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Is It Correct to Say “Present”?

An old saying goes, “Yesterday is history, and tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift: that’s why it’s called the present.” It sounds nice, and it plays on the multiple meanings of “present.” So, is it correct to say “present”?

Using the word “present” can be used correctly as an exclamation to indicate your presence. You can also use “present” as a noun to mean “gift,” as a verb to mean “to give,” or as an adjective to mean “happening here and now.”

Here, we’ll explore the different definitions and forms of the word “present,” and we’ll look at ways to determine how to use it in several different contexts.

Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Present”?

One specific context where you can correctly use “present” on its own is as an interjection. It’s a familiar scene: you’re in a classroom, and the teacher calls out the attendance roll. After the teacher calls each student’s name, they usually reply, “Present!”

In this case, the interjection takes on the adjective meaning of the word “present” since it’s referring to the fact that the student is here right now. If a student doesn’t call out the interjection “present,” the teacher marks that student absent.

What Does “Present” Mean?

As a noun, “present” means either “gift” or “the current time,” as a verb, it means “to give,” and as an adjective, it means “happening or existing now” (source).

Let’s explore the different definitions of “present” and check out some key differences between its noun, verb, and adjective forms.

As a Noun

When you use the word “present” as a noun, it can have two different meanings. The first definition of “present” as a noun refers to a gift (source). It is an object that you give to another person without expecting anything in return. Also, when you use “present” to mean “gift,” it is a countable noun.

The second definition of “present” as a noun refers to time. The present is the time you’re living in right now. It is not the past or the future. Usually, we use “the” with “present” when talking about the current time.

When you use “present” to mean “the time that is happening now,” it is an uncountable (or non-count) noun. 

Any time you use the word “present” as a noun, you should be careful about the pronunciation and emphasis. The noun “present” emphasizes the first syllable: PREsent.

If you confuse the emphasis while pronouncing the noun “present,” you might accidentally pronounce the verb form of the word.

As a Verb

When you use the word “present” as a verb, it generally means “to give” (source). For example, you can present a gift to a friend. Or, you can present a speech at a meeting. In both cases, you are giving or conveying something to someone else.

Sometimes, the verb “to present” is transitive, requiring a direct object. When you talk about giving a gift or making a formal donation, you’re using the transitive meaning of the verb “to present.”

For example, if you say, “My brother presented the painting to our mother,” it means the brother gave the picture to your mom with a flourish. In this example, “the painting” is the direct object of the transitive verb “to present.”

The verb “to present” also has an intransitive meaning. This means that in some contexts, you don’t need a direct object with the verb “to present.” For instance, if you’re using the verb “to present” to mean “give a presentation,” you’re using the intransitive form of the verb. 

This means that it’s correct to ask, “Who will present next?” Even though there is no direct object, the intransitive form of the verb implies that someone will present a presentation. Therefore, when using the verb “to present” to mean “to give a presentation,” you don’t need a direct object.

For more on transitive and intransitive verbs, check out our article “Is It Correct to Say “Discuss About”?

Here’s an important note about pronunciation: whenever you use the word “present” as a verb, you need to make sure that you emphasize the second syllable of the word. For example, you should pronounce the verb as “preSENT.”

This emphasis on the second syllable differentiates the verb form of “present” from its noun form.

As an Adjective

If you use the word “present” as an adjective, it means “existing or happening now” (source). For instance, you can talk about “present events” or “the present state of the union.” In both cases, you’re referring to things that are happening (or existing) right now, in these days, or at this moment.

The opposites of the adjective “present” include “past” (happening or happened before now) and “future” (happening after now). So, “present” helps to describe a noun or event in terms of when it occurs or is occurring.

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You can also use “present” as a predicate adjective that comes after the verb and doesn’t have a noun right after it. For example, a teacher might ask, “Is John present?” If the answer is “No,” then John is absent. When “present” is a predicate adjective, its opposite is “absent.”

We pronounce the adjective “present” exactly like the noun form of the word, emphasizing the first syllable. So, you should pronounce the adjective form as “PREsent.”

How Do You Use “Present”?

How you use “present” will relate to its part of speech in the sentence and the tone and meaning of the larger context.

Let’s consider a few ways we can use the word “present” as a noun, a verb, and an adjective.

When Can You Use “Present”?

You can use “present” to explain many different situations. For instance, you can use the noun form to refer to a gift, the verb form to describe the act of giving, and the adjective form to explain a situation or fact that is relevant at the moment.

Let’s look at some specific examples that speak to each of these parts of speech. Then, we’ll discuss how the word’s role in each full sentence impacts the rules and definitions that apply to “present” in each context. 

