How to Learn Tenses in PSLE English

How to Learn Tenses in PSLE English: A Comprehensive Guide


The PSLE English exam can be a challenging milestone for your child. It’s crucial for them to master a range of linguistic aspects, including understanding and applying the various English tenses. This guide will shed light on effective methods for learning tenses and strategies to better prepare for the PSLE English paper.

Quick Summary for Parents:

  • Understand the importance of tenses in English grammar
  • Learn effective strategies for learning and mastering tenses
  • Discover how to prepare your child for the PSLE English exam
  • Understand common challenges in learning tenses
  • Learn how to overcome these challenges

An Overview of Tenses and What PSLE Students Need to Learn

Tenses in English are fundamental to accurately expressing time during communication. They are primarily categorised into past, present, and future. These are divided into four aspects: simple, continuous (or progressive), perfect, and perfect continuous. Thus, there are 12 significant tenses in English that a PSLE student needs to master. Here is a brief explanation of these tenses:

  1. Simple Tenses
    • Simple Present: Expresses an action that is happening now or a habitual action.
    • Simple Past: Describes an action that occurred and was completed in the past.
    • Simple Future: Indicates an action that will occur in the future.
  2. Continuous (or Progressive) Tenses
    • Present Continuous: Describes an ongoing action happening right now.
    • Past Continuous: Talks about an ongoing action that was happening at a certain time in the past.
    • Future Continuous: Refers to an ongoing action that will occur in the future.
  3. Perfect Tenses
    • Present Perfect: Indicates an action that happened at an unspecified time before now.
    • Past Perfect: Describes an action that occurred before another past action.
    • Future Perfect: Talks about an action that will occur before some future point.
  4. Perfect Continuous Tenses
    • Present Perfect Continuous: Represents an action that started in the past and continues to the present.
    • Past Perfect Continuous: Describes an action that started in the past and continued up until another action in the past.
    • Future Perfect Continuous: Indicates an ongoing action that will occur before some point in the future.

Beyond learning these tenses, a PSLE student needs to be proficient in the following aspects:

  1. Understanding the Structure: Each tense has a unique structure in positive, negative, and interrogative sentences. Students should learn these structures to use the tenses correctly.
  2. Usage: Each tense is used in specific situations or contexts. Understanding when to use which tense is crucial.
  3. Time Markers: Certain words, called time markers, are associated with specific tenses. For example, “yesterday” is often used with the simple past tense, and “currently” with the present continuous tense. Learning these can help students use the tenses more accurately.
  4. Irregular Verbs: Not all verbs follow a regular conjugation pattern in different tenses. Students should learn common irregular verbs and their forms in different tenses.
  5. Application in Speech and Writing: Finally, students should practice using these tenses in their spoken and written English, which will help them internalize the rules and gain confidence in their usage.

Learning tenses is an essential part of the PSLE English curriculum, contributing significantly to a student’s proficiency in English. With regular practice and guidance, students can master these tenses and perform well in their PSLE English exam.

7 (Primary 1)Tom eats an apple every day.This sentence shows a regular habit. The verb “eats” is in the simple present tense.
My dog barks at strangers.The verb “barks” shows a general truth about my dog.
It rains a lot in Seattle.The verb “rains” is used to talk about a general fact.
8 (Primary 2)Jenny loves to read books.The verb “loves” shows a permanent feeling.
The sun rises in the east.This sentence states a universal fact, using the verb “rises”.
I take the bus to school.The verb “take” describes a usual action.
9 (Primary 3)You wear a uniform to school.The verb “wear” is used to describe a habitual action.
We visit our grandparents on weekends.The verb “visit” shows a regular action.
Birds fly.This sentence states a natural fact using the verb “fly”.
10 (Primary 4)The Earth revolves around the sun.This sentence states a scientific fact, using the verb “revolves”.
Mr. Johnson teaches English.The verb “teaches” shows what Mr. Johnson does as a regular job.
People need water to live.The verb “need” expresses a universal requirement.
11 (Primary 5)I brush my teeth twice a day.This sentence uses the verb “brush” to show a habitual action.
The museum opens at 9 a.m.The verb “opens” is used to describe a regular event.
Cats like to sleep a lot.The verb “like” shows a general truth about cats.
12 (Primary 6)You turn right to get to the library.This sentence uses the verb “turn” to give a direction.
It snows in winter.The verb “snows” is used to talk about a weather fact.
She practices piano every afternoon.The verb “practices” shows a habitual action.
The bus arrives at 7 a.m. every day.The verb “arrives” is used to describe a regular event.
They do not watch TV on weekdays.The verb phrase “do not watch” shows a habitual action in negative form.

Note: Each sentence uses the simple present tense to describe regular habits, general truths, or unchanging situations. The complexity of the sentence increases with age/grade, showing progress from age 7 to 12.

Step 1: Build a Strong Foundation (Primary 1 and 2)

In the initial years of primary education, it’s essential to establish a strong foundation in English tenses. Begin with the simple present tense, the most straightforward tense to grasp. Encourage your child to use this tense in everyday conversation and regularly practice with them. Reinforce these concepts using various mediums, such as textbooks, online resources, and interactive games.

Step 2: Expand Understanding (Primary 3 and 4)

In the middle primary years, your child should be introduced to other tenses, including the past and future tenses. Encourage them to use these tenses in their speaking and writing and incorporate regular revision into their schedule. At this stage, having your child write short stories or essays that allow them to practice using different tenses correctly is beneficial.

Step 3: Fine-Tune and Deepen Knowledge (Primary 5)

By Primary 5, your child should be well-versed in the basic tenses. This is the year to fine-tune their understanding and explore the more complex tenses such as the perfect and continuous tenses. Encourage your child to use these tenses in their daily conversations and writings. This is also the time to start doing mock examinations to familiarize them with the PSLE format.

Step 4: Mastering Tenses (Primary 6)

Primary 6 is the critical year when all the knowledge and skills your child has gathered come into play. The focus should be on mastering the application of tenses in different contexts. Regular practice of complex sentences, error spotting, and sentence correction should be integral components of their learning at this stage. Here, it’s vital to engage in thorough revision and continued practice of past examination papers. It’s also important to provide constructive feedback on their writing and work on any areas of weakness. Consider getting a tutor if you feel your child could benefit from more individualized instruction.

Step 5: The PSLE English Exam

By the time your child takes the PSLE English exam, they should have a solid grasp of English tenses. Remember, the key to achieving AL1 is not just about knowing tenses but being able to apply them correctly in different contexts, whether it’s the listening comprehension, oral communication, or writing sections of the exam. Finally, ensure that your child is well-prepared and relaxed on the day of the exam. Confidence can greatly enhance their performance.Remember, every child’s journey is unique, and progression might not always be linear. It’s crucial to maintain a supportive and positive learning environment throughout this process. With consistent effort, practice, and guidance, your child can certainly master English tenses and excel in the PSLE English examination.

Importance of Mastering Tenses in English

Understanding tenses is fundamental to learning any language, especially English. They are the backbone of grammar, essential for expressing time, and crucial for effective communication. Here are the core reasons why mastering tenses is so important:

Reason 1: Enhances Sentence Formation

The appropriate usage of tenses is crucial to forming coherent and logically sound sentences. This is especially important in the PSLE English exam, where clear sentence formation can make a significant difference in a child’s scores.

Reason 2: Improves Communication Skills

Mastering tenses greatly improves a child’s ability to express their thoughts and ideas effectively. It also helps them to understand complex texts, whether in written form or verbal conversation.

Strategies for Learning Tenses

Learning tenses doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Here are some simple yet effective strategies that can help your child get a good grasp of tenses:

Strategy 1: Leverage Educational Resources

There are countless resources available online that can aid in learning tenses. Resources like English Grammar and British Council offer lessons and exercises that can help reinforce understanding.

All you need to know about tenses:

Strategy 2: Regular Practice

Practice makes perfect. Encourage your child to use the different tenses while speaking and writing. This will not only enhance their understanding but also improve their comfort level with using various tenses.

Strategy 3: Play Interactive Grammar Games

Interactive games can make learning fun and engaging. Websites like Grammar Ninja and BBC Learning English offer grammar-based games that can make learning tenses more enjoyable.

Preparing for the PSLE English Exam

When it comes to preparing for the PSLE English exam, a structured approach is key. Here are some tips to help your child prepare effectively:

Preparation Tip 1: Regular Revision

Consistency is key to learning. Make sure your child dedicates a specific amount of time each day to revising tenses.

Preparation Tip 2: Mock Examinations

Mock exams provide an excellent opportunity for your child to apply what they’ve learned. Resources like MOE Examination provide past PSLE papers that your child can use for practice.

Preparation Tip 3: Seek Professional Help

Consider engaging a tutor or enrolling your child in English tuition classes. Professionals can provide targeted guidance and improve your child’s understanding of tenses.

Overcoming Challenges in Learning Tenses

Learning tenses can pose certain challenges, especially for non-native English speakers. Here’s how these can be addressed:

Challenge 1: Difficulty Understanding Usage

Children often struggle to understand when to use which tense. Regular practice, usage in real-life contexts, and reinforcement through exercises can help overcome this.

Challenge 2: Confusion Between Tenses

It’s common for children to confuse one tense with another, especially the perfect tenses. Clear, simple explanations and lots of practice can be beneficial here.


Mastering tenses is critical to learning English and crucial for success in the PSLE English exam. With a structured approach to learning and regular practice, your child can overcome any challenges and gain a firm grasp of tenses. It’s about finding the right resources, staying consistent with practice, and always encouraging progress, no matter how small. Happy learning to your little grammarians!

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