Do you sometimes feel a bit lost when deciding which tense to use? Are you a little unsure of the differences between the present tenses? Does jumping to and fro between tenses leave you confused? If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these, then you’ll be happy to know we’ve created a grammar guide for you: Understanding Present Simple and Present Perfect.

These two tenses have similar names, and they refer to periods of time which are, in a way, similar. However, there are clear differences, and making mistakes when using them can lead to a breakdown in communication, or even worse, an angry teacher! Mastering grammar tenses is important!

Firstly, don’t worry if you’re not a grammar expert. We’ll avoid using a lot of jargon and instead, we’ll go through the grammar using basic terms. On the other hand, you might be someone who feels very confident using grammar and just wants to brush up on it. We all need to review things from time to time! With that in mind, let’s get to work on tense usage in English.


The Present Simple – 3 usages


We use the Present Simple to describe actions or situations that are routines, habits, general facts, states of being and permanent situations. In short, we use it to talk about things we like, things we do and things we have.

1. Routines and habits

We use the Present Simple to describe actions that happen regularly (or don’t happen regularly) or as part of a routine.

I watch my football team every weekend, and they usually let me down!

She usually rides her bike to work. That’s why she’s so fit!

We always play games in class, because we always work hard first!

2. General facts and states of being

We use the Present Simple to talk about general facts and states that are true in the present.

The Earth orbits the sun.

Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.

Seville is scorching at this time of year.

3. Permanent situations

We also use the Present Simple to refer to permanent or long-lasting situations or conditions.

My aunt lives in Chicago.

He works as an artist.

She is really into parkour.


How do we make the Present Simple?


The verb takes the base form (the infinitive without ‘to’), and as you can see from the examples, we add an ‘s’ with the third person singular (he, she, it). However, there are some spelling exceptions:

When the verb ends in -ch, -ss, -sh, -x or -zz, we add -es.

She watches too much TV.

When the verb ends in a consonant + -y we change y to i and add -es.

Harry studies grammar every night.

Have, go, do and be are irregular.

Laura has an older brother.

Check out these examples of the Present Simple in this TV series compilation. Can you match each example to the usage?


The Present Perfect – 3 usages


We use the Present Perfect to describe actions or events that started in the past, but are related to the present moment.

1. Recently completed actions

We use the Present Perfect tense when an event or action happened at some point in the past, is relevant to or has an impact on the present.

I have just finished this book. What a page-turner!

She has lost her mobile phone again! How can we call her?

2. Ongoing actions with a connection to the present

We also use the Present Perfect to talk about actions or events that started in the past and are still happening in the present.

Son Heung-Min has played for the Spurs since 2015.

I have lived in this town all my life. I know it like the back of my hand.

3. Actions with unspecified times

We can also use the Present Perfect when the time of the action is not specified or not important. This puts emphasis on the fact that the action has been completed.

She has been to Mexico five times.

I have seen all of the James Bond films.


How do we make the Present Perfect?


We use the subject, followed by the auxiliary verb ‘have’ or ‘has’, and then the past participle of the main verb. Irregular verbs have unique past participle forms, and we can find these in the third column of the irregular verb table. However, we make regular past participle verbs by adding ‘-ed’.

How about these examples of the Present Perfect in TV clips? Can you match them to the usage?



Are there any useful words to help us?


We use each tense to refer to different time periods. Luckily, there are useful time references which help us know which tense to use. It’s a good idea to make a note of these!

Time references | Grammar Guide – Understanding Present Simple and Present Perfect | Oxford House Barcelona

Look at the change in meaning


Often, it’s useful to compare two sentences so you can really understand the difference. Can you match the examples to the uses mentioned earlier in the blog?

Change in meaning | Grammar Guide – Understanding Present Simple and Present Perfect | Oxford House Barcelona

As always, the best way to remember new grammar is to write your own personal sentences. Try replacing the key words in our examples with something connected to your life!

Practice | Grammar Guide – Understanding Present Simple and Present Perfect | Oxford House Barcelona

Common errors in use


Be careful when using these grammar tenses. Here are some typical mistakes that we’ve corrected for you.

Common Errors | Grammar Guide – Understanding Present Simple and Present Perfect | Oxford House Barcelona

Remember that English grammar is not exactly the same as the grammar in your language. Therefore, it is not always a good idea to make direct translations. It’s better to fully immerse yourself in English grammar. Keep reading for some tips to help you consolidate your understanding.


How to choose the correct tense


  • Look carefully for examples of time references.
  • Try the sentence in both tenses and try to figure out which usage is needed.
  • Think about how the choice of tense can affect the meaning of a sentence.
  • Read in English and look for examples. Highlight them and identify the usage.


Final thoughts


  • The Present Simple and Present Perfect are alike in name, but very different in usage.
  • Present Simple = routines, habits, general facts and permanent situations.
  • Present Perfect = recently completed actions, actions with an impact on the present and completed actions with an unspecified time.
  • A sound understanding of these two tenses will lead to clear communication.
  • Practice makes perfect!

Don’t stop yet! Check out these blogs for more useful tips:

4 Conditionals In English And When To Use Them

4 Future Tenses In English And How To Use Them

Stop Making These 7 Grammar Mistakes

And remember, learning is always more enjoyable with other people! Find the class to suit your needs!

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

To and fro (adv): very busy with something.

Jargon (n): speak angrily at someone because they’ve done something wrong.

Brush up on (pv): make people who have not met before feel more relaxed.

Let someone down (pv): the last part of a joke, the funny part!

Scorching (adj): be different to something.

Be really into something (exp): in this context, to ‘get’ a joke, means to understand a joke.

Page-turner (n): the place where very young children go when their parents are at work.

To know something like the back of your hand (exp): change the colour of something, usually hair.

Figure out (pv): a set of clothes which you wear to look like something or someone.

Alike (adj): find the origin of something.

Sound (adj): prevent someone or something from harming you.


adv = adverb

n = noun

pv = phrasal verb

adj = adjective

exp = expression

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