This lesson will help you to learn how and when to use the present simple and the present continuous. There are some differences between how we use these tenses in English and other languages!
When to Use the Present Simple Tense.
We use the present simple to talk about:
Habitual / Regular actions.
The present simple is used for facts or things which are always true, states and for habitual or routine actions. Do not use the present simple for actions in progress.
Using the Present Simple for Facts.
Factual information that refers to the present uses the present simple;
“Christmas is in December.”
“I am English.”
We use the present simple for facts that are related to the present, for things that are always true and for events that are already scheduled or timetabled. In the examples above “I am English” is a fact that refers to the present and something that is always true. “Christmas is in December” is always true and is something that is timetabled.
Using the Present Simple for Regular or Habitual Actions.
We often use the present simple to describe habitual or regular actions;
“I go swimming once a week.”
“I usually have a beer in the evening.”
“I work from Monday to Friday.”
We use the present simple to talk about things that we do regularly or habitually. It is common to combine these regular activities with adverbs of frequency or expressions of frequency to describe how often we do them.
Present Simple with Adverbs / Expressions of Frequency.
Adverbs of frequency like;
Or Expressions of frequency like;
Once a week
Are usually used with the present simple because they talk about how habitual something is.
Adverbs of frequnecy go before the main verb. Exceptions to this rule are the verb “to be” and modal verbs. Adverbs of frequency go after “to be” or modal verbs. Expressions of frequency usually go at the end of the sentence, clause or phrase. For example:
“I can never understand him, he always speaks quietly.”
“We usually go shopping once a week.”
Using the Present Simple for States.
We use the present simple to talk about states, for example;
“I am tired.“
“I want a drink.“
“I don’t believe him.“
“He needs some help.“
“It is hot.”
States are not actions, but things that don’t change dynamically. This could be your hair colour (“He has red hair.”) or nationality (“I am English”) or
“To Be” in the Present Simple
“He is English.”
“He isn’t English.” / “He is not English.”
“Is he English?”
“Normal Verbs” in the Present Simple
Examples of “normal verbs” in the present simple tense.
“They speak English.”
“They don’t speak English.”
“Do they speak English?”
Present Simple 3rd Person Conjugation.
Be careful with the 3rd person conjugation (he, she, it) it has a different conjugation which usually ends with -s or -es, even the auxiliary verb “do” becomes “does”.
“He speaks English.”
“He doesn’t speak English.”
“Does he speak English?”
When we use the auxiliary verb “does” we leave the main verb in its infinitive form.
When to Use the Present Continuous
The present continuous is used for:
Actions in progress now
Actions in progress around this time
How to Form the Present Continuous.
We form the present continuous with the verb to be and a gerund.
“To Be” + ________ ing.
“He is swimming“
“We aren’t waiting.”
“They are singing.”
Present Continuous Examples
“They are speaking English.”
“They aren’t (are not) speaking English.”
“Are they speaking English?”
Beware of non-action verbs!
Some verbs refer to STATES and not ACTIONS.
In English JUST LIKE IN SPANISH OR CATALAN, we tend to avoid these verbs in continuous forms.
The verb “have” (tener) is a state, not an action, so it is incorrect to say;
am having a house with a garden.”
It is necessary to use the present simple;
“I have a house with a garden.”
Some other verbs which refer to states are;
We avoid stative / non-action verbs in the present continuous, but some verbs can have stative and action meanings! Verbs like “have” can be used with a stative meaning
“I have a big house.”
or with an action meaning
“I am having a drink with some frineds.”
So be careful with the use of the verb.
Use these interactive tests to check that you understand the grammar in this topic!