English Tenses Exercises

Here are some English tenses exercises with answers.

Present Simple or Present Continuous

We use the Present Simple to talk about things that are factual, permanent, or routine.

For example:
London lies on the Thames. (factual)
I live in Italy. (permanent)
I go to work by car. (routine)

When we talk about our routines, we can also add an adverb of frequency to say how often we do these things:

I always go to work by car.
I never take the bus to work.

But we use the Present Continuous to talk about things that are happening now, or around now. ("Around now" can mean this hour, this week, this month, this year…) We think that these events are temporary, rather than permanent.

We tend to use the Present Continuous to talk about changes and trends.

This week I'm taking the bus to work because my car is in the garage. (A temporary change.)
The price of petrol is going up. (A trend)

We can also use adverbial expressions of frequency to give more information.

I'm currently taking the bus to work.
The price of petrol is going up at the moment.
I'm staying in a hotel this week.

(For more information, see our page on Present tenses in English.)

Exercise

Decide if the verb in brackets should be in the present simple or the present continuous.

1. He ——- (live) with his parents at the moment.
2. Some areas of Italy ——– (become) drier.
3. She ——– (work) as a lab technician.
4. She ——– (plan) to study for a degree.
5. I —— (have got) two sisters.
6. In her job, she ——– (answer) the phone.
7. People ——– (live) longer and longer.
8. This month they ——– (work) on a new project.

Answers

1. He is living with his parents at the moment.
2. Some areas of Italy are becoming drier.
3. She works as a lab technician.
4. She is planning to study for a degree.
5. I have got two sisters.
6. In her job, she answers the phone.
7. People are living longer and longer.
8. This month they are working on a new project.

Past tenses

To refresh your knowledge of the Past Simple (I worked) and the Past Continuous (I was working), have a look at this grammar page with the rules and explanations.

Here's a quick review.

Use the Past Simple

– for a long-lasting event or situation (now finished).

When I was in my 20s, I lived in London.

Use the Past Continuous

– if it's the background or a temporary situation.

While she was living in London, she met many friendly people.
(background situation)

She was living in Camden for a while, then moved to Stepney.
(temporary situation)

Often, the Past Continuous can be interrupted by a single event in the past simple.

While I was walking the dog, I saw an old friend. (it happened while I was out with the dog.)

Exercise

Decide if the verbs should be in the Past Simple or Past Continuous.

Story 1
It was a hot day, so I —— (decide) to prepare salad for lunch. Outside, the children ——- (play) in the garden. Suddenly I —- (hear) a loud noise, followed by a scream. I —– (run) outside to see what —— (happen).

Story 2
On my first day at work I was a bit nervous. I —- (get) up early, —- (have) a shower, and —- (drink) some coffee. I was too nervous to eat.

I —- (think) I —– (look) very smart. I —– (wear) a suit and my best shoes. I —- (walk) to the bus stop and —- (wait) for the bus. While I —- (wait), I —– (notice) that people —– (look) at me in a strange way. I —- (try) to ignore them, and when my bus —- (arrive) I —- (get) on and —- (find) a seat. 30 minutes later, I —- (arrive) at my office. Just as I —- (get) off the bus, I —- (look) down and —- (realise) that I —- (wear) shoes of different colours…

Answers

Story 1
It was a hot day, so I decided to prepare salad for lunch. Outside, the children were playing in the garden. Suddenly I heard a loud noise, followed by a scream. I ran outside to see what was happening.

Story 2
On my first day at work I was a bit nervous. I got up early, had a shower, and drank some coffee. I was too nervous to eat.

I thought I was looking / looked very smart. I was wearing a suit and my best shoes. I walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus. While I was waiting, I noticed that people were looking at me in a strange way. I tried to ignore them, and when my bus arrived I got on and found a seat. 30 minutes later, I arrived at my office. Just as I got off the bus, I looked down and realised that I was wearing shoes of different colours…

Present Perfect

When do you use the Present Perfect tense? Our grammar page explains the rules.

