Simple Present or Present Perfect Progressive – English Tense Comparison

Introduction

The simple present tense and the present perfect progressive tense, also present perfect continuous, are both used to talk about the present. The simple present is used for general statements and actions that take place regularly in the present. The present perfect progressive is used to express the duration of an action that started in the past and continues into the present.

Compare the usage of the simple present and present perfect progressive in English grammar with Lingolia’s simple tense comparison chart. In the exercises, you can practise using these present tenses.

Example

  • Helen, you’ve been cycling for three hours and you are not tired. How often do you cycle?
  • I cycle almost every day. My grandparents gave me a bike on my fourth birthday. I’ve been cycling since then.
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Usage

The chart below provides an overview of the differences between the English simple present and present perfect progressive tenses.

Simple PresentPresent Perfect Progressive
to say when/how often an a present action takes place
Example:
How often do you cycle?
I cycle almost every day.

to say how long an action has been in progress

Example:
How long have you been cycling?
You have been cycling for three hours.
I have been cycling since then.

Signal Words

Signal words can help us to recognise which tense to use in a sentence. Below is a list of signal words for the simple present and present perfect progressive tenses.

Simple PresentPresent Perfect Progressive
  • how often
  • once/twice
  • three times
  • every day/month/…
  • how long
  • since
  • for

To Note

Some of the signal words for the simple present are the same as those for the present perfect. In the case of the simple present, the frequency of a present/ongoing action is stressed, whereas with the present perfect, we express how often it has taken place in the past up to this present point in time.

Example:
I cycle three times a week. (simple present)
I have only cycled three times in my life. (present perfect simple)

Conjugation

For information on the conjugation of these two tenses, see: