Grammar Rule – Present Tenses
Present simple tense
Positive statement: I play, He plays
Negative statement: I do not play (I don’t play), He does not play (He doesn’t play)
Question form: Do you play? Does he play?
Negative question: Do you not play? (Don’t you play?) Does he not play? (Doesn’t he play?)
The passive voice: The game is played. The letters are written. (See more at Active and passive
We only use -s ending (plays) in the third person singular.
We add -es to the verbs that end in ss, sh, ch, x and o: misses, finishes, watches, mixes, goes.
If the verb ends in a consonant and -y, we change -y into -i and use the -es ending: carry – carries, try –
But: play – plays, because this verb ends with a vowel and -y.
The auxiliary verb do is not used to make questions and negative statements with modal verbs and the
verb to be.
Are you a student? Is he in London? I am not at home. He is not happy. Can you sing? Must I come? I
cannot swim. He mustn’t stay.
If the wh- pronoun introducing the question (who, which) is the subject of the question, we do not use
the auxiliary verb do. Compare the following sentences.
Who knows you? (who is the subject)
Which cars belong to you? (which cars is the subject)
But: Who do you know? (who is the object)
The negative question normally expresses a surprise.
Doesn’t he work?
1. We use the present simple tense for activities that happen again and again (everyday, sometimes,
Examples: I sometimes go to school by bike. You don’t speak Greek. Do they get up early?
He often travels. She doesn’t work. Does she ever help you?
2. We use it for facts that are always true.
Examples: Our planet moves round the sun. Lions eat meat.
3. With a future time expression (tomorrow, next week) the present simple is used for planned future
Examples: The train leaves at 8.15. They return tonight.
Present continuous tense
Positive statement: I am playing, You are playing, He is playing
Negative statement: I am not playing (I’m not playing), You are not playing (You aren’t playing), He is
not playing (He isn’t playing)
Question: Are you playing? Is he playing?
Negative question: Are you not playing? (Aren’t you playing?) Is he not playing? (Isn’t he playing?)
The present continuous tense is formed with the verb to be and the present participle (-ing ending).
The negative question normally expresses a surprise: Isn’t he working?
The present continuous tense is used:
1. If we want to say that something is happening at the time of speaking. We often use it with time
expressions such as now or at the moment.
I am doing housework at the moment.
You aren’t listening to me now!
Look at him! What is he doing?
2. For temporary activities that are true now, but maybe not happening at the time of speaking. Time
expressions such as today, this week or these days are typical of this use.
I am in London. I am learning English here.
She can’t go out today. She is preparing for an exam.
You can’t meet him this week. He is working in Bath.
3. For planned future arrangements. The time of the action must be given in the sentence (soon,
tomorrow, on Monday, next week), otherwise it is not clear that we talk about future.
I am coming soon.
We are leaving on Monday.
She is starting next week.
4. With always to express the idea that something happens too often and it annoys the speaker.
I am always forgetting my keys.
He is always smoking in the living room!
We do not normally use in the continuous the following groups of verbs (so called state verbs):
1. Of senses: feel, hear, see, smell, taste. On the other hand, look, watch or listen are action verbs
and can be used in the continuous:
I can hear you. – I am listening to you.
Can you see the bird? – Are you looking at the bird?
2. Of liking and disliking: like, love, hate, fear, detest, want, wish…
I like animals.
I hate snakes.
3. Of mental states: agree, believe, forget, know, remember, suppose, think…
I agree with you.
I suppose you are right.
4. Of permanent states: be, have, belong, contain, owe, own, possess…
This pen belongs to me.
I have a new pet.
5. Of appearance: seem, appear, look, sound…
It seems that it will rain.
Your new haircut looks really good.
If some of these verbs are used in the present continuous, they have a different meaning. In such a
case they become action verbs.
I think he is my best friend. (mental state) – I’m thinking of giving him a present. (mental activitiy)
He has a new bathroom. (possess) – He is having a bath. (take a bath)
I see what you mean. (know) – I am seeing a doctor. I am ill. (visit)
The flower smells beautiful. (scent) – The dog is smelling the sausage. (sniff)
This wine tastes sour. (It has a sour taste.) – She is tasting the soup if it is warm enough.
