tense Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary Cambridge dictionaries logo
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Meaning of “tense” in the English Dictionary

"tense" in British English

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tensenoun [C]

uk   /tens/  us   /tens/
B1 any of the forms of a verb which show the time at which an action happened: "I sing" is in the present tense and "I sang" is in the past tense.

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  • How do you say that in the future tense?
  • Add -ed to all these verbs to put them in the past tense.
  • Which tenses do you know already?

tenseadjective

uk   /tens/  us   /tens/
  • tense adjective (NERVOUS)

B2 nervous and worried and unable to relax: She was very tense as she waited for the interview.
B2 If a situation is tense, it causes feelings of worry or nervousness: There were some tense moments in the second half of the game.

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specialized phonetics (of a speech sound) made with more force than other speech sounds
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tensely
adverb uk   /ˈtens.li/  us   /ˈtens.li/
tenseness
noun [U] uk   /ˈtens.nəs/  us   /ˈtens.nəs/

tenseverb [I or T]

uk   /tens/  us   /tens/ (also tense up)
If you or your muscles tense, your muscles become stiff and tight because you are frightened or nervous, or are preparing yourself to do something: Don't tense your shoulders, just relax. I could feel myself tense up as he touched my neck.
tensed up
very nervous and worried and unable to relax because of something that is going to happen: You seem all tensed up. Are you still waiting for that call?
(Definition of tense from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"tense" in American English

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tenseadjective

 us   /tens/
  • tense adjective (NERVOUS)

anxious, unable to relax, or causing anxiety: She was very tense as she waited for the interview. The family was faced with a tense financial situation.
If a situation is tense, it causes feelings of worry or anxiety.
  • tense adjective (STIFF)

tight and stiff: Relax! Why are you so tense?

tensenoun [C]

 us   /tens/
  • tense noun [C] (VERB FORM)

grammar any of the forms of a verb which show the time at which an action happened: "I sing" is in the present tense and shows action happening now, and "I will sing" is in the future tense, showing action that will happen later.

tenseverb [I/T]

 us   /tens/
  • tense verb [I/T] (MAKE STIFF)

to make your body or muscles tight and stiff, or to become tight and stiff: [T] He tensed his body just before diving from the high board. [I] She tensed up as the car went faster and faster.
(Definition of tense from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
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