The Present Tense is one of the three main verb tenses used in grammar. It is used to talk about the current situation, i.e. now.
Here we introduce to the four main forms of the present tense and look at when we use them. The links at the bottom of the page go to more detailed looks at the individual forms.
When do we Use the Present Tense?
These are the main situations where we use a form of the present tense.
Habits & Non-Changing States
To talk about situations which don’t change or long-term habits, we use the Present Simple:
She smokes 20 cigarettes a day.
Water boils at 100 degree Celsius.
Happening as we Speak
If we want to describe something which is actually happening as we speak, we use the Present Continuous:
Can you please look at the map for me. I am driving.
Look at that cat: she is trying to climb on the roof.
Past Event with Present Implications
When something happens in the recent past and which strongly affects what happens now, we use the Present Perfect Simple:
The President has arrived! Everyone get ready to cheer!
If you want to see Jane she has gone – but you might be able to catch her if you are quick.
Often you will see the present perfect simple used with the word, just, to show it is something in the very recent past:
My doctor has just told me I need to lose weight! The cheek of her!
Past Event, Continuing Now
And finally, to talk about something which started in the past and is still going on, we can use the Present Perfect Continuous:
I have been learning English for 2 years now.
We have been dating for almost three weeks!
Verb Tenses & Forms in English Grammar – a general look at all the tenses and verb forms in English
Present Simple in English Grammar – this tense explained
Present Continuous in English Grammar – this tense explained
Present Perfect Simple in English Grammar – this tense explained
Present Perfect Continuous in English Grammar – this tense explained