Most textbooks present verb tenses in isolation, one by one: students study the simple present, then move to present continuous, simple past and so on. But when we need to revise all learnt tenses, some students get lost and can’t use the tense properly even if they know all of them perfectly and can do exercises on one specific tense without any mistakes. So teachers should constantly step back, find or create worksheets to practice multiple tenses (all the studied tenses) for students to see “big verb tense picture”. In this article, we will present some activities to practice mixed tenses in the context of the book “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.

“The Picture of Dorian Gray” is a philosophical novel written by Oscar Wilde. The book is popular not only among teens but also among adults. If you want to discuss the book with the intermediate learners and pay your students’ attention to the mixed tense forms used in the novel, here are some ideas that may come in handy.


Start the lesson with the discussion. Let your students discuss the following questions in pairs:

Discuss the questions with your partner:

  1. Are you fond of reading? If yes, what genre are you interested in?
  2. What is your favourite book of all time?
  3. Is there a book that you have read more than once? What was the title?
  4. What was the last book you read?
  5. What do you pay much attention to while reading a book: content, new words, grammar structures, writing style, etc?
  6. Do you ever read books in English?
  7. Can reading English books enlarge your vocabulary or improve your grammar?


Option 1:

Show the cover of the book and let students discuss what they can see, if they’ve ever read this book (if yes, what they think of it), what they think it is about, whether they would like to read it or not.

Option 2:

Show the cover, but hide the name of the book. Let students discuss what they see and guess the name of the book.

Option 3:

Show the trailer of the movie, let students discuss what they have see in the video and guess what book the movie is based on.

Grammar Exercise 1

Choose any extract from the book your students might be interested in. Create a grammar activity, for example, “fill in the gaps”, “choose the correct form”, “open the brackets”.

Below you can find an example of the activity:

Read an extract from Chapter 2 «Jealous of his Own Portrait» and fill in the verbs with the correct tense forms.

Dorian Gray (frown) and (turn away). He (like) the tall young man who (stand) by him. His dark, romantic face (interest) him. There (be) something in his low, musical voice that (be) fascinating. But he (feel) a little afraid. Why this stranger (have) a strong influence on him like this? He (know) Basil Hallward for months, but the friendship between them (not change) him. Suddenly someone (come) into his life and (turn) it upside down. Someone who (seem) to have the key to the mystery of life itself.


Dorian Gray frowned and turned away. He liked the tall young man who was standing by him. His dark, romantic face interested him. There was something in his low, musical voice that was fascinating. But he felt a little afraid. Why was this stranger having a strong influence on him like this? He had known Basil Hallward for months, but the friendship between them had not changed him. Suddenly someone had come into his life and turned it upside down. Someone who seemed to have the key to the mystery of life itself.

Your students can do the same exercise online (the link to the task):

As a follow-up activity after grammar exercise, you can discuss the content of the extract.

Discuss the following questions in pairs:

  1. What was Dorian’s attitude towards the young man next to him?
  2. Why was he afraid?
  3. How long had Dorian Gray known Basil Hallward?

Grammar exercise 2

Divide your classroom into two groups. Ask them to read the second extract of the book from Chapter 2 «Jealous of his Own Portrait» and choose the correct answer. The group who has more answers becomes the winner.

Read an extract from Chapter 2 «Jealous of his Own Portrait» and choose the correct option:

Hallward (a. has turned b. turned c. had turned) white, and (a. caught b. was catching c. has caugh) his hand. ‘Dorian! Dorian!’ he (a. cries b. is crying c. cried). (‘a. Not talk b. Not talking c. Don’t talk) like that. I (a. have never had b. never have had c. never had) a friend like you, and I (a. am never going to have b. will never have c. would have) another. How (a. can you be jealous b. you can be jealous c. you are jealous) of a painting? You (a. were b. was c. are) more beautiful than any work of art.’

‘I (a. am jealous b. was jealous c. am jealousing) of everything whose beauty (a. does not die b. did not die c. haven’t died). I (a. will be jealous b. am jealous c. was jealous) of the portrait you (a. had painted b. paint c. have painted) of me. Why (a. should it keep b. it should keep c. it would keep) what (a. I must lose b. must I lose c. might I lose)?’ Hot tears (a. are coming b. come c. came) into his eyes as he (a. threw b. was throwing c. has thrown) himself on the sofa.


Hallward turned white and caught his hand. ‘Dorian! Dorian!’ he cried. ‘Don’t talk like that. I have never had a friend like you, and I will never have another. How can you be jealous of a painting? You are more beautiful than any work of art.’

‘I am jealous of everything whose beauty does not die. I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me. Why should it keep what I must lose?’ Hot tears came into his eyes as he threw himself on the sofa.

Sum up

Option 1:

If your students have read the book, ask them to retell their most favourite part paying attention to the tenses. For example: “I read this book last year and was really impressed by it. The way the author describes the events taken place in the book is of great importance and value. I especially like the chapter, where the artist….”.

Option 2:

If your students have made many mistakes, do a delayed error correction. Write down their mistakes on the board and ask them to make the necessary corrections. If they have any difficulties, provide some hints.

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