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Session 2

Review and extend your knowledge of the present simple, present perfect and present continuous tenses

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6 Minute Grammar

Present tenses

Finn and Catherine take a look at the present simple, present continuous and present perfect tenses. Find out which one to use when, listen out for lots of examples and see if you can score top marks in our quiz!

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Catherine   
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Catherine.

Finn            
And me, Finn. Hello.

Catherine   
In this programme we're talking about present tenses. 

Finn            
Now let's get started. The first thing we need to know is that the present simple tense is mainly for facts, habits and truths. Now, Catherine, give me a true fact about you.

Catherine   
A true fact about me is that I like gardening.

Finn
Oh, wow, great.

Catherine
Love it.

Finn
Thanks Catherine. And can you tell me one of your habits?

Catherine   
I drink a cup of coffee every morning. I drink one at home and I drink another one when I get to work.

Finn
So far so good. We make the present simple with a subject and base verb, and we add -s to the verb for he, she and it. So: I work, you work, he works, she works, and so on. We make questions and negatives with do or does. So Catherine, do you take milk in your coffee?

Catherine   
I do take milk in my coffee, Finn. Do you take milk in your coffee?

Finn           
I don't. I like it black.

Catherine
And what about Mrs Finn, does she take milk in her coffee?

Finn
She doesn't drink coffee.

Catherine
Oh, what does she drink?

Finn
Tea. All the time.

Catherine
Very British.

Finn
Yes.

Catherine   
Good. So that's present simple for facts and habits. Now when we're talking about activities, temporary situations, and things that are happening now – or around now – we use am, is or are plus an i-n-g verb to make the present continuous. So Finn, what are you doing now?

Finn
Now, right now, right at this minute, I'm sitting in the studio, on a chair, talking to you, but off and on, I'm also reading a novel called The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro. It's great.

Catherine
Well pronounced.

Finn
Thank you. And are you reading anything right now Catherine?

Catherine
Yes I am. I'm reading a novel also. It's a comedy about Adrian Mole and it's really good, I'm enjoying it a lot.

Finn
Sounds great. I'd like to borrow it.

Catherine
You can. We can also use the present continuous for future arrangements. So Finn, what are you doing tonight?

Finn
Tonight I'm taking my wife to dinner. Don't tell her.

Catherine
Lucky wife.

Finn
That's right. So, present simple for facts and habits; present continuous for activities and future arrangements.

Catherine   
And now for the present perfect. We make it with have or has plus the past participle, it connects the past to the present, and it's useful for asking about life experiences. So, life experience question coming, Finn. Have you ever eaten insects?

Finn           
I have, yes. I've eaten ants and beetles in Cambodia. So in the question, the word ever means 'at any time in your life'. Never means at no time in your life. So Catherine, tell us about an experience that you have never had. 

Catherine
Well, I've never eaten insects Finn. And I've never been on safari. But I'm sure that our colleague Rob has been on safari.

Finn
He's been to many places.

Catherine
He has. Other words we use with present perfect are just, already and yet. We use just, already and yet a lot when we're using the present perfect tense to talk about the present effect of a past event. Already means something has happened, perhaps earlier than expected. So Finn, give us an example of already:

Finn
Right. I've already had breakfast today. 

Catherine   
And coffee? Have you had coffee?

Finn            
I've just had a cup of coffee. Just means recently. I haven't had lunch yet.

Catherine
I should think not, it's only half ten.

Finn
It's a bit early for lunch, yeah.

Catherine   
And yet means something like 'not until now'.

Finn            
Good. And if a past situation has continued until now, use for or since to say how long it has continued, like this:

Catherine   
I've lived in London for five years. I've been married since 2003.

Finn
We also use the present perfect to give news. Things that happened a short time ago, and are important now. So, have you got any news for us, Catherine?

Catherine   
Yes I have, actually. 

Finn
OK?

Catherine
I've won the lottery!

Finn
I don't believe you.

Catherine
That's because I'm not telling the truth, it's just an example!

IDENT        
You're listening to bbclearningenglish.com.

Catherine   
And we're talking about present tenses. And it's quiz time! Question one. Which of these sentences best describes a habit? a) I have smoked 20 cigarettes a day, b) I smoke 20 cigarettes a day.

Finn
And the answer's b) I smoke 20 cigarettes a day. Question two. Is this sentence grammatically correct, or wrong? Humans have not visited the planet Mars yet, but they have already been to the moon.

Catherine
It's correct.

Finn
It is. Now, last one: Which sentence is correct? a) Catherine has never eaten insects, b) Catherine never eats insects, or c) Catherine is never eating insects.

Catherine
And the answer is that both a) and b) are correct. As a life experience it's true to say that I have never eaten insects; and as a fact I can say: I never eat insects. So that brings us to the end of the quiz, and well done to you if you got them all right.

Finn           
A free insect for everyone who got all of those right! Now, there's more about this on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar. 

Both
Bye.

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End of Session 2

That's all for this session. We hope you enjoyed it. In Session 3 you can read all about pop-up shops!

Session Grammar

    • Present simple - facts, habits, truths and permanent situations. For positive sentences add -s to the infinitive without 'to' for he, she and it; make questions and negatives with do or does + the infintive without 'to'.

      • I check my email every day.
      • Yuki works at the bank.
      • I don't eat meat.
      • It doesn't usually snow in October.
      • Why do you read the news online every day?
      • Does the supermarket sell stamps?

      Present Continuous - activities that are happening now, temporary situations, activities in progress and future arrangements. For positive sentences, the form is subject + am/is/are + verb-ing. Make negatives with not and change the word order to make questions

      • Just a minute. I'm checking my email.
      • She's working from home this week. 
      • The twins are studying Economics.
      • I'm seeing the doctor on Monday morning.
      • He isn't answering his mobile at the moment.
      • What are we doing?
      • Is it raining?

      Verbs of thinking and feeling, for example: hear, see, smell, hate, know, understand, believe, want, need are not usually used in the continuous form.

      WRONG: Could you explain that again? I'm not understanding.
      CORRECT: Could you explain that again? I don't understand.

      Present Perfect - for life experiences in the past; recent past actions that are important now; past situations that are still happening now (often with how long, for and since; with just, already, yet for recent events. For positive sentences, the form is subject + have/has + past participle. Make negatives with not and change the word order to make questions.

      • I've seen all Tarantino's films.
      • Have you ever eaten sushi? - Yes, I have. / No, I haven't.
      • The president has resigned.
      • I haven't seen Jenny this morning.
      • How long have you known Mitya? - I've known him for two years.
      • They've been in Italy since January.
      • It's just stopped raining.
      • We’ve already had breakfast.
      • The films haven't started yet.
      • Have you done your English homework yet?