Present simple

Learn about the present simple and do the exercises to practise using it.

Level: beginner

The present tense is the base form of the verb:

I work in London. 

But with the third person singular (she/he/it), we add an –s:

She works in London.

Present simple questions

Look at these questions:

Do you play the piano?
Where do you live?

Does Jack play football?
Where does he come from?

Do Rita and Angela live in Manchester?
Where do they work?

We use do and does to make questions with the present simple. We use does for the third person singular (she/he/it) and do for the others.

We use do and does with question words like where, what and when:

Where do Angela and Rita live?
What does Angela do?
When does Rita usually get up?

But questions with who often don't use do or does:

Who lives in London?
Who plays football at the weekend?
Who works at Liverpool City Hospital?

Here are some useful questions. Try to remember them:

Where do you come from?
Do you come from …?
Where do you live?
Do you live in ...?
What work do you do?
Do you like …?
Do you know …?

 
Present simple questions 1

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Present simple questions 2

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Present simple questions 3

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Present simple questions 4

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Present simple negatives

Look at these sentences:

I like tennis but I don't like football. (don't = do not)
I don't live in London now.
I don't play the piano but I play the guitar.
They don't work at the weekend.
John doesn't live in Manchester.
(doesn't = does not)
Angela doesn't drive to work. She goes by bus.

We use do and does to make negatives with the present simple. We use doesn't for the third person singular (she/he/it) and don't for the others.

Present simple negatives 1

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Present simple negatives 2

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Present simple and present time

We use the present simple to talk about:

  • something that is true in the present:

I'm nineteen years old.
I'm a student.
He lives in London.

  • something that happens regularly in the present:

I play football every weekend.

  • something that is always true:

The human body contains 206 bones.
Light travels at almost 300,000 kilometres per second.

We often use adverbs of frequency like sometimes, always and never with the present simple:

I sometimes go to the cinema.
She never plays football.

Here are some useful sentences. Complete them so that they are true for you and try to remember them:

My name is … .
I'm … years old.
I come from … .
I live in … .
I'm a(n) … .
I … at the weekend.
I often … .
I never … .

Complete these sentences so that they are true for a friend and try to remember them:

Her/His name is … .
She's/He's … years old.
She/He comes from … .
She/He lives in … .
She's/He's a(n) … .
She/He … at the weekend.
She/He often … .
She/He never … .
Present simple 1

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Present simple 2

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Present simple 3

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Present simple 4

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Present simple 5

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Present simple 6

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Present simple 7

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Level: intermediate

Present simple and future time

We also use the present simple to talk about:

  • something that is fixed in the future:

The school term starts next week.
The train leaves at 19.45 this evening.
We fly to Paris next week.

  • something in the future after time words like when, after and before and after if and unless:

I'll talk to John when I see him.
You must finish your work before you go home.

If it rains we'll get wet.
He won't come unless you ask him.

Present simple 8

ex. Present simple 8

Level: advanced

We sometimes use the present simple to talk about the past when we are: 

  • telling a story:

I was walking down the street the other day when suddenly this man comes up to me and tells me he has lost his wallet and asks me to lend him some money. Well, he looks a bit dangerous so I'm not sure what to do and while we are standing there 

  • summarising a book, film or play:

Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts School. He has two close friends, Hermione and …

Shakespeare's Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark. One night he sees his father's ghost. The ghost tells him he has been murdered 

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Submitted by Tal D. on Mon, 21/11/2022 - 16:28

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Hello Sir,
thank you so much for your wonderful and practical explenation.
I wanted to please ask you about the last part, where you explained about using "Present simple" \ "Present continuous" - when talking about the "past" - when you're telling a story and you want to pull the listener into the moment .
In the example story you gave, you used both tenses.

My question is -
how sould I know, in this case, when to use in the story the"Present simple" and when the "Present continuous"?

Hi Tal D.,

Great, I'm glad you found it useful :)

The present simple is used for the main sequence of events (i.e. the things that happened). The present continuous is used for events which are a background to others, as in the example above ("While we are standing there ..." - it seems that "standing there" was the background action to another action that happened). In that way, the use is similar to the use of the past simple and past continuous in a conventional past narrative.

The present continuous can also be used to heighten even further the effect of being in the moment. Adapting the example above, for example: "Well, he's looking a bit dangerous so I'm not feeling sure ..."

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sxphia_jx on Sat, 19/11/2022 - 05:43

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Hi Sir,

I am a little bit confused about the present tense in short story.

Story:
I was walking down the street the other day when suddenly this man comes up to me and tells me he has lost his wallet and asks me to lend him some money. Well, he looks a bit dangerous so I'm not sure what to do and while we are standing there …

I am confused about where it starts with "I was" and then turns to present tense.

Hope you can answer

Thanks

Hi sxphia_jx,

This is actually quite common in spoken English. Normally, we use past forms for telling stories (narratives). In fact, the verb forms past simple, past continuous, past perfect simple and past perfect continuous are collective sometimes known as 'narrative tenses'. However, when we are recounting a story in a more informal setting (such as telling a joke or a sharing an anecdote), we can use present forms to give a sense of immediacy and to bring the story more to life. As you can see from this text, it's possible to begin with past forms and then switch to present forms for effect.

Present forms can even be used in this way in writing and even in novels. Some well-known examples include One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Ken Kesey), Bleak House (Charles Dickens) and The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ismmohit on Tue, 15/11/2022 - 12:15

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I have gone through the article on present simple. It is wonderfully written and has covered its different uses.

What I learnt is that it can be used to talk about the scheduled future events, for example: -
1. The school term starts next week.
2. The train leaves at 19:45 this evening.
3. We fly to Paris next week.

I would like to ask whether we can use simple future (instead of simple present) in these type of sentences like
1. The school term will start next week.
2. The train will leave at 19:45 this evening.
3. We will fly to Paris next week.

Is there any difference in the meaning of the above sentences due to replacement of present simple by future simple or do they mean exactly the same?

Hello Mohit,

I'm glad that you found the page useful. I think you'd find the Talking about the future page useful as well, as it compares the different forms most commonly used to speak about the future. It doesn't cover all possible uses, but is definitely quite useful.

In theory, the three sentences with 'will' could be correct in an appropriate situation, but I'm afraid I'm having a hard time thinking of an example for any of them. The present simple ones are much more commonly used.

If you have a specific situation in mind, please let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lRaisa on Sun, 09/10/2022 - 19:37

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Hi,
I have questions about summarising.
Is it possible to write a whole summary ( for example a book ) in past tenses?
And why do we use present tenses + past tenses in a summary?

Hello IRaisa,

Yes, it's possible to use past tenses to summarise. People often use present tenses when telling a story because it makes the story seem more alive or more real. The present tense reflects the reality of the listener, who is finding out about the story in the moment they are hearing it.

In a summary, the present can have a similar sense, or it can also have the sense that the story (or film or whatever) is something that is kind of timeless since it can be told at any time. That is, you can read the book now or read it in the future, and other people read it in the past. It might help to think of the story as a building or the sunrise. Both existed yesterday, are happening today, and we expect them to exist or happen again tomorrow. Just as we say 'The sun rises in the morning', we can use a present simple form to tell or summarise a story.

I hope that's helpful (and not more confusing!). In any case, it's OK to use the past to make a summary of a story, but the present is quite commonly used as well.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Thanks, but I still have a question
I read a lot of times when somebody connected Present tenses + past tenses for example
Barbossa recruits Gibbs, who burns the charts, admitting he memorized every location.
Harry deduces that Voldemort is hunting the Elder Wand, which had passed to Dumbledore after he defeated Grindelwald

What is the purpose of that?

Hello IRaisa,

In these cases, the past tense shows that those actions happened before the actions in present tense. The present tense is used to narrate the action or 'current' situation in the story, but, as you have noticed, other tenses can be used when it's necessary to refer to other times.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Analiza melchocho on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 09:03

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Hello Sir,
I have a question – In the following sentence is there any error in
'made it clear' → 'made clear'
OR
'poses' → 'pose ' ( as CLIMATE CHANGE and Continued Ecosystem Degradation two nouns are used
so we should not add 's/es' in the main verb

Please make it clear
Sorry sir,
The sentence is:
Science has made it clear the adverse impacts that climate change and continued ecosystem degradation poses for the physical world.

Hello Analiza,

The 'it' should be omitted and the verb should be plural: 'Science has made clear the adverse impacts that climate change and continued ecosystem degradation pose for the physical world.'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JameK on Sat, 17/09/2022 - 06:24

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Sir, cold you explain me this sentence 'give me my book'. Why we use the present simple verb and in what category the verb 'give' belongs to.I mean,is it routine, habit, future, fact?

Hello JameK,

If this is the full sentence then it is an imperative form. The imperative is used when giving instructions or commands and it is the same as the base form:

Give me my book!

Be quiet!

The negative is formed with don't:

Don't go in - the boss is in a meeting.

Don't do that.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lRaisa on Tue, 06/09/2022 - 17:45

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Hi,
I'd like to ask about adverbs of frequency.
I read on your website ( teens ) we can use them at the beginning or at the end of a sentence.
"We can use usually, often, sometimes and occasionally at the beginning of a sentence, and sometimes and often at the end."
I watch a movie on youtube and a teacher said we can use them in order to emphasise and de-emphasis. So do we use them at the beginning to emphasis and de-emphasis at the end?
What's more I'd like to ask about Definite Adverbs of Frequency. For example Every week, In the morning, weekly we can use at the end and if we put them at the beginning they give more emphasis or are they de-emphasised?
In additional, can we use any adverb of frequency at the beginning in questions?
And what is the difference if we put a signal word after person and after negative ? Is there any difference?
I normally don't watch YouTube
I don't normally watch YouTube
Can we use occasionally, sometimes after negative?
I don't occasionally...
I don't sometimes...

Hello IRaisa,

As you've already observed, the position of adverbs is quite slippery; they are used in many different ways. Our grammar explanations don't go into all the details because it's generally best to learn the basics first and then beyond that it's usually best to have a teacher explain the more complex cases.

Those are a lot of questions! I'm afraid I can't go into depth on all of them, but, taking your question about adverbs of definite frequency, as I understand it, they generally go in front position when they are not the main focus of the idea. For example, if you say 'Every morning I study for 15 minutes', the main focus is on the fact that it's studying that you do every morning; the focus is not on the fact that it is the morning that you do this, but rather that it is studying that you do.

Does that help?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Paul-Phan on Tue, 06/09/2022 - 14:11

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I made a sentence: "My idea is main", could you tell me whether it is wrong or not (Please explain and reply to me as fast as possible)

Thank you very much
Paul.

Hello Paul-Phan,

Most adjectives can be used before a noun (e.g. in 'The red house is new', the adjective 'red' comes before the noun 'house'; this position of the adjective before the noun is called 'attributive position') or after a link verb (e.g. in 'The house is red', the adjective 'red' comes after the link verb 'is'; this position of the adjective after a link verb is called 'predicative position').

But there are some adjectives that are only used in attributive position or predicative position. 'main' is an adjective that is only used in attributive position -- you can see this in this dictionary entry where it says 'adjective [only before noun]'.

Therefore I'm afraid that your sentence is not correct in normal usage. You could perhaps say something like 'My idea is the main one' or 'My idea is central' instead.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by g-ssan on Mon, 29/08/2022 - 19:43

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Hello sir ,

can we use just future tense without present tense in example above
(If it rains we ‘ll get up ) , can we say ( if it will rains we will get up )

Hello g-ssan,

No, we generally don't use 'will' in the if-clause. The exception is when we want to say something like 'if you are so stubborn and insist on...' or 'if you refuse to change'. For example:

If you will arrive late then you will have problems > If you refuse to change and insist on arriving late then you will have problems.

Obviously the weather cannot insist on anything as it is not a person so this rare exception does not apply here.

 

By the way, strictly speaking English has no future tense. 'Will' is a modal verb which can refer to future time but can also have other meanings. In many cases you can replace 'will' with other modal verbs:

I will go tomorrow > I might/may/should/could/can/ought to/must (etc) go tomorrow.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by melvinthio on Thu, 18/08/2022 - 10:38

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Hi Jonathan,
Thanks so much for your reply.
If a teacher in the class wants to ask whether his students already understand his explanation,
[1] can he use one of the following questions ?
(a) Do you understand what I've just explained to you?
(b) Did you understand..... ?
(c) Do you get what I've just explained to you ?
(d) Did you get....... ?
(e) Have you got......?

[2] If all the above questions are appropriate, which one(s) is(are) the most commonly used in this situation?

I would highly appreciate your help.

Best regards,

Hi Melvin,

Yes, all these questions are good, apart from possibly (e). It's grammatically fine, but it might be initially confused with the possession meaning of "have you got", which is the most common meaning of these words. I would say that (a) is the most commonly used.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lRaisa on Wed, 17/08/2022 - 14:34

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Hi,
I am wondering about questions with basic form
1) Doesn't she drink coffee with cake, then SHE takes training and a bath?
2) Does he download music first to his phone and then listen to it and sing?

Do we use in the 1) takeS due to is there SHE? And did the sentence become an affirmative?
2) In the second one, we don't have HE after the main verb. That's why are we using basic forms there?

Hi lRaisa,

1) Yes, right - "takes" follows the subject ("she") so it needs to be "takes" (not "take"). Overall, the sentence is still a question because it ends with a question mark, but there is an affirmative clause inside it. In this way it's a mixture of a question and an affirmative sentence.

2) Yes, right. In this example, we have several verb phrases coordinated by the word "and". The word "and" links grammatical units of the same level (e.g. clause, phrase). Here, it links three verb phrases: "Does he download music first to his phone and then listen to it and sing?" The basic structure is "Does he A and B and C?" and A, B and C will all be in the same grammatical form as each other (here, the base verb form).

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lRaisa on Tue, 16/08/2022 - 09:35

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Hi,
I have a question about the sequence of actions in the present simple.
I played in GTA VC yesterday and I read a sentence
" We walk into the bank, we wave the gun around, and leave very rich men"
It was a cutscene, and it refers to the future. Can we use actions of sequences in the future?
I got a screenshot of proofreading the sentence
" We will walk into the bank, we wave the gun around, and leave very rich men"
What is the difference between both of them? Do we in the first one put into the moment?
And the second one just refers to the future consequently does it have the future simple?

2. She wakes up at 7:30. She goes to the bathroom and brushes her teeth. After that, she leaves and eats breakfast.
What about the situation? It just refers to repeated situations I am right, aren't I?

Hello IRaisa,

I'm afraid I'm not completely sure what the context is here -- I don't understand 'GTA VC' or exactly what a cutscene is or why you're viewing it, or who did the proofreading.

I think the best way to make sense of this use of the present simple is to see it, as you suggest, as a sequence of actions that they are discussing. It's kind of a plan, but it's more like a cooking recipe here than them committing to doing it. I don't know the context, but it almost sounds as if one person is trying to convince another that it's simple to rob a bank, as simple as making toast or boiling eggs.

With the other situation, again, I'd need to know more about the narrative context and/or purpose of these sentences.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, GTA VC is a game- Here we have the cutscene and the mission of GTA VC: ----- The Cutscene occurs from the beginning to 1:00 The sentence I wrote previously occurs at 0:54 At 2:40 you can see they are actually robbing the bank At 7:29 you can read the sentence " We made it! We're rich rich! " Consequently, Tommy ( the person who speaks at 0:54 ) says about the plan they want to do in the future ( 2:40- we can they are doing it ) and at 7:29 we see they did it The proofreading was made by a native who does it every day. Original: We walk into the bank, wave the gun around, and leave very rich men. ( 0:54 of the movie ) The native: We WILL walk into the bank, wave the gun around, and leave very rich men. I actually thought about it yesterday and here is a question: What about future tenses which describe subplot ( background ) and the present simple main plot ( foreground ) Does it make sense? I found some examples of the sequence of actions 1) When I get home, I take a shower, then I watch some television and after that I check my emails 2) First I get up, then I have breakfast. 3) First I brush my teeth and then I have breakfast. 4) After school I switch on my computer, then I check my emails and after that I play my favourite game. What about them? Do they describe a plan for what we want to do in the future? Or our habits- What do they do regularly? Or rather It depends on the context

Hello lRaisa,

Thanks for the providing the full context, but I'm afraid this is well beyond the kind of thing we can help you with. We often try to help our users with short segments of text from longer ones, but I'm afraid we just don't have the time to be checking videos that we didn't produce. I can't really explain the native proofreader's choices, nor do I understand exactly the situation: there's what the characters say, but is their conversation written by a writer, or is there someone transcribing what people say as they play the game and then there are subtitles? It's all very unclear to me, but again, as I said, I'm afraid we just aren't able to help with this.

What I can say is that the 'original' text ('We walk into the bank, wave the gun around ...') sounds most natural and correct to me for that situation. It's not simply a statement about the future; as the character says, it's what we see in films. The present simple is also used to describe habitual actions.

It's important to remember that every tense can be used in multiple ways, and so a tense can mean different things in different situations. When someone uses a tense, they have an intention and meaning in mind and then we use our knowledge of the situation to understand (not always successfully!) what their meaning and/or intentions are.

I'm sorry I can't give you a clearer answer, but I don't think there really is one here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by melvinthio on Fri, 05/08/2022 - 12:56

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Hi Jonathan,
I'd like to ask for your favour on how to make questions asking about the ordinal rank or position. For example, how should we ask in order to get the following answers :
[1] I'm the third son in my family.
[2] Mr. Obama was the 44th president of the USA.

Your reply would be highly appreciated.
Best regards,

Hello melvinthio,

As far as I know, there's no convenient way to do this. For families, people tend to say something like 'Are you the oldest?' (or 'youngest' or 'middle child'), or you could say 'Which child are you? The first?' (or 'oldest') or something similar. You could also say 'What number child are you?', but I think one of the other questions I suggested is more common.

With other situations, such as US presidents, I think the most common way to ask is 'What number president was Lincoln?', but I'm sure there are other possibilities.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

1.)What hobbies do you do?
2.)What kind of hobbies do you do?
3.)Which hobbies do you do?
Above three sentences, which one os correct?
Can I say which number child are you instead of what number child are you?Please, clarify me Sir.

Hi JameK,

All three questions are correct :) They are all commonly used.

Yes, you can use "which" instead of "what" in that question.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by melvinthio on Wed, 27/07/2022 - 07:22

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Hi Jonathan,
I've just found this page, so I post again my questions I raised a days ago.
Is the present or the past correct for the following sentences? Or can both be used interchangeably?

[1] Prof. Smith is a famous physicist. He (is/was) a graduate of Yale university.

[2] John is a successful entrepreneur. He (is/was) the founder of his company.

I'd appreciate your help to give me a clear explanation.

Best regards,

Hi melvinthio,

I don't think either form is wrong here but the past tense would be more appropriate if something were no longer true - i.e if Prof. Smith had died or if John had left his company (so it would no longer be his company). Since there is no indication that either of these is the case I would use the present tense.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,
Thanks so much for your explanation.
To avoid a misunderstanding, I'd like to confirm that we can also use the past tense (besides the present tense) if Prof. Smith is still alive and John is still working at his company. Is my understanding right?

The sentences would then read:
[1] Prof. Smith is a famous physicist. He was a graduate of Yale Univ.

[2] John is a successful entrepreneur. He was the founder of his company.

Your explanation would be highly appreciated.

Best regards,

Hi again melvinthio,

Yes, that's right, though it may be confusing for the listener. For example:

We drove to Italy for our holiday because we had a dog.

I didn't know you used to have a dog.

Yeah. Actually, he's still with us but he's getting old now,

Here the past tense is used (we had) and it is correct but leads to confusion because the listener does not know if the speaker still has a dog.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Faii on Mon, 30/05/2022 - 06:51

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We use present simple when we give instruction or directions. But is it possible to use other tenses for them ?

Hello Faii,

Present simple or imperative forms are the most common, I think, but other forms are possible such as modal verbs (should, need, must, have to etc).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Faii on Mon, 30/05/2022 - 06:48

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Can we use other tenses(present perfect,past indefinite)in this following example?
"It's OK.i forgive you "
In my textbook it says ,"I forgive,I promise,I insist,I agree" etc these type of words are normally used in present simple but they didn't clear can we use it in other tenses or not

Hello Faii,

It's possible to use all of those verbs in other tenses, but of course which tense is needed depends on the situation and intended meaning. It's unusual, though not completely impossible, to use these verbs in a continuous form.

In the example you give, when the speaker appears to be speaking about the present, then the present simple is the best form.

But if I'm speaking about my friend forgiving me in the past for something I did in the past, then a past form would be needed: 'He forgave me for what I did'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lRaisa on Thu, 19/05/2022 - 10:22

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Hi,
In the second line of text in a story, you wrote HAS LOST.
Does it mean I can use present perfect as well in stories? and Present Perfect Continuous?
In additionally, at the end of summarising a book you wrote HAS BEEN MURDERED so does it mean we can use present tenses of passive voice?

Hi lRaisa,

Yes to all the questions, if the story is being told in the present (i.e., using present simple for the main narrative events). 

On the other hand, if the story is told using past simple for the main events, then the timeframe for the story is the past, so using the present simple and present perfect would be unusual.

I hope that helps!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi again,
I'd like to ask about something else. Should I use present tenses in formal spoken/written English? For instance, my teacher would ask about creating a story and I used Present tenses. The same about summarising something. is it acceptable?