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 nadarali1996,

The first sentence (have always answered) tells us about your behaviour up to now. It does not tell us what might happen in the future. In fact, you might say this to highlight a change:

I have always answered his letters but from now on I'm going to ignore them.

You can read more about this form (the present perfect) on this page.

 

The second sentence (always answer) describes your typical behaviour. It tells us that it is normal for you to answer the letters.

You can read more about this form (the present simple) on this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par phia le mar 23/05/2017 - 00:02

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can anyone tell me where is the main verb in this sentence "I’m sure you could ask him" I'm still confuse about be as an auxiliary or a main verb and whether infinitive belongs to verb or not.

Hello phia,

There are two clauses in this sentence: 'I'm sure' and '(that) you could ask him'. The main verb in the first is 'am' and the second is 'ask' -- 'could' is a modal verb.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par NinaKonde le sam 13/05/2017 - 18:34

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Why "does " is used here instead of "is"? .It doesnt envy . It doesnt boast. But in the same sentence is used "is" . - It's not proud.

Hello NinaKonde,

'Boast' here is a verb and so the negative is formed with do/does:

I don't boast

He doesn't boast

'Proud' is an adjective and so we use the verb 'be'. The negative is formed with just 'not':

I'm not proud / I am not proud

He's not proud / He isn't proud / He is not proud

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Desola le ven 05/05/2017 - 11:57

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Hello, I would like to know a definite meaning of tense and time in English language. I am studying the articles on Tense on this site and I arrive at the conclusion that, there are only 2 tenses and the future is a time expressed by these tenses. What of a statement like " I will come". I thought will, shall are verbs used in the future tenses. Another question that I would like to ask, is there subjunctive in English language? Is there anything like conditional tenses? Thanks.

Hello Desola,

Sometimes people speak of English having two tenses, and other times as many as 12. As you can imagine, the word 'tense' is used to mean different things. In the first case, it refers to single words with different forms -- in this meaning, there are only the present and past simple tenses in English. But most of the time, we refer to plenty of others, such as the future, present perfect, etc.

English does have subjunctive forms, though they are mostly identical to other indicative forms, so many people don't realise it. There are also a series of conditional structures, which you can find explained on our Conditionals 1 and 2 pages.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par niky_02nqn le jeu 04/05/2017 - 20:44

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Hello! Is it correct to say "they ARE/AREN'T agree with my opinion" or is it wrong? The situation is this: my English teacher gave me a multiple choice test where I should circle the correct answer. He gave me to choose between the options "are","aren't","do" and "don't". I should complete the sentence "They ___ agree with my opinion". I chose "don't" because​ all my ex teaches taught me that way. The thing is that my teacher told me it was wrong but he never gave me his reasons. He only told me he don't agree with that rule... what's the rule? I asked him but I received no explanation. Thanks for your help!

Hello niky_02nqn,

The correct form here is 'don't'; 'aren't' is not correct. The reason is that 'agree' here is a normal verb in the present simple and the negative is formed with 'do not' (or 'does not').

You can use 'aren't' with the following phrase:

They aren't in agreement with my opinion.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par attiq ur rehman le sam 29/04/2017 - 15:52

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sir i want ask about sentence like Have you got plaster? i have been chopping the vegetables for dinner and i have cut my finger. this giving me the sense of past continuous when "i have been chopping the vegetables'

Hello attiq ur rehman,

'have been chopping' is a present perfect continuous form, not a past continuous form (which would be 'was chopping'), but you've used the present perfect continuous form correctly here -- it is the best form for this situation.

By the way, you should say 'a plaster' -- 'plaster' without an article means something different that doesn't make sense here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Najid Ali le sam 22/04/2017 - 07:38

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she put forward some cogent here I don't use the "s" with put but still the sentence is correct why?

Hello Najid Ali,

I think you can find the answer to this question yourself. Use a dictionary to check the various forms of the verb 'put' and then analyse the sentence and identify the tense of the verb in this sentence - you may need to look at the context in which you found the sentence.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Najid Ali le sam 22/04/2017 - 07:36

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This he achieves by means of words... here in this sentence i have use "s" with achieves and also with means "S" why?

Hello Najod Ali,

This question has already been answered on a different page (you can see the answer here). Please post questions once only as multiple posts of the same question will be deleted and it only makes the process slower.

