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Lesson 21: How to Express Present Tense in Chinese

Office Space

As stated in the previous lesson, there is no verb conjugation in Chinese. In short, 吃 (chī) will always remain as 吃 (chī) regardless of when you eat. On this lesson, let’s learn how to express present tense in Chinese!


Adverb of Time

Adverb of time is definitely the clearest way to determine the time when the action occurred. In order to indicate that the action belongs to simple present tense (habitual actions) use the followings:

Chinese                         Pin Yin                                  English

每天                              měi tiān                                every day

每周/每个星期        měi zhōu/měi gè xīng qí             weekly

每年                             měi nián                                 every year

经常                              jīng cháng                                 often

有时                               yǒu shí                                   sometimes



Wǒ měitiān yóuyǒng.

I swim every day.


Tā jīngcháng lái kàn wǒ.

He often comes to see me.

If you want to express that the action is present continuous tense (currently in progress), use these following adverbs:

Chinese                                Pin Yin                              English

现在                                    xiàn zài                                 now

此刻                                      cǐ kè                             at the moment

目前                                    mù qián                      at present, currently



Tā xiànzàiguò dé zěnme yàng?

How is he doing now?


Mùqián wǒmen tuánduì lǐ yǒu wǔ gèrén.

There are currently five people on our team.

Auxiliary Verbs

We can use auxiliary verbs, such as 在 (zài), 正在 (zhèng zài), and 着 (zhe) to express present continuous tense. In other words, it means that an action is currently in progress.

在 (zài) does not have a particular meaning. However, it holds an important role as a progressive marker.

Structure: Subject + 在 + Verb + Object


Wǒ zài kàn diànshì.

I am watching TV.

正在 (zhèng zài) is used instead of 在 (zài) to emphasize that the action is happening right now.

Structure: Subject + 正在 + Verb + Object


Wǒmen zhèngzài kāihuì.

We are in a meeting.

着 (zhe) is also used to express that the action is ongoing, but it is not interchangeable with 在 (zài) or 正在 (zhèng zài). 着 (zhe) is more like a way to express a continuous static action.   In fact, the usage of 着(zhe) in a sentence is not as frequent as the two examples before.

Structure: Subject + Verb + 着


Tā chuānzhuó yītiáo qiǎn lán de chènshān.

He is wearing a light blue shirt.

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