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:

Tense Form
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 ...
    • 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 ….

      Romeo and Juliet is a violent play. After Romeo and Juliet have married in secret, Romeo is walking in Verona when Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt tries to provoke Romeo into a fight. Romeo refuses to fight and leaves, but his friend, Mercutio, is so angry that he fights Tybalt and is killed ….

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Hi,
Could you please explain the grammar of the following sentence?
He decides to fund her education on the condition that she writes to him regularly about her progress.
Is the use of present simple in the second part of the sentence correct? Is the second part (on the condition....) is a conditional sentence? What is the rule about such sentence? If the first part of such sentences is in past tense, should we use past tense in the second half also?
Thanks

Hi naghmairam,

The phrase on condition that is a conditonal form which puts a limit on a situation or action. In meaning it is similar to if or unless... not.  The present form following the phrase has a future meaning here but other forms (present perfect for conditions required before the situation or action takes place, past forms if the whole sentence is put in past time etc).

You can read more about this phrase and others like it on this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

dear sir,

how it is past?
Brando plays an ex-boxer standing up to corrupt bosses.

Hello Faizan Sahgal,

This is explained above in the section about using the present simple to summarise a film or book we have seen or read.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I woud like to know if the following sentence is in the correct tense:

This is a book about a man who deserts his family and goes to America.

Instead of deserts and goes , shouldn't we use instead the present continuous.

Hello orlanda,

It depends a bit on the context, but as a summary of the story, it is normal and correct to use the present simple. This was part of the explanation on this page, but it seems to have disappeared from the page! I'll have to look into this before I can fix it, but in the meantime if you read the Stories and commentaries section of this Cambridge Dictionary page, it should clarify this use of the present simple for you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
I have just sent you a question under 'present perfect tense' in that I have asked about the word 'NOW' you have used it in your website above in both simple and continuous so it is very clear to me now. I am sorry about it but please clarify my first quetion.
Thank you.
Andrew internationnal

Hello Sir
Please clarify this: We have walked about thirty kilo meters today, so we feel tired.(the couple look very tired of course and the picture show that they are unable to walk further) in this situation can't I say : We have been walking thirty kilo meters today, so we feel tired./ so we feel tired now.
Please let me know whether I am right or wrong. Also I would like to know the word 'NOW' is correct to use in both present perfect simple and continuous.
Thank you.
Regards
Andreew international
is alright to use

Hello Andrew international,

The difference between the present perfect simple and continuous is, like any question of aspect, one of how we see the action expressed by the verb. The simple form focuses on the action as a whole and its result; the continuous form focuses on the activity as a process. Sometimes there is a clear difference in meaning, as in:

We've read that. [= we finished it]

We've been reading that. [= we (probably) haven't finished it]

 

In other cases the difference is one of perspective or focus:

She's worked there for a while. [= she still works there; my focus is on the fact or the achievement]

She's been working there for a while. [= she still works there; my focus is on the ongoing activity of working]

 

Generally, when we have a quantity or amount we are focusing on the total and the simple form is more common. Thus, in your example the simple form is more natural because you have the phrase 'thirty kilometres', showing a (completed) achievement. The continuous form, focusing on the activity rather than the act, would be more likely without this phrase.

You can read more about the present perfect simple and continous on this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I have got a Question as follows:
1.Have and has are auxiliaries for present perfect simple.
What are the auxiliaries for present perfect continuous?
A. If the answer is have/has too, then we have the same auxiliaries for two tenses. And this contradicts with the role of auxiliaries which is tense determination.
B. If the answer is that both have/has and been are the auxiliaries for present perfect continuous, then we have two auxiliaries for one tense(have and been). Can that be true?

I hope to get your valuable answers.

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