Present perfect simple
Positive statement: I have cooked, I have written , He has cooked, He has written (I’ve cooked,
Negative statement: I have not worked (I haven’t worked), He has not worked (He hasn’t worked)
Question: Have you worked?
Neg. question: Have you not worked? (Haven’t you worked?)
The present perfect combines the past and present.
1. We use the present perfect simple for actions or states that started in the past and still continue.
We have lived here since 2001.
She has known me for more than two years.
I haven’t seen her since Christmas.
How long have they been here?
It is often used with expressions indicating that the activity began in the past and comes up to now, such
as: for 10 years, since 1995, all week, all the time, always, lately, recently …
We have always worked in York. (We still work in York.)
It has been quite cold lately. (It is still cold.)
If the activity started in the past and ended in the past we cannot use the present perfect.
I have smoked for 5 years. (present perfect – I still smoke.)
I smoked for 5 years. (past simple – I smoked from 2000 to 2005, then I stopped.)
2. We use it to describe an experience that happened in the past (the time is not given), but the effects are
She has been to London. (And so she knows London.)
I have already been to Greece. (experience – And I want to go somewhere else now.)
I have been in Greece for two weeks. (state – I am stlill in Greece.)
When we use this tense to express some experience, we can use following adverbs – ever, never, already,
often, occassionaly, yet, before ……
Have you ever tried it?
She has never read this book.
We haven’t seen it yet.
Have you fallen off a bike yet?
I haven’t met her before.
3. The present perfect simple is used for past activities that have a present result.
The bus hasn’t arrived. (It did not arrived on time and we are still waiting now.)
I have bought a new house. (I did it last month and it means that now I have a new address.)
For such activities we often use these adverbs – yet, already, just.
They haven’t finished their homework yet. (They can’t go out now.)
Has she signed it yet? (Can I take the document?)
Present perfect continuous
Positive statement: I have been cooking, He has been cooking
Negative statement: I have not been cooking (I haven’t been cooking), He has not been cooking
Question: Have you been cooking?
Neg. question: Have you not been cooking? (Haven’t you been cooking?)
1. We use the present perfect continuous for events that began in the past, are continuing now and will
probably continue in the future.
I have been playing tennis since I was 6 years old.
She has been working here for 15 years.
2. We use it for actions that began in the past and have only just finished.
I’ve been skiing all day. I’m so tired.
Hello! We’ve been waiting for you since 5 o’clock.
Present perfect simple vs present perfect continuous
1. In some situations we can use both tenses and there is practically no difference in meaning. The
continuous is more usual in the English language.
It has rained for a long time.
It has been raining for a long time.
Verbs which can be used in this way include – learn, live, sleep, rain, sit, work, wait , stay …
2. Sometimes the simple form can describe a permanent state, while the continuous form a temporary
I have lived here for ten years. It is my permanent address.
I have been living here for ten years. And now I am going to move.
Some verbs cannot express this difference, because they are not normally used in the continuous tenses
Online exercises and grammar rules at www.e-grammar.org/present-perfect-simple-continuous/
(verbs of senses – feel, hear, see; verbs expressing emotions – like, love, admire, wish; verbs of mental
state – know, remember, mean, recognize; verbs of possession – belong, own, owe; auxiliaries – can, must
and be, have in some cases; others – appear, concern, seem, sound …). They must be used in the simple
We have always had a dog.
I’ve known him since 1997.
3. Verbs that express a single action (find, start, stop, lose, break …) are not used in the continuous form.
They’ve started the fight.
I’ve lost my purse.
4. There is a difference between a single action in the present perfect simple and continuous.
I have painted the hall. (I have completed my work.)
I have been painting the hall. (That is how I have spent the day, but it does not mean that I have finished
5. A single action in the present perfect continuous comes up to the time of speaking. But it is different
with the simple tense.
She’s been cooking dinner. (She is still in the kitchen. She has just finished or she will continue cooking.)
She has cooked dinner. (We do not know when. Yesterday or very recently? The result is important.)
6. We can only use the present perfect continuous for uninterrupted actions.
I’ve been visiting New York for a couple of years.
She has been writing letters since she got up.
In these sentences we describe one uninterrupted incomplete activity.
If the action is repeated or interrupted (we describe a number of completed individual actions), we must
use the simple form. (see also the past tense rules).
I have visited New York three times.
She has written four letters since she got up.