Present tense

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
MultipleChoice_MTYyMzQ=
Present tense 2
GapFillTyping_MTYyMzU=

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
MultipleChoice_MTYyMzY=
Present tense 4
GapFillTyping_MTYyMzk=
Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.

Hello Rahma_Putri,

We often use the present perfect with 'since' but in this case the best answer would be the past simple ('entered') as the verb 'enter' describes a completed action - you may be a student for a long time (so we could say something like '...ever since I've been a student here') but the actual entry takes just a moment and is then finished, hence 'since I entered').

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish

Submitted by ankita2219 on Tue, 22/04/2014 - 12:55

Permalink
In the example given "He works at McDonald’s. He has worked there for three months now", why has a "now" been placed at the end?

Hi ankita2219,

now is often used when a period of time that continues to the present time is indicated. It is not strictly necessary, i.e. the sentence without now would also be correct, but it is often used. If you look up now in our dictionary (on the lower right) and choose the entry for (AT PRESENT), you can see another example of it in use in the third meaning listed there.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by maria soomro on Tue, 22/04/2014 - 06:06

Permalink
Hi, In above game the answers of these questions are past but how? 1 and 2 are examples of present simple i think? 1. McEwan handles the characters with his customary skill.(Answer is past). 2. Brando plays an ex-boxer standing up to corrupt bosses(Answer is past). Thanks in advance

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 22/04/2014 - 08:26

In reply to by maria soomro

Permalink

Hi maria soomro,

Yes, "handles" and "plays" are both present simple forms, but they refer to the past. As is explained near the top of this page, we use the present simple "to talk about the past when we are telling a story in spoken English or when we are summarising a book, film, play etc."

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mayury on Wed, 26/03/2014 - 15:39

Permalink
hi.... i have some doubts for present tense. can you tell me, how to use present perfect?

Submitted by Tharuka on Thu, 20/03/2014 - 13:39

Permalink
hi i have some doubt about this lesson. I have been learnt future tense also as English tense which we use to tell something about future. But there is not mentioned about future tense. Why does not future tense get as a tense??? Thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 21/03/2014 - 11:50

In reply to by Tharuka

Permalink

Hi Wagisha,

The modern understanding of English is that there are only two tenses in the sense of forms of the verb which show time: past and present (sometimes described as past and non-past).  To talk about the future we use a range of other devices including lexical phrases, modal verbs such as will, other tenses such as the present continuous and so on.  The form which is sometimes described as the future tense is 'will + verb', but this is not, in fact, a tense but rather a modal verb ('will'), similar to other modal verbs such as 'should', 'can' and 'might', all of which can be used with future meaning.

I hope that clarifies it for you.  Remember that this is really a question of terminology and, as such, is not really key to being able to use the language effectively.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by native-speaker on Wed, 19/03/2014 - 20:12

Permalink
Hi Kirk hope you are well, can I first say what a fantastic website, extremely useful and well designed. I have one question The children have done their homework. Is present simple isn't it? Hope you can help thanks once again

Hello native-speaker,

No, have done in this sentence is a present perfect form - see our present perfect page for an explanation of how this form is used.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sdgnour2014 on Wed, 12/03/2014 - 11:43

Permalink
Hello, Peter. I understand the use of the verb " rise" and a the verb rise has no passive because it's intransitive verb. we cannot say , the sun is risen or the sun was risen .Is this rule for all intransitive verb???????????? Still I have two questions? 1-" would rise" is future . Can you give me example about future with "would " using the verb rise in a sentence.( I know "will" is future, but I don't know about would) 2- I understand if we change the sentence the meaning of the verb remains one, and only the time changes to past,present, future. Can you give me example of use the verb ( rise ) in the present tense ( present simple, present continuous, and present perfect. Thanks in advance.

Hello sdgnour2014,

It is possible to say "The sun was/is risen", though it is not something you will hear in ordinary situations in modern English - it would sound quite strange in most contexts. This is not a case of the passive voice but rather a simple copula, i.e. subject + be + predicate (in this case, an adjective). The past participle can sometimes be used as an adjective.

"would rise" has different uses depending on its context. I'd suggest you take a look at our will or would page for more information on this. I'm not sure what you mean in your second question; some example sentences with this verb are: "The sun rises at 6, The sun is rising (now), The sun has already risen".

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MIRAZH on Tue, 04/03/2014 - 05:15

Permalink
Hi there,,,hi Peter,,,hi Kirk. You know what...l wanna write diplom work, this year l'll graduate university..and could you give some advice?But l cannot how to begin this work and in what direction l'll write...but l've problem about english in our country,problem is phonetics and dialects!But it seems difficult for me to write...and l need help your advice, suggestion! Best wishes!

Submitted by meheee2008uiu on Mon, 24/02/2014 - 15:51

Permalink
Dear concern 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. What are the different between those sentence?Are they are same meaning? Thanks

Hello meheee2008uiu,

These sentences basically mean the same thing, and can express slight differences depending on their context. Have you looked through our pages on the verb forms used in these sentences: present simple (works), present continuous (is working) and present perfect (has worked and has been working), as well as our page on talking about the present? The different meanings and uses of these verb forms are explained in detail there.

