Getting your Tenses Right


Most users of English in Malaysia are fluent and have little trouble getting their message across. However, there is sometimes a problem with tenses and this becomes clearer in writing. See if you can correct the following:-

  1. I’m living in Bukit Bintang.
  2. I write a report at the moment.
  3. I work for this company for the last ten years.
  4. In 2001, the bank has merged with………
  5. I’m cycling to work every day.

They all illustrate some common mistakes. Here are the corrections with a brief explanation:-

  1. I live in Bukit Bintang. (This is the present simple for a situation that is a permanent fact. Another good example would be “I have two children.”)
  2. I’m writing the report at the moment. (This is the present continuous for a temporary action happening now.)
  3. I have worked for the British Council for the last ten years (Here we need to use the present perfect where an action starts in the past and continues up to now.)
  4. In 2001, the bank merged with……(In this case we use past simple since it refers to a point in time in the past.)
  5. I cycle to work every day. (Here we use present simple for referring to regular habits.)

These are some of the simpler confusions, but as you can imagine the rules of English tenses are complex, and not always logical. Whole books have tried to explain all the rules!

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