present tense


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...



Greetings from China. I am lucky to have found your website that is both educational and informative!

I am a native Chinese living in China. I am currently writing a memoir in English, stories that happened in the past. So past tense is used. But one thing puzzles me -- should past tense or present tense be used, when a fact that has existed in the past till the present day is mentioned?

Such as in the sentences:

1) So we arrived in Nanjing in 1962. Nanjing is the capital city of Jiangsu province.

Nanjing has been the capital city of Jiangsu province for hundreds of years till today. Should the above be "Nanjing is..." or "Nanjing was..."?

2) It was mid-autumn and the weather was still hot as the old saying goes, "There will still be 18 'autumn tigers' to catch" ( that is, 18 more hot days to go) after autumn descends.

A) Should it be "as the old saying goes" or "as the old saying went"? B) "There will still be..." or "there will still be..."? and C) "autumn descends" or "autumn descended"?

3) He died on September 3, 1994. A tragedy that had happened to his family two months ago might have hastened the arrival of his final day.

A) Should it be "might have" or "may have"? B) Is the "two months ago" usage here correct? If not, how many ways to make it correct? and C) Overall, after you have corrected the above two issues, does the above sentence agree to the standard written English?

Thanks a million from a loyal foreign user of your great site!

Hi...for more explanation on my question above. In the above quiz I failed these questions completely and when I checketd out the answers the present tense used here explain about past events please help me.
So I say to him, 'What's your game, son?
McEwan handles the characters with his customary skill.
Brando plays an ex-boxer standing up to corrupt bosses.

Hello MamaAisha,

The first sentence could be from a story that you are telling. Perhaps you had an argument with a young man and you're describing it to a friend later that day or even months later. When we tell such stories, we often use the present tense to narrate the story. It can make the story more lively to do this. It's also possible to use the narrative tenses (past simple, past continuous and past perfect) to tell a story, but the present is another option.

The second two sentences could be from novel or film reviews (McEwan is a famous English novelist and Brando was an actor). Reviews often use the present tense in their reviews of artistic works. Novels and films were obviously created in the past, and so this use of the present is speaking about the past in that sense.

I hope this clarifies the issue for you.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi...I'v not understood when present tense can explain past event. can you please give me more elaboration on that? thanx...

Does both the sentence means that he ia still reading book ??

I have been reading book.
I have been reading book for 2 hours..
Does both the sentence means that he is still feeling sick..
The reason I am asking this question is that present perfect continus tense is used for an action which started in the the past and is still continuing or for an action which have stopped recently...So how do we get to know that the action has just stopped or is still continuing ??? Plz sir help me out

Hello orton,

Whether or not the action is still ongoing or not is not inherent in the form; generally, the context tells us this. If the context does not make it clear, and it is important that this information is given, then the speaker can make it explicit. Decontextualised sentences are often unclear in this way, but if the sentences you quote were in context (such as our being able to see the speaker) then there would probably not be any ambiguity. The lack of clarity comes from the lack of context here.

You can find more information on the present perfect simple and continuous here and here.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher!
which sentense is correct gramatically
1. I will let you know as soon as I find out
2. I will let you know as soon as I have found out
thanks for consideration

Hi Oscas Po,

Both sentence are possible. We can use the present simple or the present perfect in time clauses such as this, and the meaning is the same.

You can find more information on time clauses here and on time and other clauses here.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team