There are three tenses in English that denote time: past, present, and future. There are two tenses in English that denote aspect: perfect and progressive. The aspect tenses can be combined with the time tenses. For example, a past tense can be perfect, or progressive, or both. This gives us a total of twelve different ways to sneeze in first person:
- Past: I sneezed.
- Past perfect: I had sneezed.
- Past progressive: I was sneezing.
- Past perfect progressive: I had been sneezing.
- Present: I sneeze.
- Present perfect: I have sneezed.
- Present progressive: I am sneezing.
- Present perfect progressive: I have been sneezing.
- Future: I will sneeze.
- Future perfect: I will have sneezed.
- Future progressive: I will be sneezing.
- Future perfect progressive: I will have been sneezing.
Not all languages have all these tenses, and likewise, English lacks some tenses. One example of the latter is the imperfect tense, utilized by Latin, French, and Greek. In the case of missing tenses, most languages have close equivalents, but it’s never a perfect match. Your sneeze isn’t quite the same as a Frenchman’s.