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English Grammar Made Simple


  1. An English sentence needs at least 1 verb. If there is no verb, you should put BE.
  2. Modals[b] are always followed by V1
  3. HAVE/HAS/HAD[c] is always followed by V3
  4. The formula[d]:

  1. Traditionally, people will say that there are 3 types of verb in English. Actually, there are 4 types of verb in English. They are[f]:

Now a question comes ahead: How do we use those basic principles in making English sentences? Okay, let’s apply those principles.


Let’s start our exercise by choosing a subject and a verb for our sentence:

  • Subject             : I
  • Verb                 : study


I prefer to say that there are two axis of time for English tenses and 16 tenses in English[g]. The axis are: Present and Past.

IF we take 16 as the number of tenses in English, we will get 8 PRESENT TENSES and 8 PAST TENSES.


Make a table consist of 8 rows. Skip row 1.

We will fill row 2 – 8 first by referring to principle number 4 (the formula):

Ok, now you realize that it is not that difficult to make 14 tenses. Now we will fill row 1. The names of tenses for row 1 are SIMPLE PRESENT and SIMPLE PAST.



To make SIMPLE PAST, you must refer to Principle 5 column V2/past.

To make SIMPLE PRESENT, you must see Principle 5 column Vpresent.

How about Principle 1? I will explain it later.

[a] Some basic principles here were coined by Mr. budi Waskito, who was my teacher at Sebelas Maret University, Surakarta.

[b] will, would, shall, should, can, could, may, might, must, etc.

[c] In PERFECT TENSES context.

[d] The formula, which is made into a table, is a fixed one. You cannot change the sequence of  “FUTURE – PERFECT – CONTINUOUS”

[e] Some books call this as PROGRESSIVE TENSE.

[f] The table here contains some examples to show what I mean.

[g] My opinion might be different from others as some would claim that there are 12 tenses in English. However, there is no agreement to say how many exactly the number of tenses in English are. For different opinions you can go here and here.

[h] The name PRESENT FUTURE may sound unfamiliar for your ears, but the names of tense here are made for the sake of two axis (PRESENT and PAST) as I have already explained before.

[i] Check principle 4: The first box

Present + Future   = will

So –>  I + will + study

[j] Remember principle 2 also which says: “Modals …” so will is followed by V1 à study


[l] See principle 4. You get PRESENT (left-est column) + PERFECT (up-most) box which shows : have/has. Remember that we use I so we choose have and not has. When it is done, you must see principle 3. It says that after have/has/had in PERFECT context is always followed by V3. Because we have chosen study as our verb, so right after I + have, we add studied (V3 of study).

[m] See footnote l.

[n] Read principle 5. It says that be for PRESENT context are is, am, are. Since we do understand that if we choose I as the subject for our sentence, so be for our sentence must be am.

[o] See footnote n.

It says that be for PRESENT are is, am, are according to principle 5. If we read principle 5 and look for be in the PAST context, you will get was, were. Because we choose I as the subject for our sentence, we take was as our “be” here.

[p]Have/has” we choose have, see principle 2 and 5. After modal (will) must be V1. Principle 5 says V1 for have/has is have.

study” becomes studied is based on principle 3. Principle 3 says that have is always followed by V3.

[q] “would had” will violate principle 2. So we must change had into V1. Principle 5 says that have is the V1 of had.

“study” becomes studied, see principle 3.

[r]be” stays be is based on principle 2 and 5. Principle 2 says that will is always followed by V1. Principle 5, number 1, we read that be is the V1 of be. Hence, our sentence will be: I will be studying

[s] I  –> have

Have is always followed by V3 (see Principle 3). Therefore, be transforms into been because V3 of be is been (see Principle 5).

[t] See footnote s.

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English Grammar Made Simple; 5 Basic Principles of English Grammar by Dipa Nugraha by Dipa Nugraha is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at dipanugraha.blog.com.


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