If the difference between these sentences still isn't clear after that, please let us know.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by shohel0720 on Sun, 23/02/2014 - 15:37

Permalink
hi My name is kamruzzamn. I want to sit IELTS test next month. I am very week about academic writting. How can I improve my writing with in short time, and give me suggestion how can I improve my grade.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 23/02/2014 - 20:58

In reply to by shohel0720

Permalink

Hi Kamruzzamn,

It's hard for me to give you advice about improving your grade without knowing a lot more about your current level and your strengths and weaknesses.  The best thing for you to do, I think, to improve in a short time with regard to the IELTS exam is to test yourself with some practice exam papers, and then work on the areas in which you are weakest.  You can find practice papers (with answers), plus exam tips and exam information, on the British Council's Take IELTS site - go to the 'Prepare' section and look at the various pages there.

I hope that is helpful for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MIRAZH on Mon, 17/02/2014 - 09:04

Permalink
Hi Kirk. Thank you for your suggestion,now l'll try to watch english movies and now l'm listening elementary podcast very useful,but whatever l've no practise with anybody to talkin english and relax with it.All what l want to say and enjoy it happens inside me...and when l've free time l'll enter this site.if l have any mistakes sorry..l'll try to write and to say correctly! Best wishes!

Submitted by Leigh1203 on Sat, 15/02/2014 - 17:39

Permalink
Hello I have been told that the following statement is incorrect... In the past I have worked for many schools. Can you tell me if it is incorrect and if so why? Thanks very much Leigh

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 15/02/2014 - 18:32

In reply to by Leigh1203

Permalink

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

Submitted by MIRAZH on Sun, 09/02/2014 - 11:24

Permalink
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

Submitted by hemanth4101985 on Thu, 30/01/2014 - 03:57

Permalink

Hi,

is it the perfect way of conveying?

"just now, I had my breakfast".

Thanks,

Hemanth M B

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 30/01/2014 - 14:15

In reply to by hemanth4101985

Permalink

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

Submitted by hemanth4101985 on Thu, 30/01/2014 - 03:53

Permalink

Hi,

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

Submitted by Lajwanti Arya on Sat, 28/12/2013 - 15:13

Permalink

Hi 

It says on the top of the page that there are two tenses. Shouldn't it says three tenses.

Thanks a lot before.

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 29/12/2013 - 15:56

In reply to by Lajwanti Arya

Permalink

Hi Lajwanti,

According to many linguists, tense refers to the different inflectional forms of a verb that can independently refer to different times. In this sense, verbs have only two tenses in English, though of course in combination with other words (e.g. will, be going to, have, etc.), English verbs can refer to many more different times. Sometimes these other times are also referred to as tenses, but in the strictest sense I first mentioned above, there are only two tenses in English.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by iamsam1987 on Sat, 28/12/2013 - 04:53

Permalink

Greetings to all,

                       My name is Sumeet. I have a query regarding the formation of Negative Interrogative (Interro-negative) sentence.

Have you not picked the parcel yet?

Haven't you picked the parcel yet? (Negative Contracted)

Are both of these correct? Thank you so much in advance. 

 

 

Hi Sumeet,

Yes, the negation in both of those sentences is correct. The sentences sound a little strange to me, however, as pick in this context could only really mean choose. Perhaps you mean pick up (which here would mean collect)?

If that's what you meant, it doesn't change the negation of the verb in any way. Pick up is a separable phrasal verb, so up could go either immediately after picked or after parcel.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by iamsam1987 on Tue, 24/12/2013 - 06:47

Permalink

Greetings to everybody,

My name is Sumeet. I have got a query regarding framing interrogative of the following sentence.

Statement -   I have some books.

In the above statement "HAVE" is functioning as a MAIN VERB, not as an AUXILIARY.

Interrogative 1st - Do I have any books ?

Interrogative 2nd - Have I any books ?

If I am not mistaken, Interrogative 1st is the appropriate answer. In order to frame a question (formal), one has to use the AUXILIARY VERB which is DO in this case. 

In Interrogative 2nd, "HAVE" has to be followed by 3rd form (may be GOT as a main verb) of the verb in order to function as an AUXILIARY VERB.

Am I correct, Sir ?

Thanks a lot,

Sumeet

Hello Sumeet,

You are correct that we need to use 'do' as an auxiliary verb to make a question when 'have' is the main verb.  If we use 'have got' then we can invert, as you say.

I have some books -> Do you have any books?

I have got some books -> Have you got any books?

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lanapon on Sat, 07/12/2013 - 16:52

Permalink

May I ask.. 

"Brando plays an ex-boxer standing up to corrupt bosses." 

why this sentence is in Past tense?

thanks

Hello Lanapon,

It's not in the past tense, it's in the present tense. If you read the instructions of the exercise carefully, you'll see it's about time, not tense.

