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
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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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Hello avani,

I'm not sure I can answer your question!  There are many ways to learn a language and different ways are more or less helpful for different people.  

On LearnEnglish you can find all sorts of materials to help you, including materials you can listen to and watch, materials to read and many grammar exercises and vocabulary games.  My advice to you is to try as many different ones as possible, so you can find materials at the best level and see what is most helpful to you.  And remember that you can always use the comments to ask us any specific questions you might have and we'll try to help.

Good luck!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aavi on Fri, 16/08/2013 - 01:53

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Sir I am having doubts regarding to the use of present tenses with future tense

like in the following two examples

1. I’ll phone you when I get home.

2. I’ll come home as soon as I have finished work.

according to my understanding in the second sentence it should be 'as soon as I finish my work.'.

and in another example to

You will be tired out after you have been working all night.

Kindly explain it.

Thanks in advance.

Hello aavi,

After 'as soon as' we can use the present simple ('as soon as I finish') or the present perfect ('as soon as I have finished') and they have very similar meanings, to the point that I cannot think of an example in which only one could be used.

You third sentence ('You will be tired out...') is also fine, but might be more natural with just the -ing form following 'after'.  This is because we tend not to repeat the subject ('you') in successive clauses unless there is a possibility of confusion:

'You will be tired out after working all night.'

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abdorawa on Sat, 10/08/2013 - 20:58

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Thank for your help.I was little comfused with these two sentences:"I work" and "I have worked" are they all in present form? The last one somehow looks like in past form.pls explain to me.

Hello Abdorawa,

Both of these are examples of present forms, but different ones.  'I work' is an example of a present simple form, while 'I have worked' is a present perfect form.  The present perfect is a form which links the past with the present, such as describing an action which began in the past and has not yet finished, or an action in the past which has a present result.  You can find more information on the present simple here, and more on the perfect perfect here.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by saima khan on Sat, 13/07/2013 - 18:41

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Hello.!

Could any one please explain me about these examples

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.

actually i m confused about these examples, in first sentence we use present indefinite tense in its first part and present perfect in its second part. and about second example we use present continuous with present perfect continuous. my question is that, should we always use tenses in this combination like present indefinite with present perfect and present continuous with present perfect continuous or we can change the combination of tenses for example can we use present indefinite with present perfect continuous or present perfect with present continuous.

Thanks for your support 

Hi saima khan,

The combinations of tenses in the examples are typical combinations, though I suppose it is possible to combine them differently. For example, "He works at McDonald's. He has been working there for three months now" may be possible in some contexts, but it sounds a bit unusual to me.

The second combination of tenses (present continuous with present perfect continuous) is often used to speak about a temporary situation. This is also explained on our talking about the present page. The person working at McDonald's could normally work, for example, as a carpenter, but for some reason is now working temporarily at McDonald's. The continuous aspect is what communicates the idea of the situation being temporary.

I hope this helps you. Please let us know if you have any other questions, and thanks for visiting LearnEnglish!

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by amna7994 on Mon, 17/06/2013 - 08:08

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hello,

i don't understand why verbs are conjugated on simple present but answers are showing past ,

 

Best Rgds,

Emna

Hello Emna!

 

Well, the exercise and the article show that even when we use the present tense form, it sometimes has a past (or future) meaning. As the article says, we can use present tense

  • to talk about the past when we are telling a story in spoken English or when we are summarising a book, film, play etc

3 of the questions in the exercise use the present tense to talk about the past.

 

Regards,

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by animesh0721 on Thu, 30/05/2013 - 15:38

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its written here that there are only two tenses in English language while I've read everywhere else that there are three tenses i.e present, past and future and if it is so then how can one say 'I will play cricket tomorrow'.

Hello,

In English, time and tense are different. A tense is a grammatical form of a verb, where the ending changes. There are two of these, past and present. However, there are lots of different ways to talk about time, including the past, the present and the future. So, as it says higher up this page, you can use the present tense to talk about the future as well as the past.

Looking at your example, 'will play cricket' is using a modal verb to talk about what we believe will happen in the future, but it isn't the future tense.

