To distinguish the different types of "tenses" we can refer to in grammar and conjugation*, here we use the term temporality to encapsulate the more general concepts of time - present, past, future - that are expressed in a language.
Verbs play an important part in expressing temporality, along with other factors like adverbs and expressions of time.
The past refers to a time taking place before the speaker's time, and to actions that have already happened/stopped happening by the time the speaker speaks, or happened before present or other past actions.
Past indicators can be :
- adverbs (hier, autrefois…)
- expressions (jeudi dernier, il y a trois ans...)
- past tenses
The present refers to the time the speaker finds themselves as they speak, and to actions that are happening at that same time / simultaneously to other present actions.
Present indicators can be :
- adverbs (aujourd'hui, maintenant…)
- expressions (en ce moment,...)
- present tenses
The future refers to a time taking place after the speaker's time, and to actions that have not happened yet at the time the speaker speaks / will happen after present or other future actions.
Future indicators can be :
- adverbs (demain, après…)
- expressions (la semaine prochaine, dans dix ans...)
- future tenses
* See also Conjugation Tense.