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...



I am having a problem understanding the meaning of a sentence that uses the present perfect continuous without stating a period of time (how long, since, for, etc). Can the sentence still indicate that the activity is happening from the past until now if time period is not mentioned? If the time period is mentioned, can the sentence means that the activity was recent or just ended?

I have been looking forward to the holiday.

Does this sentence mean that I am still looking forward to the holiday and that it is not currently the holiday? Or does this sentence mean that I have stopped looking forward to the holiday since I am on hday now? Or can it mean both?

I have been feeling sad.

Does this sentence mean that I am still feeling sad now? Or does it mean that I felt sad before and that I no longer feel sad now? Or can it mean bhototh ??

Hello orton,

The sentence 'I have been looking forward to the holiday' means that you are still looking forward to it at the moment of speaking, but this does not mean that you are not yet on holiday. You could be on holiday at the moment of speaking, but still be looking forward to it because you are just at the start of the holiday, for example. The key thing is that the anticipation (the looking forward) has not finished yet.

The second sentence is similar: when the speaker says it, they still feel sad, but they may be about to feel better. For example, you might say 'I have been feeling sad... (sudden smile) but now that you're here I feel better!'

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

I'm having had time on how to use present tense to talk about the past, some examples will help me understand it better. can you give me some examples?
looking forwad your consideration thank you

Hi Opizzle,

Sentences 3, 5 and 8 in the exercise above give examples of sentences in which the present is used to talk about the past. In 5 and 8, the performance of an actor and the novel written by an author are mentioned in the present, but clearly the actor's performance was in the past and the author already wrote the book that is being talked about.

The present simple is often used in this way to talk about any kind of story, including films, plays, novels and even personal anecdotes. For example, if I'm describing what happened yesterday when I picked up my son from school: "I go into the school and Joe is standing there without his backpack. I ask him where it is and he shrugs his shoulders. So I go to talk with his teacher...." Past tenses could also be used here, but often people use present tenses when it's clear the past is being talked about.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Teacher! I want to ask you the question about how to use present perfect & present perfect continuous. He has been working there for three months now./ He has worked there for three months now. I knew that PP base on result and PPC base on activity. why both of two sentences can use. Could you clarify about that?

Hello chhlam,

You are correct that both sentences are possible, and correct on the reason why.  It's really a question of emphasis: do we think of the time as a unit which may or may not continue - as an achievement by the person - or do we rather think of it as a process which is still ongoing.

It is a nuanced distinction and a tricky area.  You can find more information on this page, plus some exercises to help you.

teacher, this sentence is Past or Present? Brando plays an ex-boxer standing up to corrupt bosses.
Can we use present to refer the past action?

Hello chhlam,

In some contexts we can use present forms in this way.  The most common are informal anecdotes and film or book reviews (as here).  Present forms add more immediacy to these kinds of descriptions, bringing them to life for the listener.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Teacher, I will ask you more when I have question.