Using “Present” in a Full Sentence

Let’s have a look at some specific examples of “present” in complete sentences. Pay attention to the different positions and roles that “present” has according to its part of speech in any given context. 

As a Noun

  • I gave my brother two presents on his birthday. He was so excited to unwrap them!

Here, the noun “presents” clearly means “gifts” since we know that the brother received them on his birthday and he unwrapped them. We also see that it’s a countable noun since it comes with a number and has the -s at the end to show that it’s a plural.

  • Jane couldn’t change her past results, so she decided to focus on the present.

Here, the noun “present” refers to the time happening now. It’s still a noun, though, and not an adjective. It is an uncountable (non-count) noun in this example. 

As a Verb

  • The queen presented a medal to the knight as a token of her appreciation.

Here, we used the verb “to present” in the past tense. Since “to present” is a regular verb, we can add -ed to make the past form of the verb (sometimes called “verb 2”). 

The past participle (sometimes called “verb 3”) of “to present” is also “presented.” In this example, “to present” is a transitive verb, and the medal is the direct object. 

  • Has everyone presented? Yes? Great, let’s take a coffee break. 

In this example, you can see the intransitive version of the verb “to present.” There is no direct object because you can understand from the context that the speaker is asking if everyone has presented their presentations.

In this context, the verb “to present” obviously means “to give a presentation,” so there’s no need for a direct object.

As an Adjective

  • Let’s try to focus on the present issue rather than imagining problems in the future.

In this example, the speaker wants the listener to focus on the issues or problems happening right now rather than those in the past or that might occur in the future.

  • The CEO gave a long speech explaining the present state of the company.

Here, we see that the CEO spoke about the current situation or state of the company. However, he didn’t mention the past happenings or future plans of the company.

For more on adjectives that describe the time, check out our article “Nighttime or Night Time: Which Is Correct?

When Not to Use “Present”

You shouldn’t use the noun “present” if you’re explaining a transaction. You can only use “present” to describe something that you give without expecting payment or reciprocation. It’s a gift.

You shouldn’t use the verb “to present” if the act of giving is highly informal or unprepared. That’s because “to present” has a more formal and intentional connotation.

You shouldn’t use the adjective “present” if you’re talking about something that happened in the past or something that will happen in the future. Instead, use “present” to describe things that are current and/or happening right now. 

What Can You Use Instead of “Present”?

There are several alternatives to the word “present,” whether you’re using it as a noun, verb, or adjective. Some of the most popular synonyms for present include “gift” and “to give.”

Some synonyms of the noun “present” include “gift” or “donation.” The word “gift” describes a more informal present you give to a friend or family member. The word “donation” explains something you give in a formal or documented way, usually for a specific purpose.

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Other ways to say the verb “to present” are “to offer” or “to bestow.” The verb “to offer” implies the recipient has a choice as to whether or not they accept what someone presented. “To bestow” has a more formal connotation, and we usually use this verb when we’re explaining awards, honors, or responsibilities.

In What Context Can You Use “Present”?

There are several contexts where the word “present” fits perfectly. For instance, you can use the noun to explain a gift, while you can use the verb “to present” to explain the action of formally giving a gift. You can use the adjective “present” to explain how a situation or fact is occurring right now.

No matter what context you’re using “present” in, you should be extra careful to determine the correct part of speech. Let’s take a closer look at how to find the right part of speech for every context and situation.

Determining the Part of Speech

Whenever you want to determine a word’s part of speech, you need to look at the sentence as a whole. Usually, the easiest part of the sentence to pinpoint is the verb. In English, the verb comes in the middle of the sentence, describing the action or state of being in the sentence.

Then, it’s time to locate the nouns in the sentence. The subject, direct object, indirect object, and/or object of any preposition will always be a noun. So, if a word describes who or what does the action, it’s a noun. Or, if you see a preposition, the word following it is undoubtedly a noun or an adjective followed by a noun.

Adjectives usually come right before the noun or nouns that they describe. So, if you see a word that describes or modifies right before a noun, you can safely bet that it’s an adjective.

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Determining the part of speech is the key to using the word “present” correctly because “present” is a word with several different parts of speech. Since we can use “present” as a noun, a verb, or an adjective, it’s important to keep track of which part of speech you’re using so that you can use “present” correctly every time. 

Final Thoughts

The word “present” has many different parts of speech. We can use it as a noun, a verb, or an adjective. The pronunciation of the word “present” helps us understand which part of speech it is in a given context, along with other contextual clues.