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by shabbo22 on Sat, 07/12/2013 - 16:49

Permalink

Hii

 He has worked here for two years"

"He has been working here for two years" Do these two sentences mean the same? Please explain.

thank you

 

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 08/12/2013 - 11:23

In reply to by shabbo22

Permalink

Hello shabbo22,

Your examples here are both present perfect, used for describing events which started in the past and continued up to the present, and possibly beyond.  The first sentence is a simple form, emphasising the result/achievement; the second is a continuous form, which tends to be used to emphasise the process or the activity.  In many contexts, including this one, both forms are possible and have similar meanings, but there are contexts in which they have different uses.  For example:

'I've read this book' = the book is finished

'I've been reading this book' = the book is not yet finished

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.  You can find more information on the uses of the present perfect here.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

thanks Peter

your explanation was very clear and good.

Submitted by Amal.mahmoud on Mon, 02/12/2013 - 20:59

Permalink

if u plz can u undersatand me slowly when i can use past simple and past perfect and present perfect and present and past perfect continuos as all of them happened in the pas 

i has confelct  . thnx alot

Hello Amal.mahmoud,

That's a lot of information to put in one answer!  I think the best thing for you to do is to look at the relevant pages and exercises for each form.  If you go to our grammar section then you can find many links.  For example, here are the links to English verb formsincluding links to other forms, such as the past continuous and present perfect continuous.

I would say one more thing, however, and that is that concentrating on particular grammar forms does not necessarily help us to improve the most.  Sometimes focusing on listening and reading skills, and on building vocabulary, is a more productive way to work.  Perhaps you'll find our Elementary Podcasts useful, for example - the episodes have transcripts so you can read as well as listen and there are exercises with each episode, including on grammar.

I hope that is helpful for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by saima khan on Sat, 23/11/2013 - 13:21

Permalink

HELLO!

Could anyone please explain me about these tenses and example.

We use present Indefinite tense to talk about things that will happen in future. Examples: 1.My little sister starts school tomorrow.  2.My family moves to a new house next month. We also use present continuous to talk about things that will happen in future examples: 1. We are going to London next Sunday. 2.He is taking the exams tomorrow. 

Please kindly help me about how to differentiate these examples and how to use tenses in correct way in this situation. Because i don't understand the difference between these tenses and these examples.

please explain me in details

Thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 24/11/2013 - 13:34

In reply to by saima khan

Permalink

Hello saima khan,

I think you can find a clear explanation of exactly these sentences here.  In general, we use the present simple (starts, moves) to describe events in the future which are fixed or timetabled in some way, especially if they are part of a regular and/or repeated sequence.  We use the present continuous (are going, is taking) to describe arranged events, where the actors have agreed as to what they want to do in some way.

However, as I think you can see from the explanations above, which form we use is highly dependent on the context.  The speaker often has several forms which would be correct in a given situation, and can choose between them according to how he or she sees the particular context, or what he or she wants to emphasise.  For example, all of the following sentences are correct; which one we use depends on the particular context and our own emphasis:

My family moves to a new house next month.

My family will move to a new house next month.

My family is moving to a new house next month.

My family is going to move to a new house next month.

My family will be moving to a new house next month.

My family will have moved to a new house next month.

Without knowing the context of your sentences it is impossible to say which of these is most likely or most natural.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.  It is a complex aspect of English!

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by loraa sumz on Mon, 18/11/2013 - 14:31

Permalink
hey,can someone help me to know the uses of the present tense in business tips?

Hi loraa sumz,

I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean by business tips. Could you give a couple of examples of these? I'm sure we can help you to understand them.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zahir Fareed on Tue, 01/10/2013 - 14:28

Permalink

Hi

What is  the correct sentence to  ask in present simple or present continuous :

Does she want to go home now?

OR

Is she wanting to go home now?

Kindly advise 

Hi Zahir Fareed,

That depends on the context in which the sentence is used, but in general, the verb want is not used in the present continuous, so the first sentence will be much more often correct than the second one. When verbs like want that are not normally used in the continuous aspect are used in the continuous, they generally indicate some kind of change or development.

You can read more detailed explanations and get more practice with the present forms on our pages on the present simple, present continuous, and talking about the present.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Anca_SzS on Sat, 14/09/2013 - 18:43

Permalink

Hi! Can you please give us some examples of clauses when present tenses are used to talk about the past?

Thank you for all the work and in advance for the answer to my request!

Hi Anca_SzS,

We use present tenses to talk about the past when, for example, we are telling jokes or anecdotes and we want them to sound immediate and exciting:

'I was sitting in the cafe yesterday when a man came in and...' (standard past tense)

'I'm sitting in the cafe yesterday when a man comes in and...' (present tense used to describe past action)

It is also used, in a similar way, by sports commentators:

'Messi passes to Iniesta who runs with the ball...'

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by avani on Mon, 02/09/2013 - 11:52

Permalink

Respect Sir 

I have very little knowledge of English. My mother tounge is Hindi. Please guide me what is the proper way to learn english. I shall be highly obliged 

thanking your sir