There are two tenses in English – past and present.

The present tenses in English are used:

  • to talk about the present
  • to talk about the future
  • to talk about the past when we are telling a story in spoken English or when we are summarising a book, film, play etc.


There are four present tense forms in English:

Tense Form
Present simple: I work
Present continuous: I am working
Present perfect: I have worked
Present perfect continuous: I have been working


We use these forms:

  • to talk about the present:

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

  • to talk about the future:

The next train leaves this evening at 1700 hours.
I’ll phone you when I get home.
He’s 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.

  • We can use the present tenses to talk about the past...

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

So my friends asked me a question and I think the answer is "all forms could be correct" but I'm struggling to explain why. What do you think?
Which of the following is correct?
a) "I think what we do as art historians is predict the past"
b) "I think what we do as art historians is to predict the past"
c) "I think what we do as art historians is predicting the past".

Hello ahrkrak,

I'm not sure what you mean by 'why'. The difference here is that each example has a different form: an infinitive without 'to', an infinitive with 'to' and a gerund. All of these can be used this kind of sentence.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

What tense is this "the television has been on since morning"?

Present perfect simple

Hello Quinate,

The verb form here is present perfect.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello i do believe you had a fantastic holiday May you please help me know which sentence is correct WE ALL NEED BONUS.or WE ALL NEED BONUSES

Hello Lamastry,

If it is one person who is receiving the bonus then we would say 'a bonus'. However, as the subject is plural ('we'), I would say 'bonuses' is more likely here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Thank you sir

Good evening. My question is following: why here it is said that in English there are only two tenses - present and past. And what about the future?

Hello Katherine991,

A tense is a change in the base verb form which signifies time. Some languages have a future tense but in English there are only two such forms. To talk about the future we use a range of other linguistic forms, including present tenses and modal verbs. 'Will' is in fact a modal verb, just like 'should', 'must' and 'can'. It is not a tense.

This is the standard modern view of the English verb system. For example, you can find it here, with some references too.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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