One of the reasons why English is so challenging is that we have 12 verb tenses and these have quite specific and confusing usages. Two commonly confused tenses are the present simple and present perfect. Both are essential for everyday communication, but they serve different purposes and are used in different contexts.

In this lesson, I will show you how and when to use these two tenses, offering straightforward explanations and helpful examples.

What is the Present Simple Tense?

Definition and Structure

The present simple tense is used to express general facts, habits, and routines that are true in the present and often true over an extended period. The structure of the present simple is:

  • Affirmative: Subject + base verb (e.g., “I eat”)
  • Negative: Subject + do not/does not + base verb (e.g., “I do not eat”)
  • Question: Do/Does + subject + base verb? (e.g., “Do you eat?”)

Present Simple Tense: Additional Examples

Affirmative Sentences

  1. “She works at a bank.”
  2. “They play soccer every weekend.”
  3. “You read a lot of books.”
  4. “He loves music.”
  5. “We travel every summer.”

Note: Remember that in the third-person singular (he, she, it), you typically add an “-s” to the base verb.

Negative Sentences

  1. “She does not work at a bank.”
  2. “They do not play soccer every weekend.”
  3. “You do not read a lot of books.”
  4. “He does not love music.”
  5. “We do not travel every summer.”

Note: Use “do not” for “I,” “you,” “we,” and “they.” Use “does not” for “he,” “she,” and “it.”

Question Form

  1. “Does she work at a bank?”
  2. “Do they play soccer every weekend?”
  3. “Do you read a lot of books?”
  4. “Does he love music?”
  5. “Do we travel every summer?”

Note: Use “Do” for questions involving “I,” “you,” “we,” and “they.” Use “Does” for questions involving “he,” “she,” and “it.”

Examples and Rules

Here are three key uses of the present simple tense:

  • General Facts: “The sun rises in the east.”
  • Habits: “She drinks tea every morning.”
  • Repeated Actions: “The train always leaves at six.”

Note: For third-person singular subjects (he, she, it), add an ‘-s’ to the base verb. For example, “He drinks coffee.”

General Facts

General facts are statements that are consistently true and don’t change over time.

  • Additional Examples:
    1. “Fish live in water.”
    2. “Earth revolves around the Sun.”
    3. “Gravity pulls objects toward the centre of the Earth.”


Habits refer to actions that occur regularly, typically as a matter of routine.

  • Additional Examples:
    1. “He jogs every evening.”
    2. “She always carries an umbrella.”
    3. “They usually eat out on Fridays.”
    4. “I check my emails first thing in the morning.”
    5. “We attend church every Sunday.”
    6. “She walks her dog twice a day.”

Repeated Actions

Repeated actions are things that happen over and over. It is similar to the above “habit” rule but these could be things that naturally occur or are part of a timetable.

  • Additional Examples:
    1. “There is a bus every fifteen minutes.”
    2. “The sun rises at ten to six.”

These examples should give you a more rounded understanding of how to use the present simple tense to express general facts, habits, and repeated actions. You can learn more in this article about the present tenses.

What is the Present Perfect Tense?

Definition and Structure

The present perfect tense is used to express actions that have a connection between the past and the present. In other words, it signifies actions that were completed at an unspecified time before now or actions that have an effect on the present moment. The structure is:

  • Affirmative: Subject + have/has + past participle (e.g., “I have eaten”)
  • Negative: Subject + have not/has not + past participle (e.g., “I have not eaten”)
  • Question: Have/Has + subject + past participle? (e.g., “Have you eaten?”)

Present Perfect Tense: Additional Examples

Affirmative Sentences

  1. “She has finished her homework.”
  2. “They have travelled to Europe.”
  3. “You have learned a lot.”
  4. “He has baked a cake.”
  5. “We have watched the movie.”

Note: Use “have” for “I,” “you,” “we,” and “they,” and “has” for “he,” “she,” and “it.”

Negative Sentences

  1. “She has not finished her homework.”
  2. “They have not travelled to Europe.”
  3. “You have not learned a lot.”
  4. “He has not baked a cake.”
  5. “We have not watched the movie.”

Note: Use “have not” for “I,” “you,” “we,” and “they,” and “has not” for “he,” “she,” and “it.”

negative present perfect tense

Question Form

  1. “Has she finished her homework?”
  2. “Have they travelled to Europe?”
  3. “Have you learned a lot?”
  4. “Has he baked a cake?”
  5. “Have we watched the movie?”

Note: Use “Have” for questions involving “I,” “you,” “we,” and “they.” Use “Has” for questions involving “he,” “she,” and “it.”

Examples and Rules

  • Unspecified Time Before Now: “I have visited Paris.” (It’s not important when, just that you have experienced visiting Paris)
  • Effect on the Present: “She has lost her keys.” (and therefore can’t enter her house now)
  • Ongoing Actions: “We have lived here for five years.” (and continue to live here)

Note: “Have” is used with “I,” “you,” “we,” and “they,” while “has” is used with “he,” “she,” and “it.”

Unspecified Time Before Now

This usage highlights actions that have happened at some point in the past, without specifying exactly when.

  • Additional Examples:
    1. “He has read that book.” (We don’t know when, but he has the experience of reading that book)
    2. “They have eaten sushi before.” (The specific time is not important, just the experience)
    3. “You have mentioned this to me.” (It has happened, but it doesn’t matter when)

Effect on the Present

In these cases, the action has an immediate relevance or consequence in the present moment.

  • Additional Examples:
    1. “I have forgotten my password.” (As a result, I can’t log in now)
    2. “He has broken his arm.” (So he can’t use it at the moment)
    3. “She has missed the train.” (Therefore, she will be late)

Ongoing Actions

This refers to actions that started in the past and continue to the present or actions repeated in an unspecified period between the past and now.

  • Additional Examples:
    1. “I have worked at this company since 2015.” (And I still work there)
    2. “They have been friends for years.” (And continue to be friends)
    3. “She has visited her grandmother several times this month.” (And might continue doing so)


  • “Have” is used with “I,” “you,” “we,” and “they.”
  • “Has” is used with “he,” “she,” and “it.”

These expanded examples should help you better grasp the various ways in which the present perfect tense can be used. You can learn much more in this comprehensive lesson.

Present Simple vs Present Perfect: Key Differences

  1. Time Relevance: Present simple talks about general facts or routines that are time-independent. Present perfect, on the other hand, has a time connection with the present moment.
  2. Specificity of Time: In the present simple, the time is usually specific (e.g., “every day,” “usually,” “sometimes”). In the present perfect, the time is usually unspecified (e.g., “ever,” “never,” “already,” “yet”).
  3. Subject-Verb Agreement: In the present simple, third-person singular subjects require an ‘-s’ at the end of the verb. In the present perfect, the auxiliary verb “have/has” changes according to the subject but the past participle remains the same.


  • Present Simple: “I eat breakfast at 8 a.m.” (this shows routine – in other words, it is a daily habit)
  • Present Perfect: “I have eaten breakfast.” (the time is not specified; the focus is on the fact that the action is complete)
  • Present Perfect: “I haven’t eaten since breakfast.” (this negative example shows an ongoing action – or lack of action – that affects the present moment)

In summary, understanding the difference between present simple and present perfect is crucial for effective communication in English. While the former is used for general facts, habits, and routines, the latter is used for actions with a link to the present moment. Remember these rules and examples as you continue to improve your mastery of English grammar.

You might be interested in learning about past simple vs present perfect or past perfect vs present perfect.