Present Simple

In this lesson, you will learn all the grammatical features of the Present simple tense in the English language and get familiar with its uses.

"Present Simple" Tense in English Grammar

What is Present Simple Tense?

The Present simple (also known as the simple present, or present indefinite) is one of the most common tenses in the English language. It is used to talk about facts, habits, fixed situations, and routines.

Present Simple: Structure

The present simple form of almost all verbs is the basic form of that verb, except the third-person singular. Look at the examples:

I need a new laptop.

We want ice-cream for dessert.

Present Simple Structure: Third-Person Singular

When you want to make affirmative sentences in the third-person singular, you need to add 's' to the main verb. Here are some examples:

The cat drinks water from this bowl.

The main verb is 'drink' and the third person 's' is added to it since the subject is 'the cat.'

She eats dinner at 9 P.M.

The main verb here is 'eat,' and since the subject is 'she,' the verb changes to 'eats.'

Auxiliary Verbs

Present Simple with Verb 'to Be' and 'to Have'

Since 'to be' and 'to have' are auxiliary verbs, it takes different forms for different subjects. Take a look at the table below for the conjugation of the verb 'to be' and 'to have:'

To Be To Have
I am have
He/She/It is has
We/You/They are have

My husband is an accountant and I'm a teacher.

We have a very big pool in our house.

Present Tense: Third-Person Spelling Rules

Adding the third person 's' to most main verbs is easy; you add it to the end of the verb and that is it. However, there are some verb endings that their spelling changes when you add the 's.' Let us take a look at these endings:

  • If the verb ends with the letters -ch, -ss, -sh, -x or -zz, o, we add 'es' instead of 's.'
  • watch → watches
  • kiss → kisses
  • wash → washes
  • go → goes
  • do → does
  • If the verb ends with the a consonant and the letter 'y,' we change 'y' to 'i' and then add 'es.'
  • cry → cries
  • fly → flies
  • study → studies
  • If the verb ends with a vowel and the letter 'y,' we simply add 's.'
  • play → plays
  • say → says
  • stay → stays

Present Simple Auxiliary Verb: Do

In order to make questions or make a sentence negative in the present simple tense, we need to use an auxiliary verb: Do. In the simple present, 'do' and 'does' are auxiliary verbs, but note that they can also be the main verb. Take a look at this example:

I don't want to do my homework.

The first 'do' is an auxiliary verb and the second one is a main verb which means conducting/performing.

Present Simple: Negation

In the present simple tense, we use the auxiliary verb 'do' to form negative sentences. For first and second-person singular or plural, and third-person plural pronouns, we use 'don't'. For third-person singular pronouns, we use 'doesn't'.

Auxiliary Verb
I/You/We/They don't
He/She/It doesn't

If the subject of your sentence is I/you/we/they, you add do not (don't) to the subject, followed by the simple main verb, without 's.'

Jessica and Harry don't want to get married until they can afford a house.

If the subject of your sentence is he/she/it, you add does not (doesn't) to the subject, followed by the simple main verb, without 's.'

My sister doesn't wake up early.

Present Simple: Questions

As we mentioned before, one of the functions of auxiliary verbs like do and does is making questions. To make yes/no questions, you need to start the sentence with auxiliaries do/does. The subject comes after it, followed by the main verb. Look at the examples:

They know each other. → Do they know each other?

Carolyn remembers me. → Does Carolyn remember me?

You can make wh- question by starting the sentence with wh-word and then using do/does. The subject comes next, followed by the main verb.

I want to eat lunch at The Ledbury. → Where do you want to eat lunch?

Using Present Simple to Talk about a Frequent Action

Present Simple: Uses

Present simple has a number of uses, such as:

  1. Facts That Are True
  2. States That Are Taking Place at This Moment
  3. Repeating Actions or Habits
  4. Sports Commentary
  5. Schedules and Timetables
  6. Narration
  7. Summarizing Movies, Books, etc.
  8. Instructions and Directions
  9. Speech Act Verbs
  10. Newspaper Headlines

Facts That Are True

We use the present simple when something is generally or always true. It means you cannot change them. When we say someone is dead we cannot change this fact at all. Remember general facts can refer to scientific facts, or things that cannot be changed easily. Take a look at these examples:

Water freezes at zero degrees.

The Earth revolves around the Sun.

We use the present simple for a situation that is temporary (something that is true in the present). It means that these situations may change in the future, but they are true at the moment. For example:

She only eats fish.

To talk about people's jobs, we oftencannot be one hundred percent sure whether they will do the same job in the future or not. In this case, we use the simple present tense to describe what they currently do for a living. Check out the examples:

Marcus works in a bank.

Alex works at the post office.

States That Are Taking Place at This Moment

State verbs in English are used to describe a state of being and are often used in the present simple tense. In addition, linking verbs in the simple present tense can also be used to describe emotions or mental states. Here are the examples:

He feels terrible about the date.

I am happy to see you honey.

