You are here

Present tense

Level: intermediate

There are two tenses in English: past and present.

The present tense is used to talk about the present and to talk about the future.

There are four present tense forms:

Present simple I work
Present continuous I am working
Present perfect I have worked
Present perfect continuous I have been working

We can use all these forms:

  • to talk about the present:

London is the capital of Britain.
He works at McDonald’s.
He is working at McDonald's.
He has worked there for three months now.
He has been working there for three months now.

  • to talk about the future:

The next train leaves this evening at 17.00.
I'll phone you when I get home.
He is meeting Peter in town this afternoon.
I'll come home as soon as I have finished work.
You will be tired out after you have been working all night.

Present tense 1
Present tense 2

Level: advanced

We can use present forms to talk about the past:

  • when we are telling a story:

Well, it's a lovely day and I'm just walking down the street when I see this funny guy walking towards me. Obviously he's been drinking, because he's moving from side to side …

  • when we are summarising something we have read, heard or seen:

I love Ian Rankin's novels. He writes about this detective called Rebus. Rebus lives in Edinburgh and he's a brilliant detective, but he's always getting into trouble. In one book, he gets suspended and they tell him to stop working on this case. But he takes no notice …

Present tense 3
Present tense 4
Intermediate level


Hi RT,

You could actually use either form in either situation. If you consider the understanding to be something that is current then the present is appropriate, even if the conversation happened in the past. Conversely, if you consider the understanding to be a past action then you would use the past form, even if the conversation is still ongoing (but has moved on to other topics, for example).



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot Peter

Got some mixed up on the tenses of the following sentence:
Let’s say after I received a report and wish to tell my wife what it is (was)
Shall I say it is (was) a report of your property and everything is (was) in order? Thanks

Hello RT,

If you have the report and it is still current (i.e. your wife's situation has not changed), then using present tense (is) makes sense. If you no longer have the report or it is no longer current, then past tense (was) would be better.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks. Let’s say the report is current but of course I cannot be sure whether everything are still in order at present, In that case shall I say

“It is an inspection report of your property and everything “was” in order (as according to the report)”

Such time frame issues are what I always got mixed up, thanks

Hello RT,

Yes, that would be correct. You could add '...was fine at the time of the report' if you wished to make it explicit.



The LearnEnglish Team

thanks a lot


Could you please explain why is the frogs last sentence in the present perfect?....The chicken shows the books to the frog and the frog, looking at the books one by one, shakes his head and says, 'Read it! Read it! Read it!'

Hello zz11

I'd say that 'read it!' is actually the past simple here -- the present perfect would be 'have read it!'. Part of the joke here is that 'read it' sounds very similar to 'ribbit', which is the word native English speakers often use to simulate a frog's croak (the sound a frog makes). Does that make sense?

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team