Best Tense to Describe a Photo

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  • Mihan
    5 January, 2016 at 8:51
    • Total posts: 1

    I often use photos to teach vocabulary but I’m not sure about the best verb tense to describe the events captured by a photo yet. If I use the present continuous and the photo contains some time reference to the past (an event they know has happened in the past) this would be confusing. If I use the present simple, as it is often used by journalists to write photo captions, most students would think that this tense can be used to talk about events as they happen.

    How can I solve the problem and avoid misleading my students?


    21 January, 2016 at 10:33
    • Total posts: 279

    I think it would depend on the photo. If the photo is clearly describing an action, then the most natural for me would be to ask “What is he doing?”. If there is a reference to the past in the photo, I don’t think this matters too much – remember that you are using the photos to teach [u]vocabulary[/u], not grammar, so the focus is on the words, not when the action may or may not have happened.

    Hope that helps.


    22 April, 2016 at 11:20
    • Total posts: 8

    I use photos to practise present continuous, of course there needs to be something in the photo which is alive, e.g. [i]She’s wearing a red hat, the dog is chasing a cat[/i], etc.

    For photos of objects, I would focus on present simple and passive, [i]e.g. it’s made of metal, it has three prongs, it’s used for eating, etc.[/i]

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