Present Tenses

Present simple

We use the present simple to talk about

a, regular activities: I watch TV every evening.

b, long-term situations: Leila and Selim live in Tunis.

c, things that are always true: Winter begins on 21 December.

We also use the present simple for timetabled events:

My plane leaves at 12.50.

The conference starts next Tuesday.

We use the present simple instead of will in subordinate clauses that refer to the future:

I’ll phone you as soon as l arrive.

You won't laugh when you read his report.

We also use the present simple for giving and asking for directions and instructions:

How do l get to your office? You go down the high street and turn right after the park.


Verbs not used in the continuous

Some verbs are never or hardly ever used in the continuous form of any tense. These verbs are sometimes called 'state', or 'stative, verbs'. They include

• verbs referring to the senses, e.g. feel, hear, see, smell, sound, taste: I see what you mean.

• verbs referring to mental activities, e.g.  appreciate, assume, believe, doubt, expect (=think),  imagine, forget, know, perceive, realize, recall, recognize, recall, recognise, recollect, remember, see (=understand), suppose, think (=have an opinion), understand: They understand our point of view.

• verbs referring to emotional states, e.g. adore, appreciate, desire, detest, dislike, fear, hate, like, loathe, love, mind, prefer, respect, value, want, wish: He hates touristy places and he doesn’t mind the cold.

• other verbs, e.g  agree, disagree, mean, promise, depend on, belong, need, owe, own, possess: The group owns a supermarket chain in Spain.


Note that some state verbs can also be 'action' or 'dynamic' verbs. Action verbs can be used in the continuous.


I see what you mean. (state; meaning = understand)

I’m seeing the boss tomorrow. (action; meaning = have an appointment with)

I think you're right. (state: meaning = this is my opinion)

I’m thinking about what he said. (action; meaning = reflecting)


Present continuous

We use the present continuous to talk about actions happening now or around now:

I'm waiting for my flight.

We're working here in Denver for a week.

We also use it to talk about present trends:

The number of passengers is rising.

We can use the present continuous for repeated actions and events if they are happening around now:

The new manager is travelling a lot these days.

We also use the present continuous to refer to future arrangements and plans. We often use a future time expression in this case:

I’m meeting Peter tonight. He’s taking me to the theatre.

Are you doing anything tomorrow afternoon? Yes, I’m playing tennis with Ann.

Our company is relocating to India next year.

With ‘always’, for a frequently repeated action, usually when the frequency annoys the speaker:

He is always losing his keys.

I’m always making that mistake.


Present perfect simple

We use the present perfect simple to talk about a present situation which is connected to the past. The main uses can be grouped under three headings:

1 Recent news / New information: We are focusing on the current importance of the past event, i.e. on the present result of the past event. WHEN it happened is not important and is not mentioned.

I've finished the report. (You can have it now.)

We often use the present perfect to give news.

Guess what. My computer has crashed!


2 Experience: finished actions that happened in our life up to now.

I love that film. I've seen it three times. (three times in my life so far)

Alex has won several business awards. (up to now)

Have you ever been to Singapore? (at any time in your life)

I've never given a business presentation. (never in my life so far)


3 Duration from the past until now - unfinished actions, actions or states that began in the past and are still continuing now.

Barbara has worked as an accountant for a long time.

Rick has worked for Breitner & Schultz since 1995.

The time expressions for and since are often used to conned the past and present. We use for with a period of time and since with a point of time.

When we speak about 'unfinished time’ we often use the adverbs already and yet to describe things which are happening or expected to happen around the present. The adverb already may express some surprise, e.g. because something has happened sooner than expected.

She's only 25 but she's already written three novels.

We use not yet to describe something that hasn't happened so far but is expected to happen in the future.

He hasn't found the right business partner yet.


Present perfect continuous

We use the present perfect continuous to talk about actions and situations which started in the past and are still going on or have just stopped.

Food prices have been going up steadily all this year. (still going on)

Sorry I'm out of breath. I've been running. (just stopped)

When we use it together with another verb in the present, there is often a relation of cause and effect between the two verbs.

He has a nice tan. He's been sunbathing.

My hands are dirty. I've been painting the shed.

We also use the present perfect continuous for repeated actions.

Customers have been phoning me all day.

How long have you been taking those tablets?

The present perfect continuous is also often used with words and expressions that refer to a period of time up to now (e.g. today, this week, recently, lately, for, since, how long, etc.).

The kids have been playing computer games since 4 o'clock.

It's been raining for the last two weeks.

We do not use the present perfect continuous with words and expressions that refer to a finished period of time.

I was in Montenegro last November. It rained for two weeks.


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