Identify different tenses

Identify different tenses with Blinding Lights

Level B1; Genre R & B

(You’ll find a short vocabulary list at the bottom of this article containing the underlined words. If there are any other words you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask).

Hi there! Welcome to my new post. In this post, I will show you how to identify different tenses with Blinding Lights. This song, by the Canadian artist ‘The Weeknd’ has been a big success all over the world since it was released at the end of last year. Let’s have a look at the things we’ll look at:

  1. Who ‘The Weeknd’ is
  2. His music style
  3. Listening exercise
  4. Identify different tenses
  5. What else can I learn from this song?

Who is ‘The Weeknd’?

The Weeknd is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye. His parents come from Ethiopia, but he was born in Canada. He started making music anonymously in 2010 when he posted videos onto Youtube. A year later he started making mixtapes. His first commercial success, however, was in 2015 with the release of his album ‘Beauty Behind The Madness’, which was one of the best-selling albums of that year.

Other awards

Since his commercial breakthrough in 2015, ‘The Weeknd’ has gone on to win two Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards and nine Billboard Music Awards. His success has made him one of the best-known R & B performers from North America.

His music style

‘The Weeknd’ has a ‘mystical’ identity. His music style has been called by some as ‘dark’. The British newspaper The Guardian said in 2017 that his music was full of ‘pop thrills’ and mighty bangers. Others have said that ‘The Weeknd’ has perfected a mix of Michael Jackson pop and disco funk. It is clear to see that ‘The Weeknd’ is one of the sought-after R & B musicians as his performances have sold out worldwide.

Listening exercise

Now that we know a little about ‘The Weeknd’ and is music style, I would like to you listen to his latest song called ‘Blinding Lights’. This song has become a big radio hit all over Europe and North America. It was at the top of the charts in many countries on release. Here is the song:


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The song sounds like something produced in the 1980s with its heavy bass drum. The electronic sound gives the song a edgy feeling. However, it is a very easy song to dance to, because of the easy beat it keeps. ‘The Weeknd”s voice is also perfectly pitched. This may be natural talent or may be with of computerisation. Either way, this song is perfect when you’re in a club at the weekend.

The video itself is a little strange. We can see what looks like blood on his face. This gives a slightly awkward feeling looking at it. However, this should not put you off listening to what is a really well-made song.

If did not understand everything about the song, that is not a problem. Here are the lyrics for you to read while you are listening to the song. If you would like to find out how to improve your listening skills in 6 simple steps, read my previous blog post.

Identify different tenses pin

Identify different tenses

Now that you have had a chance to listen to the song with the lyrics, I will show you how to identify different tenses in the song.

What tenses are there in the song?

In this song, ‘The Weeknd’ uses a few different tenses. They are:

  • Present perfect continuous – To describe an action that has not been finished, but has been going on for a longer period
  • Present perfect – To describe that something that happened in the past and is connected with the present
  • Present continuous – To describe an action at the time of speaking

Additionally, he uses the present simple tense, but not very often. It describes a general action in the present.

Let’s have a look at some of the examples of the tenses:

Present perfect continuous

This tense is used in the first line of the song. The singer says the following:

  • I’ve been tryna call. This is an irregular use of the present perfect continuous, because it should actually be I’ve been trying to call. In many songs, singers use shortened or ‘irregular’ forms of tenses. However, you should not use these shortened forms, because they are very informal.

To form the present perfect continuous we need the following:

Object + have / has + been + Verb-ing

When forming the -ing part of this tense, be careful as not all verbs have the same form. Here are some examples:

  • come – coming
  • drive – driving
  • run – running

For more information about identifying irregular use of tenses, read my previous blog post about Buffalo Springfield.

Present perfect

‘The Weeknd’ only uses this tense once in the song as follows:

  • I’ve been on my own for a long time. This means that the singer was alone in the past and is still alone. We don’t know when it happened. We are more interested in the action (being alone). This could mean that ‘The Weeknd’ has been alone for a long time. However, we don’t know for how long he has been alone.

To form the present perfect you need the following:

Object + have / has + past participle (3rd form of the verb)

Regular verbs in the past simple do not have a separate past participle, but irregular verbs such be change to been. Other examples include:

  • eat – eaten
  • drive – driven
  • drink – drunk

Unfortunately, there is no rule for irregular past participles, you just have to learn them. You will find most commonly used irregular verb past participles at the back English grammar books. For more information on best English books for intermediate learners, read my guide here.

Present continuous

‘The Weeknd’ uses this tense a lot in the song. This is because he is talking something happening at the moment or is a temporary action in the present. Here are some examples in the text:

  • I’m going through withdrawals
  • I’m drowning in the night
  • I’m running out of time
  • I’m just coming back

All of these examples show something that is happening at the time of speaking or a temporary action in the present. The final example also indicates that ‘The Weeknd’ is temporarily coming back and will probably go again very soon.

We form the present continuous as follows:

Object + am / is / are + Verb-ing

Be careful as some verbs change for example: come changes to coming. Another example is run to running.

If you would like to learn more sign Up for a free Present tense Cheat Sheet

what else can i learn from this song?

There is a lot more that you can learn from this song. As mentioned above, ‘The Weeknd”s songs are full of mystery. This song has a lot of references to his past.

Furthermore, you can also learn how to use modal verbs and create metaphors.

Tell me what you learnt from this song by leaving me a comment.

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