Present tense is used to express actions that occur in the present.
These are the English present tenses:
Present Simple („I choose“)
Present Perfect („I have chosen“)
Present Continuous („I am choosing“)
Present Perfect Continuous („I have been choosing“)
Subject + Verb (present form)
John lives in New York.
We play football every day.
You are really kind.
The meeting starts at 3 PM.
The Present Simple is the most basic tense in the English language. It is an interesting tense because it can be used to express the future. Generally, though, we use it to describe the present activities or to talk about routines or habits.
Facts, generalizations and universal truths
Habits and routines
Events that are certain to happen
Arrangements that we can’t change (e.g. timetables, official meetings)
State verbs (e.g. be, have, suppose, know)
Narrations, instructions or commentaries
Apart from the above uses, this tense is also used in:
Zero Conditional („If it doesn’t rains, I go play football.“)
First Conditional („We won’t get our pocket money, if we don’t pass this exam.“)
In sentences after when, before, till, after, as soon as („Before you leave, please take the keys.“)
Use 1: Facts, Generalizations and Univeral Truths
We use the Present Simple to talk about universal truths (for example, laws of nature) or things we believe are, or are not, true. It’s also used to generalize about something or somebody.
Water boils at 100 degrees Celcius. Universal Truth
It is a big house. Fact
The Earth goes around the Sun. Universal Truth, Fact
Dogs are better than cats. Generalization
Berlin is the capital city of Germany. Fact
The Elephant doesn’t fly. Fact
London is the capital city of France. Fact (Remember: the sentence does not have to be true)
Use 2: Habits and Routines
We also use this tense to describe actions that happen frequently. For example: habits, routines, tendencies.
We leave for work at 7:30 AM every morning. Routine
My husband watches the TV in the evening. Habit, Routine
Susan often meets with her friends after school. Habit, Routine
They usually play football on Sunday. Habit, Routine
Mark rarely visits his sick grandmother. Tendency
Pinocchio usually tells lies. Tendency
Adverbs of Frequency
The Present Simple is often used with the frequency adverbs:
from time to time
every now and then
A few examples how to use them in sentences:
I always go to church on Sundays.
I never eat anything after 10 PM.
Use 3: Pernament Situations
Use the Present Simple to talk about situations in life that last a relatively long time.
I live in Boston
He works as a fireman.
Margaret drives a Volkswagen.
Jerry doesn’t teach maths at highschool.
Use 4: Events Certain to Happen
Use the Present Simple when an event is certain to happen in the future.
My grandmother turns 100 this July.
Winter starts on December 21.
Use 5: State Verbs
You should use the Present Simple with state verbs.
I like swimming.
We know this man.
Use 6: Future Arrangements
Use the Present Simple to talk about events that we can’t change (for example, an official meeting or a train departure).
The meeting starts at 4 PM.
The train leaves at the noon.
When does the plane take off?
Jerry doesn’t teach maths at high school.
Use 7: Narrations, Instructions or commentaries
The Present Simple is also used in narrations (e.g. to tell a story or a joke), instructions (e.g. cooking) or commentaries (especially sport commentaries).
„A man goes to visit a friend and is amazed to find him playing chess with his dog. He watches the game in astonishment for a while […]“
Subject + IS/ARE + Verb (continuous form)
He is sleeping.
I am visiting grandpa in the afternoon.
You are always coming late for the meetings!
The Present Continuous is mainly used to express the idea that something is happening at the moment of speaking. The Present Continuous also describes activities generally in progress (not at the moment). Another use of the tense is to talk about temporary actions or future plans.
Longer actions in progress
Future (personal) arrangements and plans
Tendencies and trends
Use 1: Present Actions
Most often, we use the Present Continuous tense to talk about actions happening at the moment of speaking.
He is eating a dinner.
Mary is talking with her friends.
They are swimming in the pool.
Use 2: Temporary Actions
This tense is also used for activities continuing only for a limited period of time.
I’m riding a bike to get to work because my car is broken. Temporary Action (His car will soon be repaired)
They are not talking with each other after the last argument. Temporary Action (They will soon make up)
Mary is working at McDonald’s. Temporary Action (She is working there only during the summer holidays)
Use 3: Longer Actions in Progress
We also use the Present Continuous when we are in the middle of doing something time-consuming (i.e. something that takes time to complete). An example of such an activity is writing a book, saving money or studying for an exam.
They are working hard to earn money.
I am training to become a professional footballer.
Mike is studying hard to become a doctor.
Elizabeth is currently writing a children’s book titled I am the World.
Use 4: Future (Personal) Arrangements and Plans
Sometimes we use the Present Continuous to show that something is planned and will be done in the near future.
I’m meeting Katie in the evening.
He’s flying to Rome in September.
We’re not going anywhere tomorrow.
Use 5: Tendencies and Trends
This tense is also used for expressing tendencies or trends.
Our country is getting richer.
The Internet is becoming less of a novelty.
The Universe is expanding.
Use 6: Irritation or Anger
And the last use of this tense is to express irritation or anger over somebody or something in the present with adverbs such as: always, continually or contantly.
She is continually complaining about everything!
Johny is always asking stupid questions!
My boss is contantly critising me!
Subject + HAS/HAVE + Verb (past participle form)
I have read this book.
The man has gone away.
John has worked as a teacher for over 25 years.
The Present Perfect is used to express actions that happened at anindefinite time or that began in the past and continue in the present. This tense is also used when an activity has an effect on the present moment.
Actions which happened at an indefinite (unknown) time before now
Actions in the past which have an effect on the present moment
Actions which began in the past and continue in the present
Use 1: Indefinite time before now
Use the Present Perfect to talk about actions that happened at some point in the past. It does not matter when exactly they happened.
I have already had a breakfast.
He has been to England.
You should not use this tense with time expressions like yesterday, a week ago, last year, etc.
Use 2: Effect on the present moment
We also use this tense to when an activity has an effect on the present moment.
He has finished his work. (so he can now rest)
I have already eaten the dinner. (so I’m not hungry)
He has had a car accident. (that’s why he is in the hospital)
Use 3: Continuation in the present
We often use the Present Perfect when we want to emphasize that an event continues in the present.
Mary has worked as a teacher for over 25 years.
Patrick has achieved a lot in his life.
For and Since
Since and For are very common time expressions used with the Present Perfect.
We use For with a period of time, for example:
I have lived here for 20 years.
When talking about a starting point, we use Since, for example:
I have lived here since 1960.
Present Perfect Continuous
Subject + HAS/HAVE + BEEN + Verb (continuous form)
I have been working as a teacher for 30 years.
What have you been doing?
The Present Perfect Continuous (Progressive) has a long and scary name. But don’t worry! Read on to learn how to use it.
Actions that started in the past and continue in the present
Actions that have recently stopped
Temporary actions and situations
Use 1: Continuation in the Present
We use the Present Perfect Continuous to show that something started in the past and continues in the present.
He has been painting the house for 5 hours. He’s still painting it
I have been working as a fireman since 1973. I still work as a fireman
Use 2: Past actions recently stopped
Use this tense also to talk about actions that began in the past and have recently stopped.
I have been waiting for you for half an hour! I’m not waiting anymore because you have come
Look at her eyes! I’m sure she has been crying. She stopped crying when she saw them
For and Since
Since and for are very common time expressions used with the Present Perfect Continuous.
We use for with a period of time, for example:
I have been living here for 20 years.
When talking about a starting point, we use since, for example:
I have been living here since 1960.
Use 3: Temporary Actions and Situations
We use this tense when an action or situation is temporary.
I have been living in Boston for two months.
I have been working as a waitress for the past week.