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Are You Using the Correct Present Tense?

Image representing students learning to use the correct present tense

With under a week until Christmas, hopefully your presents are already piling up under the tree. Today, though, I want to talk to you about a very different type of “present”: the present tense!

You may already know that there are three different types of present tense. These are called present simple, present continuous and present perfect.

A lot of people find this very confusing, so let’s take a look at the difference between them, and how to use each type.

First of all, let’s look at the easiest one of the three: present simple.

We use this type of present tense for things that are repeated, happen a lot, or that never stop.

The present simple tense is very simple (as the name suggests!) because all regular verbs except third person singular just use the root form. In third-person singular, you add an “s”. For example:

First-person singular: I play

Second-person singular: You play

Third-person singular: He/she/it plays

First-person plural: We play

Second-person plural: You play

Third-person plural: They play

Example sentences include:

“My sister plays football on Tuesdays” (meaning she plays every Tuesday)

“Paris is the capital of France” (Paris is always the capital – this doesn’t change)

“I take the bus to work” (This is an action that happens a lot)

Here’s where it gets a little more confusing though: you also use present simple to mean an action or event that is going to happen very soon.

For example:

“I start my new job on Friday”

“The plane lands in 10 minutes”

The next type of present tense is the present continuous. You use this to describe things that are happening right now.

The sentence structure for the present continuous tense is: to be [am, is, are] + verb [ing form]

First-person singular: I am playing

Second-person singular: You are playing

Third-person singular: He/she/it is playing

First-person plural: We are playing

Second-person plural: You are playing

Third-person plural: They are playing

For example:

“I am eating my dinner”

“He is backpacking through Europe”

“They are wrapping the gifts”

Lastly – and this is where people often get confused – there’s the present perfect tense. The reason this is more difficult is that you are really talking about things that have already happened. You use the present perfect tense to make a comparison between the way something used to be and the way it is now.

The sentence structure for the present perfect tense is: have/has + the past participle.

First-person singular: I have played

Second-person singular: You have played

Third-person singular: He/she/it has played

First-person plural: We have played

Second-person plural: You have played

Third-person plural: They have played

For example:

“He has changed his hairstyle”

“I have grown by two inches”

“The students have read three books this year”

And that’s it; now you know all three ways of using the present tense. I think you’ve earned yourself a mince pie. Don’t you agree

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