The Farlex Grammar Book > English Grammar > Inflection (Accidence) > Conjugation > Tense > Present Tense
What is the present tense?
The present tense is mostly used to identify the action of a verb as taking place in the present time. However, depending on which way we form the present tense, it can also be used to describe things that happened in the past, or even certain events that are planned to happen in the future.
There are four forms of the present tense that can accomplish these tasks. We will give a brief summary of each below, but go to the appropriate section to learn about them more in-depth.
The present simple tense is used to describe that which is done habitually, that which is generally true, that which is always the case, or that which is scheduled to happen. It is made up of only the basic form of the verb: the infinitive (+ -(e)s if used with the third-person singular). It is called “simple” because it does not rely on any modal or auxiliary verbs to accomplish its meaning.
- “I come from Berlin.”
- “The train leaves at 2 PM.”
- “He eats breakfast every morning.”
- “We like ice cream.”
The present continuous or present progressive tense is used to speak about actions that are currently happening. It can also be used to describe actions or events that are planned for the future, but which are not definitively fixed in time.
We create the present continuous tense by using the present participle (-ing form) of the “main” verb after the present-tense form of the auxiliary linking verb “be.” The present participle creates the continuous forms of verbs, which is where “present continuous” gets its name.
- “She is running for president next year.”
- “They are not watching television.”
- “We are eating ice cream.”
- “Are you reading that book?”
Present perfect tense (sometimes called the present perfect simple tense is used to talk about things that happened sometime in the past, but which are not given a specific time or date.
We form the present perfect by using the present tense of the auxiliary verb “have” (or “has,” if used with third-person singular pronouns) along with the past participle of the “main” verb. Using forms of an auxiliary verb (such as “have”) together with the past participle of the main verb is called the perfect aspect in English, which is where the “present perfect” gets its name. (To learn more about the perfect and other aspects, see the chapter on Aspect.)
- “I have seen that movie already.”
- “She’s been to Prague.”
- “He has lost his keys.”
- “Jenny's lived in Dubai for 10 years!”
The present perfect continuous is used in a very similar way to the present perfect simple tense. It is used to talk about that which began in the past and is still happening in the present, with an emphasis on the continued action and/or the amount of time it is taking. We can also use it to talk about something that is only temporary, has been happening lately, or only finished very recently.
The present perfect continuous tense (sometimes called the present perfect progressive tense) is formed by using the present tense of the auxiliary verb “have” (or “has,” if used with third-person singular pronouns) along with “been” (the past participle of the linking verb “be”) and the present participle (-ing form) of the “main” verb.
- “I have been living in New York City.”
- “We’ve been walking for four hours!”
- “They have been working in the shop for 10 years.”
- “Bill has been coming into work late a lot.”
- “I'm so sweaty because I have been exercising.”