The simple present tense is used to express our likes and dislikes, such as talking about our favorite things or expressing preferences. Some verbs that are commonly used to express likes and dislikes include 'don't like', 'dislike', 'hate', 'abhor', 'can't bear', 'detest', 'like', 'love', and 'enjoy'. For example:

I love playing the piano.

I can't bear cheese.

We use the present simple with stative verbs like 'be, believe, belong, hate, hear, like, love, mean, prefer, remain, realize, seem, smell, think, understand, want, wish.' Normally, these verbs are not used in the present continuous form. For example:

She believes in the afterlife.

Repeating Actions or Habits

'Present simple tense' is also used to talk about frequent actions in the present time. In this case, we use the following adverbs of frequency for more clarification.

I usually drink tea at 5 pm.

Maria is always late for the art class.

She never sleeps at 10.

You do something as a hobby because you are interested in it. But you probably know that your interests and desires change over time. So you can use the present simple tense to express your hobbies at the moment. For example:

I swim in the pool whenever I am bored.

She cooks different types of soups on Mondays.

We use the present simple for habits. Habits are a set of actions that we do at particular times during our life. We often use adverbs of frequency to express how often we do particular actions. For examples:

I play tennis every Tuesday.

Sports Commentary

The present simple tense is also used in sports commentary to describe short actions that are completed as soon as they happen. It's important to remember that these actions occur in a brief period of time. If the actions are ongoing or take place over a longer duration, we should not use the simple present tense. Look at the examples:

He shoots and he scores!

Here's Jackson back to throw... and down he goes, as Gabe Wilkins gets there.

Schedules and Timetables

The 'present simple' tense is often used to express timetables, where we can talk about events that occur at fixed times. Here are the examples:

The exam starts at 10:00 a.m.

The bus leaves at 8:05 this morning.

Narration

We can use the 'present simple tense' to talk about the past when we are telling a story. In this case, you have to keep in mind that the story took place in the past, but you are narrating it in the present.

The other day I was watching TV when suddenly Terry calls me and tells me he needs money.

Summarizing Movies, Books, etc.

Whenever you want to talk about a film or a book after reading it or watching it. You have to use the present simple tense as you use it for narrating stories.

Frodo lives in the Shire. He has a best friend called Sam.

Instructions and Directions

We use the present simple when we are giving instructions or directions. We often use ordering words, such as and, first, and then. For example:

First, take a right. After that turn left. Then go straight.

I Promise, I Swear, I Agree (Speech Act Verbs)

We use the present simple with speech act verbs (verbs that perform the act that they describe). For example:

I agree with everything you say.

Newspaper Headlines

We often see the present simple in news headlines to report past events. For example:

Man rescues child from lake

Grammatical Notions

Common Time Expressions

  • always
  • usually
  • often
  • frequently
  • sometimes
  • never

Zero Conditionals

We use the present simple in the zero conditionals. As it was mentioned earlier the present simple tense is used to talk about facts that are generally true. 'Zero conditional' is also used to talk about facts that are generally true. So, we can use the present simple tense in zero conditionals.

If you heat water to 100 degrees, it boils.

Subordinating Conjunctions

We use the present simple to talk about the sequence of actions in the present. The sequence of events indicates which action has been done sooner or later. So if you are narrating something, use the simple present tense. For example:

When I get home, I take a shower, then I watch some television and after that I check my emails.

First I get up, then I have breakfast.

Subordinate Clauses

We also use the present simple to talk about the future after words like 'when,' 'until,' 'after,' 'before' and 'as soon as.' These are sometimes called subordinate clauses of time. So, keep in mind that the 'simple present tense' is used in subordinate time clauses to talk about the future. For example:

I'll talk to John when I see him.

I won't go out until it stops raining.

Imperatives

We can use the present simple tense to give instruction or ask for it. This structure mostly starts with the pronoun 'you.' For example:

You clean your room now!

Parents usually use the present simple tense a lot to give orders.

Do I go to the left? or what?

First Conditional

We use the present simple tense in the first conditional.'First conditional' is used to talk about future events that are about to happen if something else happens. The if-clause mostly contains a simple present verb and is used in the simple present tense. Here are the examples:

If it rains, we will cancel our date.

They will marry if his grandmother comes back to the city.

To Be + To-infinitive

We use this structure to refer to a future event which is actually in the simple present tense. Sometimes this structure can even be used to give orders. Check out the examples for more clarification.

You are to wash the dishes tonight!

He is to date a blond girl on Valentine's day.

Review

There are two different types of simple verbs; 'regular' and 'irregular.' Let us take a look at the conjugation of both.

Here are irregular verbs:

Positive Negative
I am am not/ ............_
You, We, They are are not/ aren't
He, She, It is is not/ isn't

Check out the regular verbs on the table below:

Positive Negative
I, You, We, They eat do not eat/ don't eat
He, She, It eats does not eat/ doesn't eat

Let us learn the general use of the present simple tense:

  1. General facts
  2. Repeated actions
  3. Sequence of actions
  4. Actions that are happening now
  5. Future plans
  6. Zero conditionals
  7. Past events
  8. Frequent actions

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