Lesson 1.4d Verbs - Present Tense

downloadable worksheet


 Although we don’t generally have any problem using present tense when we are speaking, it can be a bit hard to identify because of the lack of present tense suffixes in English. You can conjugate a verb with all of the subject pronouns to see this lack of tense marking:


I             sing           

you        sing

he/she  sings

we         sing           

you (all) sing

they       sing


So it’s only with he/she that there is a different form: sings. In many dialects of English, the -s on the he/she-form is not used. In most forms of academic written English, however, the -s on the he/she form is used. The English language has gradually been losing these suffixes. ln many other languages, and in older forms of English too, there is a different ending to go with each subject pronoun. Here’s the conjugation of sing in Old English, where there were four different endings. I’ll use the modern version of the pronouns:


I             singe

you       singest

he/she  singeth

we         singath

you (all) singath

they       singath


So although the language has eliminated most of the endings used to mark present tense, there is still a present tense form of the verb for many speakers. It just happens to look like the infinitive in most cases. We still know as speakers, though, when it is expressing present tense, even when there is no suffix.


Pick five verbs and give the present tense forms with each of the pronouns: I, you, he/she, we, you (all), they.



I cough                             we cough

you cough                        y’all cough

he/she coughs                 they cough


(The present tense form of the verb is distinct from the progressive (which is technically an “aspect” not a “tense.” You can learn more about the present participle that is needed to form the progressive in Lesson 1.4e.)


[Teacher note: As mentioned, in some dialects, the present tense -s has “leveled” to be like the other forms, so a speaker might say cough across the board, for all subjects: I eat, you eat, he/she eat, we eat, you eat, they eat. It’s important not to suggest that this leveled form is incorrect (it isn’t; it expresses present tense in some dialects) or even that it is informal (since it isn’t necessarily, in some dialects), but to use it an as opportunity to discuss variation and perhaps formal academic language.]



key words: verb, tense, present

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.1e Form and use the simple (e.g., I walked; I walk; I will walk) verb tenses.CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.1b Form and use the progressive (e.g., I was walking; I am walking; I will be walking) verb tenses. http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/L/4/1/b

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L5.1b Form and use the perfect (e.g., I had walked; I have walked; I will have walked) verb tenses. 

(For a discussion of how the present tense plays out in the progressive and perfect. See Lessons 1.4e and 1.4f.)


Here is this lesson as a pdf.