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The Simple Guide to English Present Tenses: A Summary of How to Form Each Tense

By Edited Jan 22, 2016 0 0

The English tense system can strike fear into the hearts of students and teachers alike – but by keeping things simple it can be learnt (or taught) much more easily than you might think. The first thing to remember is that a thorough knowledge of verbs and participles will be needed (and parts of speech in general), after this you will find that each tense tends to follow the same patterns. If one tense is learnt (preferably beginning with the present tense), it will be much easier to learn the rest. Following is a summary of how to form each of the present tenses:

Present simple tense

-Affirmative: Subject + base form of verb (+ "es" or "s" for third person singular)

I love soccer; They race cars; He rides horses; We own this house; It makes no sense

-Negative: Subject + auxiliary verb "do" + not + base form of verb

They do not eat meat; He does not know them; I don't attend the meeting

- Question: Auxiliary verb "do" + subject + base form of verb

Do you live here?; Do they understand?; Does it work?

Present continuous tense

Note: Present participle = verb + ing; Auxiliary verb "be" = am, are or is

-Affirmative: Subject + auxiliary verb "be" + present participle

I am eating my lunch; They are driving to the mall; She is waiting for them to arrive

-Negative: Subject + auxiliary verb "be" + not + present participle

I am not eating my lunch; They are not driving to the mall; She is not waiting for them to arrive

- Question: Auxiliary verb "be" + subject + present participle

Am I eating my lunch?; Are they driving to the mall?; Is she waiting for them to arrive?

Present perfect tense

Note: The auxiliary verb "have" has two present forms: has (used with he, she, it) and have (used with everything else). Past participles are sometimes formed by adding a verb + ed, and often then are irregular (there are no rules on how to form them) – practice is required to learn them. Most good English dictionaries will contain lists of irregular verbs.

-Affirmative: Subject + Auxiliary verb "have" + Past participle

I have swum today; She has eaten; They have gone to the movies

-Negative: Subject + Auxiliary verb "have" + not + Past Participle

I have not swum today; She has not eaten; They have not gone to the movies

- Question: Auxiliary verb "have" + Subject + Past Participle

Have I swum today?; Has she eaten?; Have they gone to the movies?

Present perfect continuous tense

Note: The auxiliary verb "have" has two present forms: has (used with he, she, it) and have (used with everything else).The present participle is the "ing" form of a verb.

-Affirmative: Subject + Auxiliary verb "have" + been + Present participle

They have been walking around town today

-Negative: Subject + Auxiliary verb "have" + not + been + Present Participle

They have not been walking around town today

- Question: Auxiliary verb "have" + Subject + been+ Present Participle

Have they been walking around town today?

See Also:

A Summary of the uses of each present tense

A Summary of how to form each past tense

A summary of how to form each future tense


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