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The Four Present Tenses and their Ten Uses

Many philosophers and motivational speakers talk about the importance of living in the present. A lot of people would agree. However, when I hear this, all I can think is “which present”? As many English teachers and English students know, there are many different ways to describe the present.

In English, there are four present tenses: simple present, present perfect, present continuous, and present perfect continuous. These four tenses have a total of 10 different uses. In this post, we’ll look at the form and uses of each tense.

TOEFL four present tenses-magoosh

Simple Present

Form: Use the base form of a verb, adding an /s/ to the end of the verb if the subject is singular. (Unless the verb is irregular, .)


  • Use 1: Actions that are habitual or routine

    EXAMPLES: The sun rises. I brush my teeth twice a day.

  • Use 2: General, timeless facts

    EXAMPLES: Spiders make webs. Babies drink milk.

  • Use 3: Narrative style (used when recalling past events or announcing things that are happening in the moment)

    EXAMPLES: So I go to the store yesterday, and the clerk says “We’re closed!” He hits the baseball out of the field and makes a home run!

  • Use 4: The “real” present (things that are happening right now), but ONLY when the verb is stative. Stative verbs* deal with the way the subject is, instead of what the subject does.

    EXAMPLES: That car looks old. They think that’s a bad idea.

    *Learn more about .

Present Perfect

Form: Have or has + past form of a verb


  • Use 1: Actions that started in the past, continue into the present, and may continue into the future

    EXAMPLES: The children have felt sick ever since they ate lunch. My neighbor has lived next door to me for two years.

  • Use 2: Separate actions that happened in the past and may happen again in the

    EXAMPLES: That man has traveled overseas several times. We have eaten at that restaurant once or twice.
  • Use 3: Recently completed actions that still influence things happening in the present
    EXAMPLES: The sun has risen and you need to wake up. They have finished their meeting, so now they can go.

Present Continuous

Form: The present tense of “to be” (am/is/are)+ verb + ing


  • Use 1: The “real” present (things that are happening right now), for all verbs except stative verbs

    EXAMPLES: I am sitting down right now. He can’t come to the phone because he is working. You can’t see the children because they are hiding.

  • Use 2: Temporary actions that may not be happening right now, but have not yet been completed

    EXAMPLES: I am taking an English course. The truck is being repaired. Plans are being made.

Present Perfect Continuous

Form: Have or has + been + verb + ing


  • Use 1: Actions that started in the past, continue into the present, and may continue into the future (note that this is the exact same use and meaning as Use 1 of present perfect)

    EXAMPLES: The children have been feeling sick ever since they ate lunch. My neighbor has been living next door to me for two years.

What a long and winding road! As important as it is to live in the present, it’s hard to know exactly which present you live in, isn’t it? You may want to use this blog post for reference as you practice your TOEFL grammar. On the other hand, if you would like to commit these tenses and uses to memory, you may use to practice and learn them.

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Happy studying!

22 Responses to The Four Present Tenses and their Ten Uses

  1. abeer May 25, 2016 at 7:39 am #

    it is a really nice information it is so easy to understand

  2. Prathamesh Seth June 10, 2016 at 5:36 am #

    very helpful and nice experience

  3. imran June 19, 2016 at 11:51 pm #

    could you please, explain the use of third from (e 3: Narrative style) thanks

    • David Recine
      David Recine June 20, 2016 at 10:02 am #

      Narrative style is used to make an event sound very immediate. If it’s used to describe a past event, simple past will be replaced by simple present. (“I ran out of my house” changes to “I run out of my house.”) If it’s used to describe a present event, present progressive (the tense for most actions that happen in the present) will be replaced by simple present. (“He is running to the end of the field to make the goal” changes to “He runs to the end of the field to make a goal.”)

      To native English speakers, this change to simple present tense makes events sound immediate, close and dramatic. So English speakers use narrative simple present tense to make a story or event sound more interesting. Does that make sense?

  4. imran June 21, 2016 at 3:57 am #

    Thank you David Recine!!! that helps me to understand. Thanks once again

  5. Syed Kadery July 25, 2016 at 1:36 am #

    Sir this had been a great experience.
    It would be reaaly nice if you give such uses of the future tense.

  6. american schreave July 28, 2016 at 12:27 am #

    i want make a past perfect sentence. about the author career.
    she has wrote novel for 3 years. is it true?

    • David Recine
      David Recine August 1, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

      That’s not quite right but is close. For past perfect, you need to use “had” instead of “has.” And it’s better to use a past participle verb form such as “written” instead of a simple past verb form like “wrote.” So in past perfect, you’d what to say “She had written the novel for 3 years.” For more help with this, check out our post on the four past tenses and their ten uses.

  7. sugule October 24, 2016 at 11:22 pm #

    thank you David Recine…
    give me 10 sentences of simple present tense 8 of them is singular.

    • David Recine
      David Recine October 25, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

      I’m glad this helps. If I understand correctly, you want some more example sentences in simple present. But can you tell me a little more? Why do you want to see 8 sentences with singular simple present and another 2 with plural simple present? And what questions do you have about singular simple present verbs versus plural ones?

  8. Laxmikant naik May 17, 2017 at 10:56 am #

    Nice sir great

  9. motilal pujar September 6, 2017 at 5:56 pm #

    Very nice it did great help to me….👌

  10. Marlen November 22, 2017 at 9:06 am #

    It is very useful information,thanks and i wish you will do it better inthe future.

  11. Amna May 20, 2018 at 1:28 am #

    Not explaning well about which form of verb is used in which situation otherwise it is fine

    • Clemmonsdogpark Test Prep Expert
      Clemmonsdogpark Test Prep Expert May 24, 2018 at 5:39 pm #

      Hi Amna,

      Let us know if we can answer any specific questions about this blog post! We are more than happy to clarify anything we’ve written 🙂

  12. Chaminda August 29, 2018 at 7:32 am #

    Very clear and concise explanation about the present tenses..Very impressive and useful.

    • Clemmonsdogpark Test Prep Expert
      Clemmonsdogpark Test Prep Expert August 31, 2018 at 10:07 am #

      Thanks for the feedback! Glad this post was helpful 🙂

  13. YUVARAJ September 4, 2018 at 9:05 am #

    R u sure it’s present tense, coz the some sentences are in like past tense

    • David Recine
      David Recine September 6, 2018 at 7:36 pm #

      Present perfect and present continuous use “have,” a modal verb that is also common in past tenses in English. And present perfect also uses past participle verbs, but uses those past participle verbs to describe present actions. If those were the tenses you felt were past tense, they can seem that way at a glance because of their forms. If you see other places in this post where I appear to be using past tense as well, let me know, and I’ll take a closer look, Yuvuraj. 🙂

  14. JD September 11, 2018 at 6:35 am #

    Thank you very much! You are a amazing!

    • Clemmonsdogpark Test Prep Expert
      Clemmonsdogpark Test Prep Expert September 14, 2018 at 1:29 pm #

      You’re very welcome 🙂

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