How to Use Present Tense Terms

Present tense terms are often a headache for new learners of the English language. Even native English language speakers find this one of the most difficult areas to master because there are so many types of present tense to get to grips with.

Present tense terms cover terms that describe something that is happening now, otherwise known as the verb “to be”. Examples of these terms include words such as “is”, “are”, “am”, and “isn't” and choosing which one to use in a sentence can be tricky at the easiest of times. Particularly now that pop culture and text speak has entered the mainstream and confused the grammar side of the English language to no end.

You can learn the rules to using each phrase by continue reading or test your skills with this quiz on Simple Present 'to Be'.

Is & Are

The term you choose to use for speaking about the present tense and using the verb “to be” depends on the context. For example, the term “is” should be used when you are describing what something else or someone else is in the present tense in a singular form. So you would say “my mother is a maths teacher” or “the girl is attractive”. You could not say “my parents is teachers” or “the girls is attractive” because the nouns take on a plural form. When that happens you must use the term “are” instead. So the sentences would be “my parents are teachers” and “the girls are attractive”.

Isn’t & Aren’t

The terms “isn't” and “aren't” have an almost identical relationship as the terms “is” and “are” except with a negative tone. So you would say “my mother isn't a maths teacher” because she is not a maths teacher so that is a negative. However, if you want to say it about your parents then it becomes plural and you must say “my parents aren't maths teachers”.

Am and Are

There is then the use of “am” as a verb “to be” in a singular form which is similar to the above instance except in the first person. You would say “I am happy” or “I am a doctor” whereas that structure would not work in a plural sense. So you would not be able to say “my brothers am happy” or “my brothers am doctors”. As above, the choice of word changes when the noun becomes plural. Instead you would use the verb “to be” of “are” so the sentence would become “we are happy” and “we are doctors”.

As we said, this is one of the more complex areas of the English language and you will regularly see speakers of the language get mixed up with this. The key points to remember when deciding which “to be” term to use are: whether you are talking in the first person about yourself or whether you are talking about somebody or something else. It is also important to notice whether you are talking about a singular or a plural term and if the sentence is positive or negative. It will be tough to get to grips with but if you remember those points then you are well on your way to get this part of the English language nailed down.