The Present Simple Tense

Talking about constant facts, states, and habits in the present

The Present Simple tense (or Simple Present) is one of the most used verb tenses in English. It describes general facts, states, and habits. At its core, the Present Simple is used to refer to the general state of affairs in the present. Because it is usually the first tense learned in language courses, it is the most remembered. However, bear in mind that there are other verb tenses that target more specific shades of meaning. To know more, read these sections of our review on the Present Simple in English. For other related English grammar topics, you are welcome to browse our English lessons portal.

1. Slogan
2. Usages
3. Form
4. Common time expressions
5. Negative statements and question types
6. Summary

1. Slogan: “It happens all the time !”

The slogan encapsulates the basic meaning of the Present Simple, so use it when hesitating about what verb form to choose in your English writing. Remembering one short slogan can help you navigate through all the grammar rules it relates to.

2. Usages:

Read through the table and try to understand the connection between the usages and the slogan.

Use
Examples
Explanations
1. general truth
• Water boils at 100˚C.
• The earth revolves around the sun.
• These are scientific facts that are always true and cannot be argued with.
2. fact
• Apples are red, yellow, or green.
• The data show an increase in sales.
• These facts are always true, permanent and indisputable.
3. state
• Michelle lives in Paris.
• She works in Versailles.
• She believes in balancing business and pleasure.
• Paris is her permanent place of residence. She may not be there now, but always returns there.
• She works in Versailles. She may not be there right now, but that’s her place of work.
• Also for expressing belief and opinion
4. habit
• We take a French class twice a week.
• We read a French website every day.
• We do these actions repeatedly, as they are habits. We may not be taking a class or reading now, but generally this happens regularly.

Watch out !
• If the activity does not occur all the time and is only happening now, you need the
Present Progressive tense
Today, I am cleaning the house (but only today).

Stative verbs (appear, realize, love, sound) are more commonly used with simple tenses rather than with progressive tenses.

Advanced Usages of the Present Simple:

Use
Examples
Explanations
5. future plans and schedules
• Don’t be late, the train leaves tomorrow at 9:00 sharp !
• All new German courses begin next week.
• future plans related to a preset schedule, which regularly repeats itself.
6. reporting live events, story-telling, or retelling a plot (narrative present)
• “Owen kicks the ball to Ronaldinio, who passes it to Beckham. Beckham scores a goal !”
• “A guy walks into a bar and starts talking to…” This is how the movie begins.
• In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet’s father wants her to marry Paris, but Juliet loves Romeo.
• This provides an instantaneous sense of the present, adding drama to live sport commentaries.
• Also used in giving accounts of stories, jokes, novels, movies, and plays (no matter how old they are).
 
3. Form

As its name suggests, the Present Simple form is a simple one-word verb, composed of the base form for all persons, except for a verb agreeing with a subject in the third person singular, represented by the pronouns he, she, it (See usages 1 and 3 above). Adding the third person’s verb ending (s) where needed is one of the most basic grammar rules in English, as it is the only inflectional verb ending that remained in English grammar, which has been dramatically simplified throughout the centuries.

Subject
Main Verb
Rest of sentence
I, you, we, they
V1

 
he, she, it
V1+s

 
I
live
in Paris.
She
lives
in France.

*Remember: V1=base form, V2=Past Simple, V3=Past Participle, Ving=Present Participle

Watch out !
For verbs agreeing with subjects in the third person singular in the Present Simple, you must add the s ending to the main verb.

• Spelling Rules in the Present Simple:


• Two verbs in English have special forms in the Present Simple:

to be
to have
I am

 
you, we, they are
I, you, we, they have
he, she, it is
he, she, it has

I am an engineer, my mother is a teacher, and my grandparents are retired.
My family has one car. The Smiths have 3 cars.


4. Common Time Expressions

The Present Simple is used with time expressions (in blue) informing about when or how often things happen. Pay attention to the frequency time expressions used before the verb (pre-verbals), as opposed to those used at the end of the sentence. Notice the use of prepositions (on, in, at) with time expressions appearing at the end of the sentence.

Subject
Frequency
time expressions
before the verb
Verb
Place / Manner
Time
I
always
go
there
on Sunday.
You
often
travel
abroad
in the Summer.
Dan / He
usually / generally
swims
at the pool
at 7 a.m.
Sheila / She
sometimes
stays
in
on the
weekend.
We
seldom
study
at the library
at night.
You
rarely / hardly ever
work
hard
every day.
My parents
They
never
leave
home
in the
evenings.
 

5. Negative Statements and Question Types in the Present Simple

1. Negative Statements:

Subject Auxiliary verb+not Main verb Rest of sentence
I, you, we, they do not /
don’t
work in the evening.
He,she,it does not /
doesn’t
work at home.


Watch out !
Note that in the third person singular, the main verb is in its base form without the s ending, which is added to the auxiliary verb do, resulting in does.
 
 
The 3 Question Types:

1. Yes/No Questions:

Auxiliary verb
Subject
Main verb
Rest of sentence
Do
I, you, we, they
work
in the evening?
Does
He,she,it
work
at home ?

2. Wh Questions:

Wh question
word
Auxiliary verb
Subject
Main verb
Rest of sentence
When
do
I, you, we, they
work
?
Where
does
He,she,it
work
?

3. Wh-Subject Questions:

Wh subject
question
Main verb
Rest of sentence
Who
works
here ?
What
happens
at the end of the story ?
 
Watch out !
• Note that in Wh subject-questions, there is no need for an auxiliary verb.
• In Wh subject-questions in the Present Simple, the verb is always in the third person singular form, with the s ending.

6. Summary

This has been a review about the usage and formation of the Present Simple tense in English grammar. It is highly used to refer to general facts, states and habits that are constantly true in the present. Reviewing the rules is not enough to make you use it properly. The more you pick it up in your reading, and more importantly, use it in your writing, the better you will use it.

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