Using the Present Simple Tense

The present simple tense isn't always so "simple" for learners but I promise this explanation will make things much clearer. In this section, we'll look at the different uses of the present tense.

[Note: Click here to learn how to form the present simple.

Present simple tense use #1: General truths & facts

We use the present simple to talk about things that are generally true or to state facts.

Examples:

  • Smoking causes cancer.
  • The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
  • Puppies are cute.
  • The Danube River flows through Vienna, Austria.
  • Five times five equals twenty-five.
  • Babies eat, sleep and cry.
  • Flowers need sunlight and water to grow.

Use #2: For mostly permanent situations

We use this tense to talk about situations that are mostly permanent, jobs or hobbies and things that always happen.

  • We live in California.
  • My father works at an elementary school.
  • I play tennis and basketball.
  • Accountants prepare tax returns.
  • Seamstresses sew, hem and repair clothing.
  • Racecar drivers drive fast.
  • Where do you work?
  • I don't ride the bus. I take the metro to work.

Use #3:  To describe the frequency of actions

We use the present simple to describe how often we do things, from never to always and everything in between. Sometimes this describes a routine or habit (on Saturdays, once a week, usually, every summer, always. We also use this to describe something we don't  do regularly:  now and then, once in awhile, rarely, sometimes, when I'm tired).

Remember:  Adverbs of frequency (e.g., never, rarely, sometimes, usually, always) come before the verb.

Examples:

  • On Saturday mornings, I sleep late.
  • My father rides the bus to work once a week.
  • His girlfriend never drinks alcohol.
  • When I'm tired, I watch television.
  • They rarely win any matches.
  • I always call my mother on her birthday.

Use #4:  Actions set by a time table or schedule

We use the present simple tense for actions and events that are set by  a timetable. This is often something that is set by an organization. Please note that this can actually describe an event happening in the future.

  • The flight to Rome departs at five o'clock tonight.
  • Don't worry, the bus comes every 20 minutes.
  • When does the football game start?
  • Class begins in two minutes.
  • The conference ends on Friday.

Use #5:  To describe a present state

We use the simple present with verbs that express opinions, states, feelings and emotions (not actions).

Common stative verbs include:

be, belong, seem, realize, think, believe, understand, like, love, hate, hear, smell, see, think, understand, want, wish.

Examples:

  • I want that new dress. (NOT: I'm wanting that new dress)
  • love hamburgers. (NOT: I'm loving hamburgers).
  • Do you smell popcorn?
  • She understands this grammar.
  • I don't like apples.
  • They are very happy together.

If you need to review how to form the present simple tense please check this page. I go over the positive and negative forms, questions, spelling and give lots of examples.

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