note: Use the present continuous to express a habitual action with the word always or with a verb denoting a continuous state –> He is always talking in class. He is living in London.

122. Using the verb to use for the present habitual action

Don’t say: I use to get up at six every morning.

✓ Say: I get up at six every morning.

Or I’m accustomed to getting up at six, etc.

The verb to use doesn’t express a habit in the present / use means / employ. I use a pen to write with.

Note: Used to expresses a past state or habit and it usually refers to some old situation which no longer exists/ used to see him every day. My father used to play football very well.

123. Using the past continuous for a habitual action, instead of the simple past tense

Don’t say: Last year I was walking to school every day.

✓ Say: Last year I walked to school every day.

Use the simple past tense to express a habit in the past, and not the past continuous.

Note: Use the past continuous tense to describe events in the past happening at the time another action took place –> I was walking to school when I met him.

124. Using the past tense instead of the past perfect

Don’t say:The train already left before I arrived.

✓ Say: The train had already left before I arrived.

Use the past perfect when the time of one past action is more past than that of another. Put me action which was completed first in the past perfect and the second action in the past tense.

Note: Don’t use the present tense and the past perfect in the same sentence. It would be incorrect to say –> My brother says that he had not gone to the enema last right.

125. Using the past perfect instead of the simple past tense

Don’t say: I’d finished the book yesterday.

✓ Say: I finished the book yesterday.

Don’t use the past perfect unless there is another verb in the past tense in the sentence.

126. Using the future in a clause of time, instead of the present tense

Don’t say: I’ll see you when I shall come back.

✓ Say: I’ll see you when I come back.

If the verb in the main clause is in the future, the verb in the time clause must be in the present tense

127. Using the future in the if clause instead of the present tense

Don’t say: If he’ll ask me, I will/’ll stay.

✓ Say: If he asks me, I will/’ll stay.

Use the present terse m a future conditional in the if clause and the future tense in the main clause.

Note: But the future tense may be used in an if clause expressing a request –> If you will/’ll give mo some money I will/’ll buy you a drink.

128. Using the present tense after as if or as though instead of the past

Don’t say: Janine talks as if she knows everything.

✓ Say: Janine talks as if she knew everything.

Use the past tense after the phrase as if or as though –> “He talks as if he knew everything.” means “He talks as he would talk if he knew everything.”

Note: Use the subjective were with the verb to be after as if –> He acts as if he were a rich man.

129. Using the past conditional of wish instead of the present indicative

Don’t say: I would wish to know more English.

✓ Say: I wish (that) I knew more English.

Use the present tense of wish to express a present meanng, followed by a that clause containing a past tense.

130 Using a wrong tense with an improbable condition

Don’t say: If he would/’d ask me, I would/’d stay.

✓ Say: If he asked me, I would/’d stay.

Express an improbable condition by the past tense and use the conditional in the main clause. This use of the past tense doesn’t indicate a tense but a degree of probability.

131. Using a wrong tense with a counterfactual condition

Don’t say: If he would/’d have asked me, I would/’d stay.

✓ Say: If he had/’d asked me, I would/’d have stayed.

Express a counterfactual (that didn’t happen) condition by the past perfect and use the past conditional in the main clause. This use of the past perfect doesn’t indicate a time but an impossible happening.

132. Using the infinitive instead of a finite verb

Don’t say: Sir, to go home to get my book?

✓ Say: Sir, may I go home to get my book?

The infinitive simply names an action without reference to person, number or time. Therefore, it can’t make sense without the help of a finite verb.

133. Mixing up the tenses

Don’t say: They asked him to be captain, but he refuses.

✓ Say: They asked him to be captain, but he refused.

If you begin with a verb referring to past time, keep the verb forms in the past. The same rule applies to tenses throughout a composition.

Use of certain tenses

1. Use the Simple Present for habitual or frequent actions, and use the Present Continuous for actions taking place at the present moment.

Examples: I read the newspaper every day. I’m reading an English book (now).

2. Use the Simple Past when a definite time or date is mentioned, and use the Present Perfect when no time is mentioned.

Examples: I did my homework last night. I’ve done my homework (so I can watch TV – or whatever – now).

3. Express habitual or repeated actions in the past either by the Simple Past or by the phrase used to.

Example: I went (or I used to go) to the cinema every week last year.

Note: Don’t use the Past Continuous (I was going) for a past habitual action, but for an action in the past continuing at the time another action took place –> I was going to the cinema when l met him.

4. The only correct tense to use is the Present Perfect if the action began in the past and is still continuing in the present.

Example: I’ve been in this class for two months.

5. Be very careful not to use the future but the Present tense in a clause of time or condition, if the verb in the main clause is in the future.

Example: I will/’ll visit the Parthenon when I go (or if I go) to Athens.

Rate this post

Written By

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *