Grammar tenses refer to the state of the verb. The state, or tense, of the verb explains the time of the action.
There are three major tenses in English. These include past, present, and future. Each of these tenses can explain an event that occurred in the past, an event that occurs in the present, or an event that will occur in the future.
The present Tenses
Present Tense is a tense expressing an action that is currently going on or habitually performed, or a state that currently or generally exists.
In English, there are four present tenses: simple present, present perfect, present continuous, and present perfect continuous.
|Present simple||I work|
|Present continuous||I am working|
|Present perfect||I have worked|
|Present perfect continuous||I have been working|
We can also 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 …
Simple present tense( Everyday tense)
The simple present is a verb tense with two main uses. We use the simple present tense when an action is happening right now, or when it happens regularly (or unceasingly, which is why it’s sometimes called present indefinite). Depending on the person, the simple present tense is formed by using the root form or by adding ‑s or ‑es to the end.
The other is to talk about habitual actions or occurrences.
Use the base form of a verb, adding an /s/ to the end of the verb if the subject is singular. (Unless the verb is irregular, in which case other rules may apply.)
- Use 1: Actions that are habitual or routineEXAMPLES: The sun rises. I brush my teeth twice a day.
- Use 2: General, timeless factsEXAMPLES: Spiders make webs. Babies drink milk.
- Use 3: Narrative style (used when recalling past events or announcing things that are happening in the moment)EXAMPLES: So I go to the store yesterday, and the clerk says “We’re closed!” He hits the baseball out of the field and makes a home run!
- Use 4: The “real” present (things that are happening right now), but ONLY when the verb is stative. Stative verbs* deal with the way the subject is, instead of what the subject does.EXAMPLES: That car looks old. They think that’s a bad idea.
Formation of simple present tense
In the simple present, most regular verbs use the root form, except in the third-person singular (which ends in -s).
First-person singular: I write
Second-person singular: You write
Third-person singular: He/she/it writes (note the ‑s)
First-person plural: We write
Second-person plural: You write
Third-person plural: They write
For a few verbs, the third-person singular ends with -es instead of -s. Typically, these are verbs whose root form ends in o, ch, sh, th, ss, gh, or z.
First-person singular: I go
Second-person singular: You go
Third-person singular: He/she/it goes (note the ‑es)
First-person plural: We go
Second-person plural: You go
Third-person plural: They go
For most regular verbs, you put the negation of the verb before the verb, e.g. “She won’t go” or “I don’t smell anything.”
The verb to be is irregular:
First-person singular: I am
Second-person singular: You are
Third-person singular: He/she/it is
First-person plural: We are
Second-person plural: You are
Third-person plural: They are
The present Continuous Tense
he present continuous tense is used for actions happening now or for an action that is unfinished. This tense is also used when the action is temporary.
How to Form the Present Continuous Tense
The present continuous tense is formed with the subject plus the present particle form (-ing) of the main verb and the present continuous tense of the verb to be: am, is, are.
One simple example of this tense is: He is swimming. “He” is the subject, “is” is the present tense of the verb to be and “swimming” is the present participle verb form. Some other forms of this verb tense are:
- I am singing at church today.
- The boys are playing ball after school.
Form: The present tense of “to be” (am/is/are)+ verb + ing
- Use 1: The “real” present (things that are happening right now), for all verbs except stative verbsEXAMPLES: I am sitting down right now. He can’t come to the phone because he is working. You can’t see the children because they are hiding.
- Use 2: Temporary actions that may not be happening right now, but have not yet been completedEXAMPLES: I am taking an English course. The truck is being repaired. Plans are being made.
Examples of the Present Continuous Tense
The following are basic examples of the present continuous tense. The verb tense in each sentence is underlined.
- She is crying.
- He is talking to his friend.
- The baby is sleeping in his crib.
- We are visiting the museum in the afternoon.
Present continuous tense can be used to express something happening right now or to express something that is not happening right now. Examples of this use include:
- He is not standing.
- Anthony is sitting in the chair.
- You are not watching the movie.
- Rose is reading a book.
Present continuous tense can also be used to show that something will or will not happen in the near future. Examples of this use include:
- She is not going to the game tonight.
- He is meeting his friends after school.
- Are you visiting your cousin this weekend?
- I am not going to the meeting after work.
- Is John playing football today?
Present continuous tense can be used for actions that are still happening at the time of speaking. Examples of this use include:
- Marc is making pizza now.
