A reference to the point in time at which an action takes place from the perspective of the speaker.
Three common tenses which are frequently distinguished are
- past – happened at some time before the current time of speaking
- present – happening at the time of speaking
- future – not yet happened at the time of speaking
Many languages use different forms of the verb depending on the tense
- e.g. English – I saw (past), I see (present), I will see (future)
Australian Indigenous languages may indicate tense in different ways, and may have different ways of splitting up time, such as remote past or a distant future.
Tense is sometimes considered in contrast or comparison with aspect and mood.