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.
Advertisement

Usage

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

Simple Present Present Perfect Progressive
to say when/how often 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: Simple Present vs. Present Perfect Progressive

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.

Signal Words for Simple Present

Signal Word Example
how often How often do you do sport?
how long How long do you cycle?
every day/month... He plays volleyball every Thursday.
once/twice I go to the gym twice a week.
... times We visit my parents about three times a year.

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:
How long do you cycle? (simple present → focus on regular bike rides)
How long have you been cycling? (present perfect continuous → focus on the question since when)

Signal Words for Present Perfect Progressive

Signal Word Example
how long How long have you been cycling?
for I’ve been learning English for two years.
since He’s been playing the piano since he was a child.

Conjugation

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