You are here

Talking about the present

Level: intermediate

We use the present simple to talk about:

  • something that is true in the present:

They live next door to us.
He works for the Post Office.

  • something that happens regularly in the present:

The children come home from school at about four.
We often see your brother at work.

  • something that is always true:

Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.
The Nile is the longest river in Africa.

We use the present continuous to talk about:

  • something happening at the moment of speaking:

I can't hear you. I'm listening to a podcast.
Please be quiet. The children are sleeping.

  • something happening regularly in the present before and after a specific time:

I'm usually having breakfast at this time in the morning.
When I see George he's usually reading his Kindle.

  • something in the present which we think is temporary:

Michael is at university. He's studying history.
I love Harry Potter. I'm reading the last book.

  • something which is new and contrasts with a previous state:

Nowadays people are sending text messages instead of phoning.
I hear you've moved house. Where are you living now?

  • something which is changing, growing or developing:

The weather is getting colder.
Our grandchildren are growing up quickly.

  • something which happens again and again:

It's always raining in London.
They are always arguing.
George is great. He's always laughing.

Note that we normally use always with this use.

We use modal verbs:

I don't know where Henry is. He might be playing tennis.
'Who's knocking at the door?' – 'I don't know. It could be the police.'

I can speak English quite well but I can't speak French at all.
You should do your homework before you go out. 

Present simple and present continuous 1


Present simple and present continuous 2


Present simple and present continuous 3



Hello dipakrgandhi,

The preposition is connected to the verb here and is a lexical pattern. There is no reason for the pattern; it is essentially arbitrary and has come about through common patterns of use.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

hi peter,

It means can't we use 'to+infinitive' with thinking? Is it like that, what are the other gerunds work in this way?

I'm thinking of going there
We're thinking of staying here tonight.

Hope these sentences also wrong with to+infinitive.
Thank you.

Hi bimsara,

That is correct: the verb think is not followed by a to infinitive to express the meaning you have in mind. Verbs are followed by certain forms; think in this sense is followed by the preposition of, and verbs after prepositions always go in the -ing form.

The two sentences at the end are both correct, and neither would be correct with the to infinitive.

The prepositions that can follow verbs are best learned on a case by case basis, as there is most often no particular logic to them. If you'd like such a list, however, there are some on our Verbs & Prepositions page.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi bimsara,

When think is used in the present simple, it means believe. Here, it is being used to refer to plans, and therefore must be used in a continuous form.

We're focused on answering users' questions about the content on LearnEnglish and specific questions - I'm afraid I just don't have the time to explain general topics such as reduced relative clauses in detail when there are so many other questions from other users which are directly related to the site.

I'd suggest you read our relative pronouns page, which I think will help you, and you might also want to do an internet search for "reduced relative clauses" - I'm sure there are useful explanations out there.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

I m confused about this examples could you please further explain the sentences.
1.for something happening before and after the moment of speaking:
I can’t hear you. I’m listening to my iPod.
Be quiet. The children are sleeping.
which example is used for action before speaking and which is for action after speaking. please further explain these examples
thanks for your always positive response

Hello saima khan,

Continuous forms are used to describe something which is in progress at a certain time. For present continuous, this time is the time of speaking.  This means that the action is already in progress and either goes up to the moment of speaking, or continues past it.

In both sentences you quote, the action started before the person began speaking and continued:

I can’t hear you. I’m listening to my iPod. [the person began listening before and is still listening now]
Be quiet. The children are sleeping. [the children began sleeping before and are still sleeping now]

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter M 
Can you please give me some examples of something happening after the moment of speaking so i can understand the difference between before and after the speaking more clearly.

Hello saima khan,

If we assume that the moment of speaking is 'live' - i.e. it is not part of the dialogue of a story - then events which are complete before that time would be describing past time and would use a past tense (see here for more information and examples), which events which happen only after the moment of speaking would be describing future time and so would generally use one of the forms we have for talk about future time (see here for more information and examples).

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Sorry Peter M but my confusion is still here and i can't understand this :(
we use present continuous for something happening before and after the moment of speaking:
I can’t hear you. I’m listening to my iPod. (I can understand this example after your reply that its action before speaking and its clear for me.
but i want to know about in what examples we use present continuous for something happening after the moment of speaking.

Hello saima khan,

We can use the present continuous with future meaning when we are talking about arrangements - for more information on this and examples please click the link I provided in my first reply (talking about the future).  I can only think that this is what you are referring to when you say 'something happening after the moment of speaking'); however, if you have something else in mind then please provide an example and I'll be happy to explain it for you.

For more information about continuous forms in general and how they are used, try this link.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team