Tense is typically a feature of verbs. It may also occur with other parts of speech (nouns, adjectives, adverbs), depending on whether borderline word forms such as gerunds and participles are classified as verbs or as the other category.
Tense is a feature that specifies the time when the action took / takes / will take place, in relation to the current moment or to another action in the utterance. In some languages (e.g. English), some tenses are actually combinations of tense and aspect. In other languages (e.g. Czech), aspect and tense are separate, although not completely independent of each other.
Note that we are defining features that apply to a single word. If a
tense is constructed periphrastically (two or more words,
e.g. auxiliary verb indicative + participle of the main verb) and none
of the participating words are specific to this tense, then the
features will probably not directly reveal the tense. For instance,
[en] I had been there is past perfect (pluperfect) tense,
formed periphrastically by the simple past tense of the auxiliary to
have and the past participle of the main verb to be. The auxiliary
will be tagged
VerbForm=Fin|Mood=Ind|Tense=Past and the participle
VerbForm=Part|Tense=Past; none of the two will have
Tense=Pqp. On the other hand, Portuguese can form the pluperfect
morphologically as just one word, such as estivera, which will thus be tagged
Past: past tense / preterite / aorist
The past tense denotes actions that happened before the current moment. In English, this is the simple past form. In German, this is the Präteritum. In Turkish, this is the non-narrative past. In Bulgarian, this is aorist, the aspect-neutral past tense that can be used freely with both imperfective and perfective verbs (see also imperfect).
- [en] he went home
Pres: present tense
The present tense denotes actions that are happening right now or that usually happen.
- [en] he goes home
Fut: future tense
The future tense denotes actions that will happen after the current moment.
- [es] irá a la casa “he/she/it will go home”
Used in e.g. Bulgarian and Croatian, imperfect is a special case of the past tense. Note that, unfortunately, imperfect tense is not always the same as past tense + imperfective aspect. For instance, in Bulgarian, there is lexical aspect, inherent in verb meaning, and grammatical aspect, which does not necessarily always match the lexical one. In main clauses, imperfective verbs can have imperfect tense and perfective verbs have perfect tense. However, both rules can be violated in embedded clauses.
The pluperfect denotes action that happened before another action in past. This value does not apply to English where the pluperfect (past perfect) is constructed analytically. It applies e.g. to Portuguese.
Tense in other languages: [am] [ar] [bg] [bxr] [ca] [ckb] [cop] [cs] [cu] [da] [de] [el] [en] [es] [et] [eu] [fa] [fi] [fo] [fr] [ga] [gl] [got] [grc] [he] [hi] [hr] [hu] [id] [it] [ja] [kk] [kmr] [ko] [la] [lv] [mr] [nl] [no] [pl] [pt] [ro] [ru] [sa] [sk] [sla] [sl] [so] [sr] [sv] [swl] [ta] [tr] [u] [ug] [uk] [ur] [urj] [vi] [yue] [zh]