The important thing to remember about the present perfect simple and continuous is that they are related to the present – not the past. If we focus on events that happened in the past, we use the Past Simple:

Last year I went to Spain.

With the present perfect, there's always a connection with now – even if the event happened in the past.

I've visited Spain before. (I have a memory of it in my mind.)
I've lived here for three years. (I still live here)

We can also use the present perfect to talk about recent activities. Often we use an adverb like just, already, yet or still:

I've just seen Robert. (about a minute ago)
I've already finished my work. (I finished it sooner than I thought)
I haven't been to the bank yet. (up to now)
I still haven't been to the bank. (the situation hasn't changed)

Exercise

Choose just, already, yet or still to fill the gaps in the sentences below.

1. Have you sent that letter?
No, I haven't been to the Post Office —–

2. I've —– seen Paul at the bus stop. He's looking really well.
3. Do you want me to get you a newspaper when I'm out? No thanks, I've —– read it online. (2 possibilities)
4. She's a great traveller. She's —– been to most European countries, and now she's going to South America.
5. I'm supposed to be going to an interview tomorrow, but I —– haven't had confirmation about the time.
6. Do you want to work an extra day tomorrow? No thanks, I've —– come back from holiday.

Answers

1. Have you sent that letter?
No, I haven't been to the Post Office yet.

2. I've just seen Paul at the bus stop. He's looking really well.
3. Do you want me to get you a newspaper when I'm out? No thanks, I've already / just read it online. (2 possibilities)
4. She's a great traveller. She's already been to most European countries, and now she's going to South America.
5. I'm supposed to be going to an interview tomorrow, but I still haven't had confirmation about the time.
6. Do you want to work an extra day tomorrow? No thanks, I've just come back from holiday.

Past Simple or Past Perfect

Most of the time, when you talk about an event in the past, you can use the Past Simple and Past Continuous. If you need to give a flashback in this story, you can use the past perfect. (You can review the grammar of the past perfect here.)

It's important to remember that if you're sequencing your story (telling it in chronological order, from beginning to end) you don't need the past perfect. You only need to use it if you want to say that something happened before something else – perhaps to give extra explanation.

If you have sequencing words like "after" or "before" (which make the order of the story clear) you don't need to use the past perfect.

Before I left the house, I checked my emails. (we know that you checked the emails, then left.)

Here's an example of how to use the Past Simple, Past Continuous and Past Perfect together in a story.

This story happened when I was living in Paris. (both events set in the past).

I had come to Paris because my office had transferred me there. (reason why I was in Paris – the transfer happened before the story takes place.)

One day, I left my flat as usual. I took the metro to get to my office, then walked the few metres to my office. (All events in the past simple, as you're going back to the story, telling it in chronological order.)

Exercise

In this story, decide which tense the verbs in brackets should be – past simple, past continuous or past perfect.

When I (was living) in London, a strange thing —– (happen) to me.

At that time, I —- (have) a job as a receptionist in a hotel. I —– (apply) for the job before I —– (arrive) in London, which —– (make) things a bit easier.

The hotel —– (be) in the centre, and —– (be) always busy. One day, as I —– (work) I —– (hear) someone call my name. The voice was familiar – I —– (think) I —– (hear) it before. I —– (look) up and —– (see) to my surprise that the person standing in front of me —- (be) …..

Answers

When I was living in London, a strange thing happened to me.

At that time, I had a job as a receptionist in a hotel. I'd applied for the job before I arrived in London, which made things a bit easier.

The hotel was in the centre, and was always busy. One day, as I was working I heard someone call my name. The voice was familiar – I thought I had heard it before. I looked up and saw to my surprise that the person standing in front of me was …..

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Wasi Abbas
Nice and undstandable.

Naeem khan
Very nice and more understandable

Alex
Great excersizes! I'm going to use them for my classes.

addy
great practice i needed that and still do! thank you

Vinay
This very useful for beginers

belen
VERY GOOD PAGE!!!!!!!!!!


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