Aspects of the Present Tense

Definition

The present tense is combined with four traditional aspects to form the structures that are known as the present simple, the present continuous (or present progressive), the present perfect, and the present perfect continuous. Although these structures are generally taught as individual “tenses” of verbs, they are actually a combination of the present tense and aspect. While the tense tells us when the action takes place in relation to time (in this case, the present), the added aspect gives us information about how the event takes place in time.

Present Simple

The present simple structure is used to express facts and habits that are true in the present time. It is formed using the bare infinitive (the base form of the verb), or, in the case of the third person singular, the bare infinitive + “-s”. For example:
  • “We love Thai food.”
  • “James swims on Sundays.”
  • “We study at the library every day.”

Present Continuous

The present continuous is the combination of the present tense with the continuous aspect. It is used for actions that are either in progress at the moment of speaking, or will be in progress in the near future. It is formed using the present form of the verb be (are, am, or is) + the present participle. For example:
  • “They’re playing outside.” (in progress now)
  • “Can I call you back? I’m driving.” (in progress now)
  • “We’re eating dinner with my in-laws tonight.” (in progress in the future)
The continuous aspect is not usually used with stative verbs. For example, we cannot say “I am knowing John many years” or “She is seeming sad.”

Present Perfect

The present perfect is the combination of the present tense and the perfect aspect. It is used for actions or states that began in the past but have an effect on or relevance to the present, stressing the completion of the action. It is formed using have/has + the past participle. For example:
  • “She’s already eaten.”
  • "We’ve seen this movie.”
  • “I’ve had a bad cold this week.”

Present Perfect Continuous

The present perfect continuous is the combination of the continuous and perfect aspects with the present tense. It is used for actions that began in the past and continue to have relevance in the present. The main difference between it and the present perfect aspect is that the present perfect continuous aspect emphasizes the progress of the action instead of its completion. Like the present continuous, it is typically only used with action verbs, not with stative verbs. The present perfect continuous is formed using have/has + been + the present participle. For example:
  • “We have been waiting for a long time.”
  • “My little sister has been sitting very quietly.”
  • “I’ve been cleaning all day.”
Quiz

1. Which of the following is in the present simple form?





2. Which of the following is in the present perfect form?





3. Which of the following is in the present perfect continuous form?





4. Which of the following is in the present continuous form?





5. Which of the following structures is used for facts that are true at the moment of speaking:





5. Which of the following sentences stresses the completion of an action that occurred in the past but has relevance to the present?





Complete English Grammar Rules is available for purchase as Paperback and Kindle eBook.
Share Tweet Share

Conversations