Level: intermediate

There are two tenses in English: past and present.

The present tense is used to talk about the present and to talk about the future.

There are four present tense forms:

Present simple I work
Present continuous I am working
Present perfect I have worked
Present perfect continuous I have been working

We can use all these forms:

  • to talk about the present:

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

  • to talk about the future:

The next train leaves this evening at 17.00.
I'll phone you when I get home.
He is 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.

Present tense 1
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Present tense 2
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Level: advanced

We can use present forms 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 …

Present tense 3
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Present tense 4
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Intermediate level

Comments

Hello Leigh,

The sentence is not incorrect.  I suspect the reason someone might think it is wrong is because of the phrase 'in the past', which might suggest a past verb form.  However, the present perfect (used in this example) is used, amongst other things, for describing actions taking place in an unfinished past time, such as all of a person's life up to the present moment.  The phrase 'in the past' in this context means 'in my life up to now', and so is the present perfect form is appropriate.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk.
Could you help me please...How many tenses in english language?Our teacher said and tought us that english has 16 tense...and some grammar books l read there 26 tense...which one is right?We have only 3 tenes in our language,and to learn english is very difficult for us,may be you can suggest some easy way to learn english...?

Best wishes!

Hi MIRAZH,

The answer to this question depends on how you define "tense". As you can see above, some consider that there are only two tenses in English: present and past!

I'd suggest that you not worry about how many tenses there are and instead focus on mastering the use of the different verb forms in English. Just work on one or two at a time and after some time you should find that you understand them better. I'd also recommend that you not just study the verb forms in isolation, i.e. don't just memorise verb forms. To really learn them, it's essential to use them and see them in context. Probably the most enjoyable way to do this is to listen to and to read a lot of English.

The Magazine has lots of interesting articles on a variety of topics, and under Listen & Watch, you'll find lots of interesting videos and audio to listen to - many of which include transcripts for when it's difficult to understand what is being said. As you read or listen, try to understand why different verb forms are being used. If you have doubts, you can consult the Grammar Reference (i.e. pages like this one), and if you still don't understand, please ask us here in the comments.

If you can, try to have some contact with English every day. Even if you can only do it for 10 minutes, short sessions over months will more effective than long but intermitten sessions.

Good luck!

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
is it the perfect way of conveying?
"just now, I had my breakfast".
Thanks,
Hemanth M B

Hello Hemanth,

The verb in the sentence you mention (had) is in the simple past. The present perfect form would be I have had.

Regarding your other question below ("why this is sentence is in past tense? it's confusing..."), I'm afraid I don't know which sentence you're referring to. If you could be more specific, we'd be happy to help.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,
 
Thanks for the reply.
pardon me. I didn't mention the sentence. Please find the sentence below.
"McEwan handles the characters with his customary skill."
The question No 8. here the activity is saying time and tense are different. Please explain me how time and tense are different. At par to my knowledge, the sentence is simple present and that's all i know. So i am bit confused between time and tense.
To get deeper into my second question i.e., "just now, i had my breakfast". I would like to describe the scenario where i used this sentence. I finished my breakfast at 8 past 5 in the morning and if someone has asked me "did you have your breakfast" at 8 past 10 then is it better to reply "just now, I had my breakfast".
Thanks and Regards,
Hemanth M B
 

Hello Hemanth,

The sentence is question 8 is similar to question 5. Both of them speak about the artistic work of a famous person (in 5, actor Marlon Brando and in 8, novelist Ian McEwan), which is work that was completed in the past. Therefore the present tense verb in those sentences actually refers to the past.

Since English lacks an inflected verb form to refer to the future, some linguists say that English lacks a future tense. This is distinct from time, which refers refers to how we perceive reality as being divided into past, present and future. In any case, this is a rather technical issue - I wouldn't worry about it too much.

As for your question about "just now, I had my breakfast", first I just want to correct what I think might be an error in how you told time. "8 past 5" means 5:08, but I think you were referring to 5 past 8 (8:05) and 10 past 8 (8:10). In that context, you could say either "I've just had my breakfast/Just now I've had my breakfast" or "I just had my breakfast/Just now I had my breakfast". The first two sentences are more typical in British English, whereas the second ones are more typical of American English.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Mr Kirk,

you explained all these sentences on brakfast. As I see all reffer to past.
"I have just had my breakfast." means I did it a couple minutes ago.

But how can we say that we ate our breakfast right now (this moment) in that context?

Hi swxswx,

To talk about something at the moment of speaking we use the present continuous:

I'm eating my breakfast.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
why this is sentence is in past tense? it's confusing...

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