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by kolanji on Fri, 03/05/2013 - 21:53

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Hi,

How do improve the written communication ? Please advice me because my written communication is very pathetic

 

Submitted by Ridham on Thu, 02/05/2013 - 13:14

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Hi, this a very useful website, have learned a lot with the help of this website, but now i want to improve my specking english, is there some one who also wants to improve their specking english, if yes, please do let me know. we can share our skype id for english specking practice.

Hello Ridham!

 

We really like it when students want to practice their English together and find out about people in different parts of the world. That's why we have comment sections on almost all of our pages – so you can talk to other students!

 

However, please remember our house rules ask you not to share personal information, including Skype and e-mail. This is to protect you and everyone else who uses our site.

 

Have fun, and enjoy your stay on LearnEnglish!

 

Regards

Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by miinnaa86 on Mon, 22/04/2013 - 12:30

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Dear  Learn English team 

greetings

 

i do not know when i can use Present perfect and Present perfect continuous

can you explain to me plz ?

 

Best regards

Mina

Hello Mina!

 

That's a very big question! Why not look at our page on the present perfect tenses? Take the time to look through the comments - this is often a difficult area for learners, and you'll see a lot of answers and information from other students and the LearnEnglish staff!

 

Hope that helps!

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Marlene Escobe… on Mon, 22/04/2013 - 10:46

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Hi. I don't understand. .......Brando plays an ex-boxer standing up to corrupt bosses....... why "play" is shown as Past in this exercise........thank you.

Hello Marlene,

The reason is that the action happened in the past! Did you read my answer to Niva Bose below?

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Niva bose on Tue, 26/03/2013 - 09:50

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McEwan handles the characters with his customary skills..... why "handles"is shown as Past in exercise

Hello,

The question is about the time the verbs are referring to, not the tense of the verbs. Remember that time and tense are different in English. 'Handles' is something that McEwan did in the past.

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Niva bose on Tue, 26/03/2013 - 09:40

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sir, I can't make difference between present perfect continuous and future simple as you have given example " You will be tired out if you have been working all night." In this sentence you have been working..... present perfect continuous and you will be tired... future simple. My question is which form of verb I shall  see. It is not clear to me. Please help.

regards

Hello,

I don't quite understand your question, I'm afraid. That sentence is an example of using the present perfect continuous to talk about the future.

By the way, I don't think it's a good idea to describe 'will' as the 'future simple'. 'Will' is a modal verb that, like other modal verbs, is sometimes used to talk about the future. There are also many other ways to talk about the future in English.

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by shaziajami on Tue, 12/03/2013 - 13:11

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we need more exercise plzz...

 

Submitted by Emin7 on Tue, 26/02/2013 - 04:09

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So effective, thank you.

 

Submitted by neelus on Sat, 23/02/2013 - 05:08

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Hello i want to know Use of May or May Not in English, I want to know in which cases may or maynot is used.What does actually may or maynot means.

Hello neelus!

 

We usually use may to show we are not sure about something:

It may rain tomorrow = I don't know - maybe it will rain, maybe it won't

 

Or to ask for things politely (this is not the same as the use above)

May I have a cup of tea?

You can read more about may and do some exercises about it on our grammar page talking about may.

Hope that helps!

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Shikha Vyas on Fri, 22/02/2013 - 04:43

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Hello.. I am a new member and i do not know from where to start.. plz guide me

 

Hello Skikha Vyas!

 

Welcome to LearnEnglish! Well, you should see this website as a library – just borrow whatever interests you! A good place to start is our Elementary Podcasts. These are short radio shows about different topics. To help your listening, vocabulary and grammar, you can listen to them, read the transcripts, and do the exercises. You can talk to other learners in the comments, too. There is lots of other material in our Listen and Watch section as well. If you want to work on grammar, take a look at our grammar section.

 

Don't forget that we also have a search box. Put a topic you're interested in into the box – like 'meeting people' or 'the present simple' - and you'll get a list of pages about that topic.

 

We have a lot of different levels on the site, so don't worry if something is too hard – find something easier, and come back to it later. Just try to look at something every day!

