Signal Words and English Tenses

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What are signal words?

Signal words help you to choose the correct tense. You can easily use the correct form of the verb if you know the signal word and which tense it is used with. The following table is for beginners. You have to remember that in more complex structures it is important to look at the action in the sentence rather than spotting a signal word.

Signal wordsTenses
  • always
  • often
  • frequently
  • never
  • occasionally
  • seldom
  • sometimes
  • usually
Present Simple
  • now
  • today
  • at the moment
  • right now
  • Look!
  • Listen!
Present Continuous
  • a week/month/year ago
  • in 1999
  • last night/week/year
  • the other day
  • years ago
  • yesterday
Past Simple
  • already
  • for
  • ever
  • just
  • lately
  • never
  • recently
  • since
  • so far
  • until now/till now
  • up to now
  • (not) yet
Present Perfect