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 ….




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!
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear  Learn English team 
i do not know when i can use Present perfect and Present perfect continuous
can you explain to me plz ?
Best regards

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!
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

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,
The LearnEnglish Team

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

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,
The LearnEnglish Team

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.