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:

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...




Hello,teachers.please do me a favor.I am a servant of a hotel.
Yesterday a girl bought a towel in the front desk,but i forgot to give her receipt,I know her room's telephone number,and there are 3girls live in her room .so I want to give her a call today .Could you tell me in these two sentences below which one is correct.If both of them are correct,please tell me the different meanings between them.Thanks in advance.
1).Hello,Could I speak to the girl who bought a towel in the front desk yesterday?
2).Hello,Could I speak to the girl who has bought a towel in the front desk?

Hello buguniao,

The first sentence is correct and the second one is not. This is because we do not use the present perfect ('has bought') when we have a finished time reference ('yesterday').

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello hudsoncr,

A sentence such as 'Can I speak to the girl who has bought a towel' is possible, but is highly unlikely. If the buying took place just a moment ago then we might say this, but if the buying was yesterday (as I understood from your initial question) then we'd say 'bought' as the time period is finished.

We'd also say 'at the front desk' rather than 'in the front desk'.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, Guide me to have improved vocabularies skills. I have been studying vocabulary in dictionary for 2 years but many words often I were forget.

Now time I am studying as it below

Meaning,thesaurus, pronunciation, origin,visualization.

Especially I have confused in thesaruss that which word should be used there.

Angry,annoyed, irritated, antagonized, affronted, provoked, etc

Hello uthirapathi,

That's a good way to organise your information, and learning synonyms can be an effective way to increase your vocabulary. However, it's easy to forget words which you learn unless you practise them. If you look on our Help page you'll see some tips on how to remember new words:

To improve your vocabulary it's important to do three things:

  • see new and familiar words and phrases in context
  • note down new items in an organised manner
  • practise, revise and review new items systematically.

The Listen & Watch section on LearnEnglish is a great source of reading and listening materials and working through this section will help you with the first point. The more you read – magazines and newspapers, journals, short stories, novels, poems ... in fact, whatever genre or kind of writing interests you – the better, and you can find an inexhaustible supply on the internet, of course. We also recommend very strongly that you start (if you haven't already) a personal vocabulary book. Organise it by topic (sports, work, appearance, finance, etc.) and add new words and phrases to it as you listen, watch and read in English. Use it to test yourself so you can see how well you memorise the items.

I hope that is helpful to you.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Mr.peter, your suggestions are very useful to me. I have been practising through elementary podcast,which is easily unterstood by me. Thanks one again peter.

I did not quite understand why the sentences "Brando plays an ex-boxer standing up to corrupt bosses" and "McEwan handles the character with his customary skill" from the exercise above are both in the past tense, may someone help me?

Actually, I could not figure it out how to talk about the past using the present tense, and the answer to my question above is within this subject, I reckon.


Hello Joao Victor Viapiana,

Usually, we use past tenses of various kinds (narrative tenses) to tell a story. However, we can use present tenses when we want to bring a story to life, particularly when it is a joke, an anecdote or a commentary of an event or a film - as in these examples.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

i am not understanding this statement, -> to talk about the past when we are telling a story in spoken English or when we are summarising a book, film, play etc. regarding this statement where do get examples? please give some examples...