Present simple or present continuous? Past simple or present perfect? These questions can cause panic for many students of English because it’s not the same in French! So how do you decide when to use which tense?
The main thing is to think in English, NOT in French however tempting that may be! Try and learn the rules in English: first the structure (which auxiliary to use, how to form the negative and interrogative). Secondly, try to learn some key concepts, for example the present simple is used for permanent things, habits and routines, the present continuous is used for present events which are temporary. Finally, try and learn some key words or phrases which are associated with each tense. For example: since, just and yet are usually used with the present perfect. Finally you need to practise! The more you practise, the easier it will be. Promise!
But remember, if you think in French you’ll most probably make a mistake!
Here is a table to help you identify the main differences between these five tenses.
Philippa Stacey a fondé Eureka en 2007. Elle vit et enseigne l’anglais aux professionnels en France depuis 1993.