Practise English tenses with Bob Dylan

Practise English tenses with Bob Dylan

Genre: Folk; Genre A2 / B1

We are going to look at how Bob Dylan will help improve your knowledge of the English tenses. This post will show how the song ‘Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’ will take your English grammar to the next level. Here are the things I’m going to look at in this post:

  1. Who is Bob Dylan?
  2. The song ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’
  3. How Bob Dylan will help improve your English tenses

who is bob dylan?

Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmermann in 1941 in Minnesota, USA. He came from a Jewish background.

Dylan started his career in the early 1960s during the American folk revival and is still producing music today.

The song ‘Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’ came at the beginning and was released on Dylan’s album ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’. It has been covered by many others since its release for in 1973 by Bryan Ferry, of Roxy Music. Pop musician released a copy in 2005 in a tribute album to Bob Dylan.

the song ‘a hard Rain’s a-gonna fall’

There are many different topics that this song talks about. But, what you will hear, is that the song is like a Q &A (question and answer). I would now like you to listen to the song:


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This song has all the characteristics of Dylan’s career. Dylan was always seen in his earlier years with his guitar and harmonica together. His face shows that of someone a little overwhelmed with publicity. Despite this, Dylan is, as you can see, confident enough to be able to keep eye contact with those around him.

For those of you who might not have understood everything, here are the lyrics.

If you would like further details on how to improve your listening skills, then read this blog entry about how to perfect your listening skills in 6 easy steps.

How Bob Dylan will help you improve your English tenses

This song is very good to look at different English tenses and how, or better said, when to use them. Dylan uses 4 of the most common English tenses in this song. And we will look at them in more detail.

  • Present perfect
  • Past simple
  • ‘Will future’
  • ‘Going to’ future
Practise English tenses with Bob Dylan Pin image

Verse 1

The first verse uses the present perfect to ask and answer questions about the singer’s past experiences. There are no specific time phrases used, because it is not important when they happened. One of the examples, you might have heard right at the beginning was, “Where have you been my blue-eyed son? And where have you been my darling young one?”

In order to form the present perfect, we need to have:

Subject + auxiliary verb (have / has) + past participle (3rd form of the verb). In the above example, have (auxiliary verb) refers to the subject you. The past participle is been from the be.

Verse 2, 3 and 4

Here the singer uses the past simple because he is talking about specific past experiences. Despite not saying when they happened, he is referring to exact events, giving their details. Examples from the song include ‘I saw‘, ‘I heard‘, ‘I met‘.

In the above examples these verbs are all irregular. But to form regular verbs in the past simple, we either add -ed, -ied or -d to the end of the infinitive, depending on the infinitive. Here are some examples:

  • happen -> happened
  • carry -> carried
  • die -> died

Final verse

The final verse sees Dylan use the ‘will’ future. He uses the ‘will’ future, because they are not exact plans. He is only talking about his mission as a singer, not exact plans. Some examples you may have heard are:

  • I will walk to the depths of the deepest, darkest forest
  • And I’ll tell it…

To form the ‘will’ future we need the following:

Subject + ‘will’ + infinitive – I‘ll tell it / I‘ll know my song well….


This song would not be complete without a chorus in between the verses. Here Dylan uses the second common future tense: ‘going to‘ future. He uses this for predictions based on facts: It’s a hard rain’s a-going to fall. This is actually an irregular use of the going to future. He should say, ‘A hard rain is going to fall’. The irregular use of the English language is mainly seen in music and sometimes literature. Even politicians sometimes use it, accidentally.

The ‘going to‘ future is formed like this:

Subject + am / is / are + going to + infinitive.

As you can see Bob Dylan will help you improve your English tenses with this song. It covers four of the main English language tenses: present perfect, past simple, ‘will‘ future and ‘going to‘ future. Furthermore, for those of you at a higher level, there are things you can learn for examples metaphors and the past continuous tense, used to describe long ‘background’ actions in the past.

Take a listen to this and share your opinions below.

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  1. Pingback: Identify different grammar with protest music - Learn English with Tommy

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