Finding a different way to explain tenses

I'm working on writing some posts to explain tenses. (Like the past tense, past progressive, present perfect, and all those lovely terms you learned in school). Of course, there's a ton of information out there already which explains these ideas. But I have to figure it out and explain it in my own way, because I'm stubborn! Plus a lot of explanations are too complicated. I'm a native English teacher with a degree in English and several years' experience teaching English grammar, and I still get tired and confused when I read all these grammar terms. Yuck!

So I'm trying to think carefully about how people use the past, the present, and the future. Here are the goals I've set for myself:

  1. I can't use specialized grammatical terms to explain things. Most native English speakers don't know the names of different verb tenses but use them just fine. I want to try to explain using simple words, pictures, and examples.
  2. I want to explain the ideas behind the tenses, not give a step-by-step guide for how to choose them. I've described before my experiences with trying to use a big, heavy, complicated book that presented grammar as a series of rules. It didn't work that well. Instead, I want to see if it's possible to communicate a strong feeling for what English speakers mean when they use different tenses.
  3. I want to provide a strong visual for each explanation that will help readers to understand and remember the meaning of each tense.

So I have a question for you. What problems do you have when trying to explain when something happens?

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