Present tense

Learn about the different present tense forms (present simple, present continuous and present perfect) and do the exercises to practise using them.

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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Hi Kirk, thanks. If the example I quoted was unnatural, how then would you phrased it? Maybe something like "I did my homework from 8 to 9 o'clock"? Also (sorry if I seem to be repeating, but just trying to better understand), If I used another action, would it make any difference? For instance, if I say "I did my homework at eight o'clock", am I right to say that this can mean either that I started doing my homework and presumably finished sometime after eight o'clock, or that I started and finished doing my homework at exactly eight o'clock? - but that the first meaning is the one that most speakers will understand and interpret to mean since it is the logical one (in that you will need some time to complete the homework and that rules out the second meaning)? Thank you.

Hi magnuslin

Yes, what you suggest for your sentence sounds good to me.

Regarding your second question, I'd assume that you meant you either began or finished it at 8, but literally it could mean that you did it in less than one minute. Most of the time, this level of detail is probably not too important, but if it is, usually either the context will make it clear or the speaker will be more specific.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Thu, 21/05/2020 - 14:18

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Hi, Is it grammatically correct to use the simple past tense without any time expression (e.g. simply "I went to the cinema", instead of "I went to the cinema yesterday", where the time expression is "yesterday"). In this case, I am simply indicating that these events began and concluded (i.e. occurred or happened) at some point in the past, and while i do have a time period in mind, I simply did not say it. Is this grammatical? Regards, Tim
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 22/05/2020 - 08:23

In reply to by Timothy555

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Hello Tim,

Yes, that's fine. The time reference may be implied by the context or it may simply not be stated and we understand that it exists but is not relevant to what we want to say. For example:

Do you know any good doctors?

Sure. I studied medicine. I know lots of them!

 

Hey, guess what? I went to shop and Joe was there!

Really? How is he?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Fri, 22/05/2020 - 10:09

In reply to by Peter M.

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Hi Peter, thanks for clarifying. I guess just to add on, for the example you quoted (i.e. I studied medicine), We could also have used the present perfect (i.e. I've studied medicine) since the aim is to simply say that I've had the experience of studying medicine but when exactly the studying of medicine happened is not important - this would be a perfect situation to used the present perfect (i.e. for a past action that finished in the past but which still has an effect in the present/now), wouldn't it? Regards, Tim

Hi Tim,

That's correct, though I think we would be more likely to use the past simple here as the present perfect would suggest a more direct present result such as knowing first aid or being a qualified doctor.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Auden on Wed, 25/03/2020 - 22:52

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Hello, please advice. I do not understand why the exercise 'present tense 3' has the 'present perfect' as the correct answer? Thank you, Auden

Hello Auden,

The frog says "Read it!"

This is a shortened form of the present perfect: "I have read it!"

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed S. Dawoud on Sun, 08/03/2020 - 08:44

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Hi! Which is correct and why? 1- What is your name and address? OR 2- What are your name and address? Can we consider" name and address"as one entity or two separate things?!
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Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 08/03/2020 - 09:08

In reply to by Ahmed S. Dawoud

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Hello Ahmed S. Dawoud

People say 1 and not 2. In other words, 'name and address' are treated as one thing here. In theory, there is no reason you couldn't treat them as separate, but I've never seen or heard a sentence like 2.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by raphway on Mon, 24/02/2020 - 13:40

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"The delicious round chocolate'' " the round delicious chocolate " Which is correct please?

Hello raphway,

Normally opinion words come first, so we would say delicious round rather than round delicious. However, sometimes a speaker or writer might change the normal order round to achieve a certain effect. This is common in marketing, for example.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by RT on Sat, 30/11/2019 - 06:21

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Hi, please kindly advise: If I say “one doesn’t get tired of going there no matter how many times they were (he/she was) there” Can I use “they” instead of he or she ? Thanks

Hello RT,

Mixing 'one' and 'they' does not sound natural. You can use 'one' in both parts of the sentence:

One doesn’t get tired of going there no matter how many times one has been.

(The present perfect is a better choice as the time period is implicitly unfinished, and there is no need to repeat 'there')

 

Alternatively, you could use a general noun at the start and then a pronoun afterwards:

A person doesn’t get tired of going there no matter how many times they have been.

A person doesn’t get tired of going there no matter how many times he or she has been.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by RT on Fri, 22/11/2019 - 07:12

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Hi, please advise If I am talking to someone, I believe I can say “hope you understand what I said ? But if I am referring to something I said, like a few days ago, shall I say “ hope you understood what I said ?” Thanks

Hi RT,

You could actually use either form in either situation. If you consider the understanding to be something that is current then the present is appropriate, even if the conversation happened in the past. Conversely, if you consider the understanding to be a past action then you would use the past form, even if the conversation is still ongoing (but has moved on to other topics, for example).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by RT on Sun, 10/11/2019 - 06:46

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Got some mixed up on the tenses of the following sentence: Let’s say after I received a report and wish to tell my wife what it is (was) Shall I say it is (was) a report of your property and everything is (was) in order? Thanks

Hello RT,

If you have the report and it is still current (i.e. your wife's situation has not changed), then using present tense (is) makes sense. If you no longer have the report or it is no longer current, then past tense (was) would be better.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks. Let’s say the report is current but of course I cannot be sure whether everything are still in order at present, In that case shall I say “It is an inspection report of your property and everything “was” in order (as according to the report)” Such time frame issues are what I always got mixed up, thanks

Hello RT,

Yes, that would be correct. You could add '...was fine at the time of the report' if you wished to make it explicit.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by zz11 on Mon, 30/09/2019 - 11:18

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Hi, Could you please explain why is the frogs last sentence in the present perfect?....The chicken shows the books to the frog and the frog, looking at the books one by one, shakes his head and says, 'Read it! Read it! Read it!'
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Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 01/10/2019 - 06:52

In reply to by zz11

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Hello zz11

I'd say that 'read it!' is actually the past simple here -- the present perfect would be 'have read it!'. Part of the joke here is that 'read it' sounds very similar to 'ribbit', which is the word native English speakers often use to simulate a frog's croak (the sound a frog makes). Does that make sense?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Mon, 05/08/2019 - 13:57

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Hello sir, Today I had been to a college programme and I saw a board their which read ' orientation programme for welcoming first year students" I would like to know if we can use 'welcoming' as a verb like this. I have seen dictionary entry for welcoming in canbridge dictionary and it says it is adjective. Will you help me clear the doubt ?
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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 05/08/2019 - 15:23

In reply to by dipakrgandhi

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Hello dipakrgandhi

I understand this sign to be an abbreviated form of 'Orientation programme for (the purpose of) welcoming first year students'. In this case, 'welcoming' is an -ing form used as a noun (also known as a gerund).

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Samshr on Mon, 05/08/2019 - 07:56

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Hi I have a question. I'm not sure if it's correct. How does she feel when she gets home? Is it correct? Because we have does in the second part of the question. I would appreciate if you could answer me. Thanks
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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 05/08/2019 - 15:28

In reply to by Samshr

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Hello Samshr

That question is grammatically correct. The main clause ('How does she feel?') has subject-verb inversion and the subordinate clause 'when she gets home' has the normal word order.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MohitUkey on Sun, 04/08/2019 - 14:08

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Sir, In the sentence, "She works in London." what does the word "works" denote ? I am confused. Does it denote, "present state" or "present habit" or "temporary present" or "temporary habit" ?

Hello MohitUkey

What that really means depends on the context (which is ungiven here), but if you had to choose one, I'd say present habit.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Imran 26 on Mon, 15/07/2019 - 19:19

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He has worked there for three months now. He has been working there for three months now. hi Sir, I am confused about both of the above sentences. please clear it to me what the difference in these sentences for situation.

Submitted by karthik_ande on Wed, 19/06/2019 - 14:33

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Which is correct and why “We should go soon. Our last bus will leave at midnight” and “We should go soon. Our last bus leaves at midnight”

Hello karthik_ande

The second one is the better one for most situations, for example, when we know the bus is scheduled to leave at that time. You can read more about the different forms we use to talk about the future on our Talking about the future page.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 06:48

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Hello Sir I would like to know the difference between these two sentences. Please let me know. He has worked there for three months now. He has been working there for three months now. Thank you. Regards Lal
Hello Lal It really depends on the situation, but, for example, the second one could imply that it is a temporary situation, or is an important change in some way. Please see the following pages for more on this: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar/present-perfect https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar/continuous-aspect All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rejaul islam on Fri, 26/04/2019 - 04:30

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I shall have a broken glass. Can you please tell me which tense is this sentence? I need it..
Hello Rejaul islam 'shall' is often called a future form, but it's not really used to speak about the future in standard British English. Instead, it's mostly used to make offers or suggestions. For example, I can offer to bring you a glass by saying 'Shall I bring you a glass?' You can read more about how 'shall' is used on https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/modals-and-modality/shall . All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by chhaya on Wed, 17/04/2019 - 10:12

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I have a doubt, in frog joke paragraph. Present simple tense is used to every time when librarian gives book to frog. But for the third time, present perfect is used. `So, after she's given the chicken some more books` I wanna know why?
Hello chhaya, Both the present simple and the present perfect are grammatically correct here. The present perfect emphasises that the action took place before another action (note the use of the word 'after' to show this). Here is a similar example: > After I give him the money, you can arrest him. > After I have given him the money, you can arrest him. Both sentences are correct, but the second emphasises that the first action (giving) comes before the second (arresting). ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team
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Submitted by AminulIslam. on Mon, 15/04/2019 - 14:52

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Which of the following best fits? Don't worry,English grammar is not...... to understand. a.so difficult b.too difficult c.difficult enough d.very difficult Sir would you please explain ?
Hello AminulIslam. The answers all mean something different, so it's difficult to say because I don't know what the speaker intends. But if I had to choose one answer, I suppose I'd choose a, though it's not the only possible answer. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Marua on Tue, 02/04/2019 - 08:07

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Hello. I have been searching the answer, but I'm not 100% sure whether " go in the park" is correct. I know that 'go' is a verb of movement, so I should say 'go to the park' and also "play in the park" is correct. But what about 'go in the park'? Is it acceptable? Meaning - " inside the park" not at the edge of it? I really appreciate your help. Thank u
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Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 02/04/2019 - 17:36

In reply to by Marua

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Hello Marua We often use the preposition 'into' to speak about entering an enclosed space, and that is what would be the most natural here: 'go into the park'. Once you are inside the park, then you could play in the park (or 'inside the park'), and before you arrive, you could go to the park. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Mon, 01/04/2019 - 09:54

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Hello Sir Please tell me which is correct. It is me. or It is I. Thank you. Regards Lal
Hello Lal There is disagreement about this: some people prefer 'me' and others insist that 'I' is better. I prefer to say 'me', but please note that plenty of other people prefer 'I'. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team
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Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Tue, 08/01/2019 - 05:03

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My relative's book on engineering subject has been published . I received message from him : With god's grace, my new book has published on 1st Jan 2019. Is it correct to say ' my new book has published' ; I would say it should be in passive if we treat book as a subject , but his message is not in passive. What would you say, sir ?

Hello dipakrgandhi,

A passive form is needed:

'my new book has been published'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team