- They are eating lunch right now.
- Frances is talking on the phone at the moment.
Present continuous tense can be used in questions as well. Here are some more examples of this use:
- Is she laughing?
- Are they listening to the teacher?
- Is the baby drinking his bottle?
- Are you going?
More Uses of Present Continuous Tense
In addition to the above, the present continuous tense can be used to describe actions that are being repeated. Words like always, constantly and forever are used along with the verb. Examples of this use include:
- Jack and Jill are always fighting.
- She is constantly complaining about her sister.
- Her mother is forever misplacing her keys.
Present continuous tense can be used when speaking about current trends. Examples of this use include:
- Shopping online is growing in popularity nowadays.
- The stocks are dropping constantly due to the economy.
- Today, most people are using text messages instead of the phone.
Another use of this tense is when talking about a planned event in the future. Examples of this use include:
- We are leaving for the beach tomorrow morning.
- The kids are arriving at six o’clock.
- She is speaking at the conference this evening.
When Not to Use Present Continuous Tense
There are certain verbs that cannot be used in the present continuous tense. The following verbs are non-continuous:
- Communication: agree, promise, surprise
- Feelings: like, love, hate
- Senses: hear, see, smell, taste
- Thinking: believe, know, unders.
Stative verbs/ Verbs of state(Indicate ‘state’ not action)
We do not normally use the continuous with stative verbs. Stative verbs include:
- verbs of thinking and feeling:
think (= believe)
- verbs of the senses:
We normally use the simple instead:
I understand you. (NOT I
This cake tastes wonderful. (NOT This cake
We also use the present continuous to talk about:
- something which is happening before and after a specific time:
At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast.
When I get home the children are doing their homework.
- something which we think is temporary:
Michael is at university. He‘s studying history.
I‘m working in London for the next two weeks.
- something which is new and contrasts with a previous state:
These days most people are using email instead of writing letters.
What sort of clothes are teenagers wearing nowadays?
What sort of music are they listening to?
- something which is changing, growing or developing:
The children are growing up quickly.
The climate is changing rapidly.
Your English is improving.
- something which happens again and again:
It‘s always raining in London.
They are always arguing.
George is great. He‘s always laughing.
Note that we normally use always with this use.
We can use the present continuous to talk about the past when we are:
- telling a story:
The other day I‘m just walking down the street when suddenly this man comes up to me and asks me to lend him some money. Well he‘s carrying a big stick and he looks a bit dangerous, so I‘m wondering what to do …
- summarising a book, film or play:
Harry Potter is a pupil at Hogwarts school. One day when he is playingQuidditch he sees a strange object in the sky. He wonders what is happening…
Present Perfect Tense
The Present Perfect Tense is used in case of repeated actions, in those actions where the time is not important, and actions that began in the past but are not finished yet and will probably finish in the present as we speak.
Present perfect tense combines the present tense and the perfect aspect used to express an event that happened in the past that has present consequences. This tense is used to show a link between the present and past and is commonly used in everyday conversations, in the news, on the radio, and when writing letters.
Using Present Perfect Tense
To create the present perfect tense of any verb, you will combine the present tense of the verb “to have” plus the past participle of the main verb of the sentence. The past participle of a regular verb is the base word plus -ed.
One example of this tense is: “have jumped.” “Have” is the present tense and “jumped” is the past participle. Some other forms of this tense are:
- Has lived: She has lived here all her life.
- Have written: They have written three letters already.
- Have worked: I have worked here since I graduated school.
- Has done: He has finished his homework.
- Have been: We have been to Canada.
- Has forgotten: She has forgotten her folder.
There are many different situations where the present perfect tense can be used. It can be used in the following ways:
- To describe an action that is being repeated between the past and present. Example: We have gone to the beach many times.
- To describe an action that started in the past and is still continuing in the future. Example: I have lived in the United States since 1990.
- To describe an action that has not yet been finished. Example: It has rained a lot this month.
- To describe an action that was completed in the recent past. Example: I have just finished my internship at the museum.
- To describe an action when time was not an important aspect. Example: She has lost her wedding ring.
There are times when you cannot use the present perfect tense. For example, you cannot use it with specific expressions of time that have already finished, such as last year, that month, when I was a baby, etc.
Examples of Present Perfect Tense
Present perfect tense can be used with expressions that are unspecific in time:
- I have lost my purse.
- We have seen this movie already.
- He has broken his leg.
- There has been an accident.
Some examples of present perfect tense used to express an unfinished period of time are:
- We haven’t seen her today.
- They have been to the mall twice this month.
- She has watched that show three times this week.
Examples of using present perfect in talking about events that happened in the recent past but the effect of the recent event is still felt in the present include: for something that started in the past and continues in the present:
- The children have made a mess in the kitchen.
- He has started a new job.
- She has finished her chores.
They’ve been married for nearly fifty years.
She has lived in Liverpool all her life.
Note: We normally use the present perfect continuous for this:
She has been living in Liverpool all her life.
It’s been raining for hours.
Present perfect tense can be used in questions as well. Here are some examples:
- Where have I left my sandals?
- Have you visited England?
- Has she met John?
Other Combinations of Words
In addition, you can use time-related adverbs in the present perfect tense, as long as they don’t refer to a time which is finished. These words include: “already,” “just” and “yet.” Some examples of how these words are used are:
- The book came out yesterday, but I have already read it. (Already is used to express that something has happened sooner than expected.)
- She has just left the building. (Just is used to convey that the event happened a short time ago.)
- He hasn’t finished it yet. (Yet is used in negative sentences to mean that something is expected to happen.
Present perfect tense can also be used in questions using the words “already” and “yet.” For example:
- Why has he gone already?
- Have you called your mom?
We do not use the present perfect with an adverbial which refers to past time which is finished:
I have seen that film
We have just bought a new car
When we were children we have been to California.
Present Perfect Continuous
The present perfect continuous (also called present perfect progressive) is a verb tense which is used to show that an action started in the past and has continued up to the present moment. The present perfect continuous usually emphasizes duration, or the amount of time that an action has been taking place. Read on for detailed descriptions, examples, and present perfect continuous exercises.
Form: Have or has + been + verb + ing
- Use 1: Actions that started in the past, continue into the present, and may continue into the future (note that this is the exact same use and meaning as Use 1 of present perfect)EXAMPLES: The children have been feeling sick ever since they ate lunch. My neighbor has been living next door to me for two years.
Present Perfect Continuous Forms
The present perfect continuous is formed using has/have + been + present participle. Questions are indicated by inverting the subject and has/have. Negatives are made with not.
- Statement: You have been waiting here for two hours.
- Question: Have you been waiting here for two hours?
- Negative: You have not been waiting here for two hours.
Present Perfect Continuous Uses
USE 1 Duration from the Past Until Now
We use the present perfect continuous to show that something started in the past and has continued up until now. “For five minutes,” “for two weeks,” and “since Tuesday” are all durations which can be used with the present perfect continuous.
- They have been talking for the last hour.
- She has been working at that company for three years.
- What have you been doing for the last 30 minutes?
- James has been teaching at the university since June.
- We have been waiting here for over two hours!
- Why has Nancy not been taking her medicine for the last three days?
USE 2 Recently, Lately
You can also use the present perfect continuous WITHOUT a duration such as “for two weeks.” Without the duration, the tense has a more general meaning of “lately.” We often use the words “lately” or “recently” to emphasize this meaning.
- Recently, I have been feeling really tired.
- She has been watching too much television lately.
- Have you been exercising lately?
- Mary has been feeling a little depressed.
- Lisa has not been practicing her English.
- What have you been doing?
Remember that the present perfect continuous has the meaning of “lately” or “recently.” If you use the present perfect continuous in a question such as “Have you been feeling alright?”, it can suggest that the person looks sick or unhealthy. A question such as “Have you been smoking?” can suggest that you smell the smoke on the person. Using this tense in a question suggests you can see, smell, hear or feel the results of the action. It is possible to insult someone by using this tense incorrectly.
Non-Continuous Verbs/ Mixed Verbs
It is important to remember that non-continuous verbs cannot be used in any continuous tenses. Also, certain non-continuous meanings for mixed verbs cannot be used in continuous tenses. Instead of using present perfect continuous with these verbs, you must use present perfect.
- Sam has been having his car for two years. Not Correct
- Sam has had his car for two years. Correct
The examples below show the placement for grammar adverbs such as: always, only, never, ever, still, just, etc.
- You have only been waiting here for one hour.
- Have you only been waiting here for one hour?
- Recently, John has been doing the work. Active
- Recently, the work has been being done by John. Passive
NOTE: Present perfect continuous is less commonly used in its passive form.