Why tells instead of told in daily conversations?

  • He tells me that you need me, that’s why I have come.

I think the use of ‘tells’ is not normally used in our daily conversations, I usually see the simple present[like ‘tells’] used in writings.
Suprisingly, someone used it as in the above instead of TOLD.
Can anyone explain this to me?

Many thanks!

The present simple ‘tells’ in your example is perfectly acceptable because the use here is ‘timeless’. You don’t know when the ‘telling’ took place. It would also be used in this sort of situation - The present Government tells us that people may have to work until 70 before they get a pension.

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello, Ebenezer Adu:

May I add just a few comments to the excellent answer that you have already received?

One of my favorite books calls this the “historical present.”

“The [speaker] makes a past … action more VIVID [my emphasis] by describing it as if it were actually present before him”


Let’s say that as I was leaving the office on Friday afternoon, I learned from someone that Mona planned to marry Tony. On Monday when I returned to work and saw Mona in the hallway, I might say, “Congratulations, Mona. I HEAR that you are getting married.”

My book explains that such a sentence means that I HAVE HEARD the news and I am recalling it NOW.



Without wishing to belittle what James has said, I would like to add that the ‘historical present’ is used more in written and spoken narrative for dramatic effect and doesn’t really apply in the use of ‘tells’ in the sentence at *1. I have tried to show examples of this in my story (particularly towards the end)



Thanks gentlemen for the beautiful explanations, I usually see this in written.
Ok, my example as follows – ‘The guy tells me to come tommorow’. Do you think this is acceptable? I just want to know more about that sort of usage in a conversation.

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello, Mr. Adu:

Have you had a chance to check out Mr. Michael Swan’s very popular and reliable Practical English Usage?

He writes that the “present tenses are often used to tell stories, especially in an informal style.”

He gives this example:

So I open the door, and I look out into the garden, and I see this man. He’s wearing a pink skirt and a policeman’s helmet. “Good morning,” he says


P.S. I am sure that you realize that Mr. Swan’s example is very humorous. Policemen usually do not wear skirts! (Skirts are for women.) In Scotland, men do wear something called kilts, which are skirts, on special occasions. But I am pretty sure that no Scottish man would ever wear a PINK kilt!


Well, if you had read my story ‘It never gets you anywhere’, you would find enough examples.

Alan, please edit your post and correct the link. It is ‘html’.

Thanks for that


That doesn’t really work as an explanation in the context of *1. This would suggest that he was popping along to help every five minutes but

would indicate a one off.

would indicate a one off.

[color=blue]That’s why I said that "Sometimes…’’ It clearly doesn’t apply to all occasions.

I was somehow thinking over Alans’ link furnished – for it seems not to contain the information he wanted to supply - but all the same he has been alerted. Good, what’s the subtle difference between the ‘historical present’ and the ‘present simple’.
‘Historical present’ seems to be an alien term to me.
Thank you fellows.

‘historical present’ - the present tense used to describe an event in the past.
I have no idea what your first sentence is supposed to mean.