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How to Write in Present Tense

Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature. He has taught college English for 5+ years.

Present tense is a verb tense used to describe actions happening right now. This lesson will discuss the simple present, present perfect and present progressive forms of present tense, describing when to use each and how to change the verb to signal the tense.

I Have a Present for You

Quick, what are you doing right now? Well, for one, you are reading this lesson. And maybe you are doing some other things too, like listening to music, or engaging in a text message conversation with your friend (if you are, tell them to wait a minute and give me your full attention for a minute. It won't take long).

All of the actions you are doing right now are happening in the present tense, a verb tense that describes actions currently happening. We use present tense verbs to distinguish from events happening in the past and in the future.

But there are a couple different ways to say what you are doing right now:

  • Janet reads her grammar lesson.
  • Janet is reading her grammar lesson.
  • Janet has read her grammar lesson.

Which one is correct? Let's see.

Forms of Present Tense

We're going to look at three forms of present tense: simple present, present perfect and present progressive. Let's take a look at how each of these affects the way the present tense is written.

Simple Present

As the name implies, this is just for things that are happening right now:

Janet reads her grammar lesson.

While it's pretty straightforward, simple present gets a little tricky because the present tense form of the verb changes based on the noun. Check this out:

  • I read my grammar lesson.
  • You read your grammar lesson.
  • He reads his grammar lesson.
  • They read their grammar lesson.

For most verbs, the simple present has an 's' on the end for third-person singular nouns but not for other nouns.

Present Perfect

But what if you're describing an action that is still happening right now but started in the past? That's where present perfect comes in:

  • I have worked at this job for ten years.
  • Jane has been a vegetarian since she was 15.

Present perfect uses the helping verbs, 'has' or 'have,' and the past participle of the main verb to show that the action started in the past but is still going on.

Present Progressive

While simple present describes something happening now, it often can be rather general and not specify whether or not the action is happening right this very second. For example:

  • Greg watches TV.

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