Present Tenses

by | Mar 29, 2020 | Grammar For IELTS

Present Tenses

Present Simple, Present Continuous, State Verbs, Present perfect continuous, Present perfect simple

1. Present Simple Tense

  • + Verb/verb+s/es  =He watches TV
  • do/does not + verb = She does not watch TV
  • ? do/does…+verb? =Do you play cricket?

We use the present simple

A. To talk about regular habits or repeated actions:

  • I get up really early and practise for an hour or so most days.
  • I use the Internet just about every day.

Words that describe how often or when are often used (e.g. always, generally, normally, usually, often, sometimes, rarely, never, every day, every evening).

B. To talk about permanent situations:

  • My parents own a restaurant.

NOTE: We use the present perfect, not the present simple, to say how long something has continued:

  • I have worked there since I was 15. (not I work there since I was)

C. To talk about facts or generally accepted truths:

  • Students don’t generally have much money
  • If you heat water to 100°C, it boils.

The following words are often used: generally, mainly, normally, usually, traditionally.

D. To give instructions and directions:

  • You go down to the traffic lights, then you turn left.
  • To start the programme, first you click on the icon on the desktop.

E. To tell stories and talk about films, books and plays:

In the film, the tea lady falls in love with the Prime Minister.

2 Present continuous

  • + am/is/are + verb + -ing = Fle’s tiling in Thailand.
  • am/is/are not + verb + = I’m not living in Thailand.
  • ? am/is/are + verb + -ing? = Are they living in Thailand?

We use the present continuous

A. To talk about temporary situations:

  • I’m studying really hard for my exams.
  • My cousin is living in Thailand at the moment. (= he doesn’t normally live there)

Words like at the moment, currently, now, this week/month/year are often used.

B. To talk about actions happening at the moment of speaking:

  • I’m waiting for my friends.

C. To talk about trends or changing situations:

The Internet is making it easier for people to stay in touch with each other.

The price of petrol is rising dramatically.

D. To talk about things that happen more often than expected, often to show envy or to criticise with words like always, constantly, continually, forever:

My mum’s always saying I don’t help enough! (complaint)

He’s always visiting exciting places! (envy)

3. State verbs

The present continuous is not normally used with state verbs because the meaning of the verb itself is a general truth rather than something temporary. These verbs describe thoughts, feelings, senses, possession and description. Here are some examples of state verbs:

Thoughts: agree, assume, believe, disagree, forget, hope, know, regret, remember, suppose, think, understand

  • I assume you’re too busy to play computer games.

Feelings: adore, despise, dislike, enjoy, feel, hate, like, love, mind, prefer, want

  • Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
  • I love music.

Senses: feel, hear, see, smell, taste

  • This pudding smells delicious.

NOTE: To talk about something happening now we use ‘can’:

  • I can smell something burning.

Possession: have, own, belong

  • My parents own a restaurant.

Description: appear, contain, look, look like, mean, resemble, seem, smell, sound, taste, weigh

  • You look like your mother. (= a permanent situation, not a temporary one)

NOTE: Some state verbs can be used in the continuous form when the meaning is temporary.



  1. What are you thinking about? (now)
  2. I think you should tell her exactly what happened. (my opinion, so not temporary)


  1. I’m tasting the sauce to see if it needs any more salt.
  2. The sauce tastes delicious.


  1. She’s having a great time. (is having = is experiencing, not possession)
  2. Students don’t generally have much money. (have = possession)


4. Present perfect simple

We use the present perfect when we want to show a link between the present and the past.

  • have/has + past participle = She’s started the assignment.
  • have/has not + past participle = I haven’t started the assignment.
  • have/has + past participle? = Have you started the assignment?

We use the present perfect simple

A. To talk about a time period that is not finished (e.g. today, this week):

  • I’ve written a rough plan this morning. (it is still morning)

B. To show that something happened at some point in the past before now.

We don’t state when it happened:

  • I’ve collected plenty of information. (at some point before now and I will use it to write my essay)

The following time expressions are often used: ever, never, before, up to now, still, so far.

  • It’s the longest I’ve ever had to write. (at any point before now)

NOTE: If we state when something happened we must use the simple past:

  • I wasted a lot of time last week. (NOT I have wasted a lot of time last week).

C. To talk about a present situation which started in the past, usually with for/since:

  • I’ve worked really hard for the last two weeks.
  • I’ve worked really hard for the last two weeks. (I’ve worked hard till now)

We use for with a length of time (e.g. for two hours, for three days, for six months) and since with a point in time (e.g. since 2001, since Monday, since ten o’clock, since I was four, since I started the course).

D. To talk about something that happened at an unstated time in the past but is connected to the present:

  • I’ve read all the books on the reading list. (I have the notes now)

The following time expressions are often used: recently, just, already, and yet with negatives or questions.

  • I’ve just got up.
  • Have you written your assignment yet?


Compare the use of the present perfect with the past simple:
Present perfect

  • a. Links the past with the present: I’ve made quite a lot of notes. (at some point before now and I may make more notes)
  • b. Does not talk about a specific time in the past: Have you read the leaflet? (at some time before now)
  • c. Uses time expressions that show the time period is unfinished: I’ve read six articles this week. (the week isn’t finished)

Past simple

  • a. Only talks about the past: I made notes on the most important things. (when I did the reading and I’ve finished making notes)
  • b. States a specific past time, or the time is understood: I read the leaflets when I was in the library. (I’m not in the library now and the reading is finished).
  • c. Uses time expressions that show the time is finished: I read five books last week. (last week has finished).

Note the position of the following time expressions that occur with the present perfect:

Between the auxiliary and main verb (e.g. recently, already, always, ever, just, never)

  • I’ve already written the notes.
  • I’ve just finished my essay.

Ever is generally used with questions or negatives:

  • Have you ever been to Buenos Aires?

After the main verb (e.g. all my life, every day, yet, before, for ages, for two weeks, since 2003, since I was a child etc.)

  • I’ve felt tired for weeks.
  • I haven’t flown before.

If there is an object clause, the time expression comes at the end:

  • I’ve gone to bed early every night since then.
  • I’ve written more than ten assignments since I started this course.

2 Present perfect continuous

  • have/has been + verb + -ing = I’ve been studying really hard.
  • have/has not been + verb + -ing = He hasn’t been studying really hard.
  • have/has … been + verb + -ing? = Have you been studying really hard?

We can use either the present perfect simple or the present perfect continuous to say how long a situation or activity has been going on (often with for or since):

  • I’ve felt tired for weeks.
  • I’ve been feeling tired since I started this course.
  • I’ve worked at the restaurant since I moved here.
  • I’ve been working at the restaurant for three years.


Compare the different uses of the present perfect simple and the present perfect continuous:

Present perfect continuous

  • emphasises how long: I’ve been reading for the past two weeks.
  • focuses on the activity itself: (it does not show whether the activity is finished or not)

Present perfect simple

  • Says how many times: I’ve read three articles.
  • focuses on the result or completion of the activity: I’ve written my essay. (the essay is finished but we don’t know when)

NOTE: State verbs do not generally have a continuous form:

I’ve known them since I was a child. (not I’ve been knowing them since I was a child)

3. Grammar extra:

This is the first time… etc.

We use the present perfect tense with the following structures: it/this/that is the first / the second / the best / the only / the worst

  • It’s the first time I’ve ever had to write such a long assignment.
  • Is this the only time you’ve travelled abroad?
  • That’s the sixth cup of coffee you’ve had today.

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