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 ...
    • 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 ….

      Romeo and Juliet is a violent play. After Romeo and Juliet have married in secret, Romeo is walking in Verona when Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt tries to provoke Romeo into a fight. Romeo refuses to fight and leaves, but his friend, Mercutio, is so angry that he fights Tybalt and is killed ….

Exercise

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Comments

Hello Andrew international,

As you can see in the dictionary, 'for' has 17 different uses and one of them has the meaning of 'towards'. 'to' and 'towards' don't mean exactly the same thing in all contexts and it would take some time to explain their uses thoroughly. 

You can say 'We fly for Paris', but it would sound a bit strange to most people, who would use 'to' instead. I'd recommend you use 'to'. 'The train for X' is, however, a more common collocation so I'd not discourage you from using it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I am still confused how a present tense can talk about past and future. feeling confused.
Anyone can help me.
Thanks,

Hello sravi4701,

The present tense is sometimes used to talk about the past when we are telling jokes or anecdotes and wish to make the story seem more immediate and lively. For example, you could tell a story using past forms:

I was sitting in the park last night when an old man came up to me and said...

You could also tell the story using present forms, making it less formal and more of a performance:

So there I am, sitting in the park last night, and suddenly an old man comes up to me and he says...

It's a common feature of comedians' performances, for example. A similar use of the present can be heard when a broadcaster on the radio or TV is describing a sports event. Although they are describing actions from a few seconds ago, they use present forms:

Jones passes the ball to Smith, who runs at the defender. Smith shoots! It's a goal!

 

To see how present forms can be used to talk about the future please take a look at this page, which has many examples.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish

Hello!
I need some help: what is different between 'where did you come from?' and 'where do you come from?'

With best wishes,
WhiteCollar

Hello WhiteCollar,

The question with 'did' refers to the past and the question with 'does' refers to the present. Is that what you mean?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Mr. Kirk
I meant when we should use 'where do you come from?' and when we should use 'where did you come from?'
Usually we use 'where did you come from?' but yesterday I saw 'where do you come from?' in the test. Why "where DO you come from?'
With best wishes,
WhiteCollar

Hello WhiteCollar,

'Where do you come from?' is a question about something which is always true. in other words, it asks about our place of birth or, in a more philosophical sense, the origin of life or our species.

'Where did you come from?' is a question about a specific beginning in the past such as the start of a journey. I might ask this when someone has just arrived and I am wondering if they travelled far.

 

I hope that clarifies it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Peter M
Thank you very much for your helping. I understood.
Best wishes,
White Collar

hello sir
we use two helping verbs with simple present- do and does
but with the verb BE (am,is,are) we do not use them.

i am
i am not
am i
am i not
what am i
what am i not
.
.
we use HAVE in simple present tense
we can use DO/DOES with the verb HAVE

.
.
I have
i do not have
do i have
what do i have

and without helping verb also we can make negative
.
i have
i have not
have i
what have i

MY QUESTIONS ARE....
1) are there other verbs, we can use without DO/DOES(helping verbs) in simple present
2) why do we not use DO AND DOES with the verb BE in simple present(i do not am)
3) is HAVE only one verb that can be used with or without helping verb

Hello INS-PRAKASH,

We're happy to try to help you, but we don't generally respond to such questions, as our concerns here are helping our users learn, not so much come up with rules about the language. Such general rules often have exceptions or just aren't all that useful for learning.

1. all modal verbs are auxiliary verbs and, like 'be', are not used with auxiliary 'do'. 'have got' is another one that doesn't use auxiliary 'do'.

2. This is related to the history of the English language, i.e. how it's developed over time. I'm afraid answering this is well beyond what we do here. 

3. As far as I can think right now, yes, in addition to 'be' and the modal auxiliary verbs. I don't think I'm forgetting any others, but I'm afraid I don't normally think of grammar in terms of these kinds of lists, so perhaps I've missed something.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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