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Present simple

Level: beginner

The present tense is the base form of the verb:

I work in London. 

But with the third person singular (she/he/it), we add an –s:

She works in London.

Present simple questions

Look at these questions:

Do you play the piano?
Where do you live?

Does Jack play football?
Where does he come from?

Do Rita and Angela live in Manchester?
Where do they work?

We use do and does to make questions with the present simple. We use does for the third person singular (she/he/it) and do for the others.

We use do and does with question words like where, what and when:

Where do Angela and Rita live?
What does Angela do?
When does Rita usually get up?

But questions with who often don't use do or does:

Who lives in London?
Who plays football at the weekend?
Who works at Liverpool City Hospital?

Here are some useful questions. Try to remember them:

Where do you come from?
Do you come from …?
Where do you live?
Do you live in ...?
What work do you do?
Do you like …?
Do you know …?

 
Present simple questions 1

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Present simple questions 2

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Present simple questions 3

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Present simple questions 4

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Present simple negatives

Look at these sentences:

I like tennis but I don't like football. (don't = do not)
I don't live in London now.
I don't play the piano but I play the guitar.
They don't work at the weekend.
John doesn't live in Manchester.
(doesn't = does not)
Angela doesn't drive to work. She goes by bus.

We use do and does to make negatives with the present simple. We use doesn't for the third person singular (she/he/it) and don't for the others.

Present simple negatives 1

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Present simple negatives 2

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Present simple and present time

We use the present simple to talk about:

  • something that is true in the present:

I'm nineteen years old.
I'm a student.
He lives in London.

  • something that happens regularly in the present:

I play football every weekend.

  • something that is always true:

The human body contains 206 bones.
Light travels at almost 300,000 kilometres per second.

We often use adverbs of frequency like sometimes, always and never with the present simple:

I sometimes go to the cinema.
She never plays football.

Here are some useful sentences. Complete them so that they are true for you and try to remember them:

My name is … .
I'm … years old.
I come from … .
I live in … .
I'm a(n) … .
I … at the weekend.
I often … .
I never … .

Complete these sentences so that they are true for a friend and try to remember them:

Her/His name is … .
She's/He's … years old.
She/He comes from … .
She/He lives in … .
She's/He's a(n) … .
She/He … at the weekend.
She/He often … .
She/He never … .
Present simple 1

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Present simple 2

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Present simple 3

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Present simple 4

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Present simple 5

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Present simple 6

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Present simple 7

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Level: intermediate

Present simple and future time

We also use the present simple to talk about:

  • something that is fixed in the future:

The school term starts next week.
The train leaves at 19.45 this evening.
We fly to Paris next week.

  • something in the future after time words like when, after and before and after if and unless:

I'll talk to John when I see him.
You must finish your work before you go home.

If it rains we'll get wet.
He won't come unless you ask him.

Present simple 8

ex. Present simple 8

Level: advanced

We sometimes use the present simple to talk about the past when we are: 

  • telling a story:

I was walking down the street the other day when suddenly this man comes up to me and tells me he has lost his wallet and asks me to lend him some money. Well, he looks a bit dangerous so I'm not sure what to do and while we are standing there 

  • summarising a book, film or play:

Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts School. He has two close friends, Hermione and …

Shakespeare's Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark. One night he sees his father's ghost. The ghost tells him he has been murdered 

Basic level

Comments

Hi,

One of the use of the simple present tense, as mentioned in the article above, is to express "something that is true in the present". My queries are:

(a) Does this only refer to something that is definitely true at the present moment, or does it also include things which we think are true?

(b) Does this refer to something that is always true at the present moment, but not in the past or future, for example "I don't like mushrooms" (meaning to say I didnt like mushrooms in the past, and I may or may not like it in the future, but one thing is that right now in the present, I don't like mushroom). May I know if this the right understanding? and is my example correct?

(c) Other examples that i can think of to support the second point i made above are: "

I really love my job.

Mrs Clare doesn’t teach me but she teaches my sister.

Do you live in Glasgow? My cousin lives there too.

Spiders don’t frighten me.

Martha does what she wants. No one tells her what to do."

Essentially, what i mean by my examples above is that these are things which are true in the present (i.e. now), but may or may not be true in the past and future. Am I right to use the simple present tense for the above examples?

Thanks.

Regards,
Tim

Hello Tim,

Unless we use an adverb such as 'probably' or 'maybe', or an adverbial phrase such as 'as far as I know', the present simple expresses something the speaker believes to be true. Of course, the speaker may be mistaken.

The present simple does not preclude a change in the future, but it does imply that the speaker does not anticipate or foresee any change. Thus, if I say 'I live in Paris' then I know that this may change, but I do not see any change at the moment; from my perspective it is a settled truth. On the other hand, if I say 'I'm living in Paris' then I see the situation as temporary. I may not have any plans to change it at the moment, but I do not expect it to last forever.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher,

We need more time to see how things develop before we take action.

I will know within the next month or two how I stand.

Why is the simple present tense used (how things develop; how I stand) instead of simple future tense (how things will develop; how I will stand)?

Hi,

In the following two sentences, could I use the simple present tense instead?

1) Her best performance to date was her third place at the World Junior Championships.

2) Penicillin was the forerunner of modern antibiotics.

Hi Lakshmi94216,

Yes! These could both be considered as general facts or truths, so the present simple works. But, I think using the past simple would probably be more common.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Why is the past simple the more preferred and common choice? Is it because the event did happen in the past, even though it is still true?

Thanks teacher.

Hi Lakshmi94216,

Yes. We could understand these as general truths, but because both sentences refer explicitly to the past (Her best performance to date / the forerunner of modern ...), it would be usual to present them as past events.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

The tips are really helpful.

Would you please anyone explain to me why we use present tense in this sentence

I get a text from Jennifer and it says, do you have a belt?
Thank you

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