What Is the Present Tense? (with Examples)

Present Tense (English Grammar)

The present tense predominantly describes a current event or state of being. However, somewhat unusually, the present tense can also be used to describe past and future events (more on this below). For example:
  • I jump in the lake every Saturday.
  • (present event)
  • I am happy.
  • (present state of being)
  • The meeting ends at 6 o'clock.
  • (future event)
    (See "Uses" for Simple Present Tense in the table below.)
  • A man walks into a bar. Ouch!
  • (past event)
    (See "Uses" for Simple Present Tense in the table below.)
The tense of a verb is determined by when the action took place. The three main tenses are:

Examples of the Types of Present Tense

The present tense is categorised further depending on whether the action is in progress or completed. The four present tenses are:

The 4 Present Tenses Examples Uses
simple present tense
  • I go.
  • I like chocolate.
  • The train gets in at 5 o'clock.
  • A horse walks into a bar, and the barman says, "why the long face?"
The simple present tense is used:

(1) To describe facts and habits.
(2) To describe scheduled events in the future.
(3) To tell stories to make your listener or reader feel more engaged with the story.
present_progressive tense
  • I am going.
  • Barny is looking for the latest brochure.
The present progressive tense is used for an ongoing action in the present.
present perfect tense
  • I have gone.
  • David has worked alongside two of the world's finest scientists in the field of entomology.
The present perfect tense is used to describe actions that began in the past and are still continuing into the present.
present perfect progressive
  • I have been going.
  • Amanda has been relying on a pay rise to pay her student loan.
The present perfect progressive tense is used for:

(1) a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present, or
(2) a continuous activity that began in past but has now finished (usually very recently).

Diagrams for the Four Present Tenses

The infographics below show how each present tense is formed and a quick overview of how each one is used:

Simple Present Tense

Here is an infographic summarizing the simple present tense.
simple present tense

Examples of the Simple Present Tense

  • I play every Tuesday
  • My family goes to France every Summer.
  • Between two evils, I always pick the one I have never tried before.
  • Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement. (US President Ronald Reagan)
  • I like the word indolence. It makes my laziness seem classy. (Philosopher Bernard Williams)
  • I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. (Author Douglas Adams)
  • I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn't itch. (Comedian Gilda Radner)
  • War does not determine who is right - only who is left. (Philosopher Bertrand Russell)

Present Progressive Tense

Here is an infographic summarizing the present progressive tense.
present progressive tense

Examples of the Present Progressive Tense

  • I am playing at the moment.
  • I am not getting any younger!
  • My family is emigrating to Australia next June.
  • People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing. (Author Dale Carnegie)
  • I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship. (Author Louisa May Alcott)
  • I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.
  • A lot of good arguments are spoiled by some fool who knows what he is talking about. (Playwright Miguel de Unamuno)
  • A fellow who is always declaring he's no fool usually has his suspicions. (Playwright Wilson Mizner)
  • (Note that adverbs (here, always) sometimes appear between the verb "to be" (here, is) and the present participle (here, declaring).)
  • As long as you're having fun, that's the key. The moment it becomes a grind, it's over. (Singer Barry Gibb)
  • Middle age is when you're sitting at home on a Saturday night and the telephone rings and you hope it isn't for you. (Poet Ogden Nas)
  • I'm leaving because the weather is too good. I hate London when it's not raining. (Comedian Groucho Marx)

Present Perfect Tense

Here is an infographic summarizing the present perfect tense.
present perfect tense

Examples of the Present Perfect Tense

  • I have played for his team before.
  • Don't take the wrong side of an argument just because your opponent has taken the right side.
  • Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.
  • If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants. (Physicist Isaac Newton)
  • Only the dead have seen the end of the war. (Philosopher George Santayana)
  • It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues. (US President Abraham Lincoln)
  • Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen. (British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli)
  • I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.
  • I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be. (Author Douglas Adams)
  • I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed. (Basketball star Michael Jordan)
  • Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. (Activist Martin Luther King Jr)

Present Perfect Progressive Tense

Here is an infographic summarizing the present perfect progressive tense.
present perfect progressive tense

Examples of the Present Perfect Progressive Tense

  • I have been playing for a year.
  • Fiona has not been playing well for 2 months.
  • My grandparents have been living in this house for 50 years.
  • Mary has been relying on a pay rise to pay her credit card bills.
  • We have been learning since we were children how to make money, buy things and build things. The whole education system is set up to teach us how to think, not to feel. (Comedian Yakov Smirnoff)
  • My son has been laughing at inappropriate situations for the past two years.
  • While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die. (Polymath Leonardo da Vinci)
  • Well, I think money has been going into political campaigns for a very long time. (Businesswoman Carly Fiorina)
  • I have been doing marriage counseling for about 15 years and I realized that what makes one person feel loved, doesn't make another person feel loved. (Author Gary Chapman)
  • Either I've been something or nothing has been going on.

Verb Tense Widget

Use this widget to learn about the different tenses. How do you use this widget? Well, if there's a button, a drop-down menu, or a , then you can click it!
Interactive Test
 

See Also

What are verbs? Past tense Try our drag-and-drop test on verb tenses Future tense Tenses Simple past tense Past progressive tense Past perfect tense Past perfect progressive tense Simple present tense Present progressive tense Present perfect tense Present perfect progressive tense Simple future tense Future progressive tense Future perfect tense Future perfect progressive tense Glossary of grammatical terms