Cheat sheet 4 – Talking about now
In the English language it can be complicated and confusing to talk about tenses by labelling them ‘present’ and assuming that they are talking about the present. In fact, present perfect is more about the past than it is about now. So, here we will outline some of the things you might want to say about now, and how to say them.
If we want to talk about the immediate moment of now, we use the present continuous.
I am having a bath, get out!
He is not doing what I think he is, is he?
Around now but maybe not at this moment
We also use the present continuous for an activity which is not currently in progress but that is being repeated often around the time of now. This should be a temporary activity like a habit, a new hobby or a special effort made at work. It also expresses a recent change or development in something.
I am going to the gym now; will you be my girlfriend?
I’m really getting into Stranger Things. Thanks for recommending it to me!
They are going crazy at work because of all this political stuff.
Sometimes we want to say something about now but it’s not an action, it is a state. This could be a state of body or mind and conceptually it is like this thing is permanent. Spanish students could think of the difference between ser and estar. Actions are continuous/progressive, and states are simple. We do not need to say exactly when, because they are states just like the colour of your hair or the size of your foot.
I am not very good at pool. Would you like to play for money?
What do you need, sir? Maybe some cream would help with your dry skin.
Warning! Present for the future
Beware of the future masquerading as a present tense. We use the present continuous for the future more than any other future structure, and we use the present simple for the future too. Even going to is using the verb to be in the present form. The future with will is actually not very useful at all, but that is for next time.
Written by James R. McCance for Aston School