 

Hope that helps,

 

Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rose_200354 on Thu, 21/02/2013 - 11:01

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Hello

I really like this part and i added its on my notebook.it is useful to understand. I have problem in speaking because when i speak English, I just use simple present .

Thanks

Submitted by aliansari220 on Thu, 14/02/2013 - 12:24

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Salam(Hi)

I really become confused while I read English tenses specially in simple present tense and a note you said that we can use simple present to describe the past tense but you don't write a sentence about it.

if you really help me in simple present tense and usages of it i will really thankful of you

thank you.

Hello,

The examples of using the present simple to talk about the past are in the exercise.

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Criss Ana on Tue, 12/02/2013 - 13:00

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Hello,

Why question number 5 is past tense and not present?

Thank you

Hello Criss,

Number 5 is present tense (like all the sentences), but that's not what the task is asking about. The task is asking what time the sentences refer to. In English, time and tense are not the same.

Question 5 is talking about an actor's performance in the past.

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by don summer 94 on Tue, 12/02/2013 - 00:50

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am new here much  thanks to BC

Submitted by eng learner on Mon, 11/02/2013 - 17:03

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i don't understand the difference between these two sentences:

He has worked there for three months now.

and

He has been working there for three months now.

please explain.

thank you

Submitted by seham fadL on Wed, 06/02/2013 - 12:25

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Hi, Adam & Jeremy, We have no explain or examples about (present tenses to talk about the past)
Hello Seham! That's because we don't use the present tenses to talk about the past - only the present and some kinds of future. Regards Jeremy Bee
Mentioned in the lesson that the present tenses in English are used: * to talk about the past when we are telling a story in spoken English or when we are summarising a book, film, play etc. And we can use the present continuous to talk about the past: * When we are summarising the story from a book, film or play, etc

Hello Seham Fadl!

 

I see what you mean - my mistake! We do use the present tense in these cases, although the form does not change. In spoken English, telling a story using present tense makes it seem more real and immediate for the listener. It's also common to use present tense to retell or discuss stories.

 

You can find examples of both in the exercises - see questions 3, 5 and 8.

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Jeremy,

It's not your mistake, It's my mistake, because I could not explain what I mean.

Thank you very much for your help. You (The Learn English Team) are the best ever.

Submitted by jmslayer on Fri, 02/11/2012 - 11:39

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1} You look sad. Anything the matter? Is this question are correct sentence.

Or 2}You look sad. Anything matter? or I can  omit The in a sentence.

Submitted by rashed1234 on Wed, 31/10/2012 - 17:32

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hi Admin,

i am very much confused regarding English grammar specially  in using tense. i don't get any confidence when i write something and its bother me a lot. do u have any suggestion how could i improve my english. is it possible that i write a paragraph or anything and you just figure out my mistakes.

sorry but whatever i have written above i am not sure whether it is grammatically correct or not.

i really need assistance.

thanks

Hello rashed1234,

 

Tense is often a problem for learners! It often takes people a long time to really understand it. Just do the exercises on our pages, read the information, and take your time. If you can, talk it through with a teacher or another student. Remember that reading and listening will often help your grammar without you realising - try our Elementary Podcasts for lots of examples of how to use tenses! You can also talk to other learners in the comments section, and this will give you chance to practise your writing.

Unfortunately, because of the number of comments we get, we can't offer personal corrections - sorry about that!

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by vhpawar on Mon, 20/08/2012 - 08:17

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Hi Everybody,

I'm newly joined member, I want to improve my English, so can go for an international assignments. My current level is intermediate.

Anybody can guide, what steps I should follow?

With best regards,

Varsha

Submitted by bohemianitta on Wed, 18/07/2012 - 10:57

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I posted a question two weeks ago ( more or less) and nobody answered it , I wonder what is wrong ?

Submitted by M.MOHAN on Tue, 17/04/2012 - 10:35

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Thanks Adam.

I could understand both of these sentences.

Submitted by M.MOHAN on Mon, 16/04/2012 - 11:47

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Hi BC Team,

i couldn't understand the following two sentences. They are

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

"McEwan handles the characters with his customary skill."

Can you please clarify the sentences.

thanks.