I think you can work out the answers to many of your questions yourself with a little thought and some use of a dictionary (as I suggested in the answer above). Please try to find the answer yourself before posting - it is much better if you can work something out yourself as you will remember it much better than if someone simply tells you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par thagnes le sam 01/04/2017 - 06:56

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If we make a question with WHO , it's normally used with 3rd person singular. Eg. Who likes football? Who has seen this film? But we can use Who with third person plural of to be, eg Who are your friends? What happens in present continuous? Is it correct: Who are playing football now?

Hello Thagnes,

When 'who' is the subject of the verb and the subject is in the third person, we tend to use a singular form of the auxiliary verb 'be', even when logically the plural would be more appropriate. Your example is a good one -- in this case, most native speakers would say 'Who's playing football?', even though clearly in many contexts the subject refers to more than one person. As far as I know, there is no reason for this that is logically satisfactory, i.e. I think it's just a question of usage.

That's very observant of you -- well done!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Soumis par Snehth le mer 22/03/2017 - 11:32

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Hello, Which of the following is correct? 1. I'm sure i have locked the door and I clearly remember locking it. 2. I'm sure I have locked the door and I clearly remember having locked it.

Soumis par Kirk le jeu 23/03/2017 - 07:26

En réponse à par Snehth

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Hello Snehth,

Both sentences would be better if you changed 'i have locked' (present perfect) to 'I locked' (past simple). This is because if you remember what you did, it was clearly in the past and has no real connection to the present. The present perfect implies some kind of connection to the present which is incongruous with the rest of the sentence.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Najid Ali le dim 19/03/2017 - 05:50

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Sir Peter M if I want to borrow a book from British Council library in Pakistan how can I get the book. Do you have any information regarding this?

Soumis par Najid Ali le dim 19/03/2017 - 05:43

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someone has to do this someone have to do this which one is the correct?

Soumis par Najid Ali le jeu 16/03/2017 - 14:34

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some students come regularly some student comes regularly are these both sentences are correct if yes then How?

Hello Najid Ali,

The first sentence is correct. It describes a number of students and their behaviour.

The second sentence is not standard English. We do not use 'some' with a singular countable noun in this way.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Najid Ali,

This is explained at the top of our present simple page. 'comes' is the form that we use with singular third-person nouns, e.g. 'he', 'she', 'it', 'a student', 'the student'. 'some student' is not a correct form, as Peter mentioned.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Najid Ali le jeu 16/03/2017 - 14:32

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I really need someone help to write and understand the English very well I really feel that I am too weak in English grammar and sometimes I become confused between British and American spellings and Pronunciation.Pls help me if anyone has command on its grammar and Speaking skill

Hello Najid Ali,

Welcome to LearnEnglish! Obviously, it's hard for us to comment in detail on your English as we don't know your strengths and weaknesses so well, but we can give you some general tips. You can find these on this page, where we provide suggestions for improving particular aspects of English such as speaking, grammar, vocabulary and so on.

You might also take a look at our Getting Started section, which gives advice about using the LearnEnglish site effectively.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par naghmairam le mer 15/03/2017 - 05:00

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Hello, What form of verb ( singular or plural) should we use in a question if the answer can be either singular or plural? For example: What push/pushes the star into oblivion? Thanks

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 16/03/2017 - 07:51

En réponse à par naghmairam

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Hello naghmairam,

Generally we use a singular verb in such questions. A plural verb is possible if we are sure that we are asking about multiple items, but even then a singular verb is more common.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par mtere le jeu 09/03/2017 - 20:18

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Hello team, I feel confused. Why the correct answer of these sentence are in Past and not in Present : "Brando plays an ex-boxer standing up to corrupt bosses" and "So I say to him, 'What's your game, son?' Thank you very much.

Hello mtere,

You could express this using past forms:

Brando played an ex-boxer standing up to corrupt bosses

So I said to him, 'What's your game, son?'

When we use present tenses we make the action seem more immediate. It is quite common in anecdotes, commentaries (football commentary, for example, but also when relating a story or the plot of a film) and jokes.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Widescreen le ven 24/02/2017 - 17:50

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Hi team, Could you please explain why the structure: "this is the last time" only followed by present tense / present continuos/ simple future? Eg. This is the last time I fix/ will fix/ am going to fix your toy. Can't I say : This is the last time I fixed your toy? thank you

Soumis par Peter M. le sam 25/02/2017 - 07:55

En réponse à par Widescreen

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Hello Widescreen,

I'm not sure I can explain 'why' the structure works like this, but I can confirm that it does!

You can use the past form only when the introductory phrase is also in the past:

This is the last time I will fix your toy.

This is the last time I fix your toy.

but

That was the last time I fixed your toy.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par naghmairam le mar 14/02/2017 - 06:53

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Hello, sometimes I have to frame questions about fictional stories, such as fairy tales, novels and plays. I wish to know what is correct tense to use----simple present or simple past? Thanks

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 15/02/2017 - 07:45

En réponse à par naghmairam

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Hello naghmairam,

Although we can use present forms for narratives we generally do this only with certain kinds of story, such as jokes and anecdotes. Other forms almost always use past forms.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Jarek_O le mar 24/01/2017 - 21:55

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Hi Team, Aren't examples for "We can use the present tenses to talk about the past..." missing?

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 25/01/2017 - 07:19

En réponse à par Jarek_O

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Hi Jarek_O,

Yes, they are! Thank you for pointing this out. I'm not sure why, but we'll make a note to add them next time we edit the page.

We use the term 'historical present' for this and you can read about it (and see examples) here. It's quite common in certain genres, especially history but also in anecdotes and jokes ('So I go into the bar, right, and then this guy comes up to me and he says...').

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Guru le dim 15/01/2017 - 10:17

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Where are the future indefinite/continious/perfect and perfect continuous tense in your grammar section? Please reply Admin.

Hello Guru,

The author of this section, Dave Willis, preferred to describe English grammar using different terminology. According to this system, there is no future tense in English - rather, different forms such as, for example, 'be going to + infinitive', the present continuous and the modal verb 'will' + verb, are used to talk about the future.

There are several pages that explain these - here are the ones that I think will be most useful for you:

There are also a couple of pages in our Quick Grammar (where we do talk about a 'future' tense) that I'd also recommend: Future continuous & Future perfect and Future plans.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par mahua_chakravarty le jeu 05/01/2017 - 06:50

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Hello, I have picked up these sentences from the examples given in this lesson(to talk about the future), can I rewrite them as follows: 1)Example: The next train leaves this evening at 1700 hrs The next train will leave this evening at 1700 hrs.(My version) 2)Example: He's meeting Peter in town this afternoon. He will meet Peter in town this afternoon.(My version) 3)Example: I'll come home as soon as I have finished work. I'll come home as soon as I finish work.(My version) 4)Example: You will be tired out after you have been working all night.(I don't know but this sentence does not sound correct to me,the use of 'have been working'). You will be tired out after you will be working all night.(My version) (not quite sure about this too) You will be tired out after you work all night.(My version) Please advise if the 'my version' are correct. The last sentence is tough for me to understand! Thanks and regards, Mahua

Soumis par Kirk le ven 06/01/2017 - 09:29

En réponse à par mahua_chakravarty

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Hello Mahua,

In 1-3, your version could be correct, though the meanings are likely to be slightly different. It really depends on the context. For example, in 1, using 'will' could imply a prediction. If you're buying a ticket in the station, however, you're more likely to hear the ticket agent use the present simple form, unless the trains are running off schedule - in which case, using 'will' would make more sense.

Sentence 4 is correct, albeit not as common as, for example, 'You'll be tired out after working all night'. Of your two versions, the second one is grammatical but the first is not.

Learning to use the different forms to talk about the future in English takes time, practice and patience. Another great resource on this topic is the Grammar - future section of the Cambridge Dictionary, which you might want to read through if you really want to sink your teeth into this topic even more.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par m_mary le dim 01/01/2017 - 19:14

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Hello sir, what's the difference between 'He has worked there for three months now.' and 'He has been working for three months now.' I don't get how to apply the right one at the right time. Thank you

Hello m_mary,

This is a difficult area because the choice of simple or continuous often depends on the perspective of the speaker rather than an objective rule. In other words, often both present perfect simple and continuous are correct, but emphasise different aspects of the action or state being described.

You can find a discussion of when each form is used on this page. You might also find this page on perfective aspect helpful.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par akami le ven 30/12/2016 - 12:17

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Hello sir Can I say that the present simple and the present perfect are allways following eachother!? as it have been mentioned in the first example "He works at McDonald’s. He has worked there for three months now."; I mean when I find the first verb in the present simple automatically the following verb will be in the present perfect? and the same with present continuous and the present perfect continuous? Thank you

Soumis par amol le lun 26/12/2016 - 13:01

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Hello, Why do we use "s/es" after verbs in the first person.

Soumis par Peter M. le mar 27/12/2016 - 08:22

En réponse à par amol

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Hello amol,

I'm not sure what you mean here. Please provide an example sentence and we'll try to explain.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team