Present vs Progressive vs Past Tense

English Grammar Rules


Present Tense

We use the present tense:

1. For facts.

2. For repeated or regular actions in the present time period.

3. For habits

4. For things that are generally true in the present time period.

We use the present tense when the beginning or ending of an action, event or condition is unknown or unimportant to the meaning of the sentence.


Progressive Tense

We use the present progressive tense:

1. When somebody is doing something at the moment.

2. When something is happening at the moment.

3. To talk about something that is happening around the time of speaking but not necessarily at that exact moment.

A sentence in the Present Continuous indicates that the action, event or condition is ongoing. It is happening at this point in time and emphasizing the continuing nature of an act, event or condition.


Past Tense

The Past Tense is used:

1. To indicate that an action, event or condition has started and finished. It can be included with a time reference (for more information) or without.

2. To talk about something which was true in the past.

3. When we are talking about a particular time in the past.

It can be included with a time reference (for more information) or without it.


Comparing the Tenses

A sentence in the Present Continuous indicates that the action, event or condition is ongoing. It is happening at this point in time and emphasizing the continuing nature of an act, event or condition.

A significant difference between the simple present tense and the Progressive Tense is:

We use the Simple Present Tense for things that are permanent
We use the Present Progressive for things that may change (are temporary).

Compare:


Present I live in Chile Right now - Permanent
Progressive I am living in Chile For the moment - Temporary
Past I lived in Chile Happened in the past (not now)

Affirmative Negative Question
Present I live in Peru. I don't live in Peru. Do you live in Peru?
Progressive I'm living in Peru I'm not living in Peru. Are you living in Peru?
Past I lived in Peru. I didn't live in Peru. Did you live in Peru?


Next activities

Try our interactive game about the Present vs. Progressive vs. Past Tense

See our grammar notes about the Present vs the Progressive Tense and the Past Tense.


If you found this grammar guide about the Present vs. Progressive vs. Past Tense useful, let others know about it:


Grammar Notes

A variety of English grammar notes and rules including charts and examples for beginner to advanced level students.

Learn Grammar

Grammar Games

Improve your English with our interactive English grammar games. There are many different topics and levels.

Play our Games

Connect with us

Woodward English on Facebook Woodward English on Twitter Woodward English on YouTube Woodward English on TSU Woodward English on Pinterest Woodward English on Google Plus