Grammar Review: Past, Present and Future Tenses in Explanation & Functional Texts


Grammar Review: Past, Present and Future Tenses in Explanation & Functional Texts – Basic Competence: Express meanings and rhetorical ways in an essay by using an accurate, fluent, and acceptable writing style in daily social contexts in forms of: narrative, spoof, and hortatory exposition.

Learn about it!

In this lesson, you will learn about the concept and the use of tenses, alongside with the meanings it conveys, in both explanation and functional texts.


For some non-native English speakers, it seems difficult to learn English when dealing with the tenses. Perhaps it feels cumbersome for the non-native speakers whose language does not have the concept of time like that, for instance, Indonesian language speakers. So what are the tenses for?

  • I was an enthusiastic boy; I went to school on weekdays
  • I am a baseball player; I go to university on weekdays
  • I will be a computer programmer; I will go to my office on weekdays

Look at the illustration above. When we want to describe some statements, conditions or activities in different times, we use different verbs. You can see that the significant parts that changed in the sentences above are the verbs; in the cases above, there are “was – am – will be” and “went – go – will go”. Thus, the important thing when using tenses is by considering the time of the conditions or statements.

Explanation Text

Explanation is a kind of text that informs about processes relating to forming and explaining some phenomena. It is a specific type of writing and it contains some particular features.Moreover, an explanation text is a non-fiction text that explains a process; It focuses on “How” (e.g. “how does a computer work?”) or “Why” (e.g. “Why do submarines sink?”). Typically, an explanation text uses simple present tense to emphasize that the contents of the text are general truth.

These are some particular features of an explanation text:

  • It is written in formal, present tense
  • It is arranged into numbered or bullet points
  • There are sub-headings to divide the sections
  • The use of time connectives, such as: firstly, after that, next, later, finally.
  • There are some technical vocabularies related with the topic
  • Glossary to explain technical vocabularies

These are the generic structures of an explanation text:

  • General statement: in this introduction part, the phenomenon is explained in general.
  • Sequenced explanation: this part answers the “why” and “how” of the topic
  • Closing: This is actually part of the sequenced explanation; it contains the final step or the last part of the topic being explained

Functional Text

A functional text is a kind of text which provides support and helpful information to readers in order to help them accomplish an everyday task. It is named functional because it helps people function in a day-to-day life. There are many kinds of a functional text according to its purpose, for instance, if someone wants to make a cooking, a recipe is needed. A functional text usually uses the present tense.

Below are some examples of the kinds of a functional text:

  • Notices
  • Cautions
  • Food labels
  • Announcements
  • Greeting cards
  • Advertisements
  • Short messages
  • Invitation cards

An announcement is one example of a functional text. It is a formal public statement–a means of communication (both oral and written). For example, look at an announcement below:


With many kinds of text in English language, you have to able to identify the purpose and make the best use out of it.
Also, pay attention to the tenses that convey their particular meanings.

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