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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

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Present simple and present continuous 2

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Present simple and present continuous 3

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Comments

Hello 'LearnEnglish Team',

I am confused by the following example found in another English course: "Do you mind if I turn on the radio while you drive?"

Why not say: "Do you mind if I turn on the radio while you are driving?"

Or Similary:
Which one of the following forms is possible (or are there even others?) and what are the differences in meaning? In my opinion only the first form is correct.

1) "Do you mind if the radio is playing while you are driving?"
2) "Do you mind if the radio is playing while you drive?"
3) "Do you mind if the radio plays while you are driving?"
4) "Do you mind if the radio plays while you drive?"

Thank you very much in advance for your explanation.

Hello espe,

Both forms are possible here. The time clause with 'while' already tells us that the first action takes place during the second, so there is no difference in meaning.

 

As far as the four examples go, we would not generally phrase it this way, but would say 'the radio is on' or 'music plays/is playing'.

1) "Do you mind if music is playing while you are driving?"
2) "Do you mind if music is playing while you drive?"
3) "Do you mind if music plays while you are driving?"
4) "Do you mind if music plays while you drive?"

 

I think all of the above are grammatically possible. The continuous forms suggest an ongoing activity while the simple forms suggest a whole action. In the case of music there is little difference, but if we have another example it may be clearer:

Do you mind if I phone John while you drive/are driving?

Here, we would not use '...I am phoning...' because the act of calling takes only a moment; it could not be an ongoing activity. However, if we change the verb to 'chat' then both forms are possible:

Do you mind if I chat to/am chatting to John while you drive/are driving?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

Can you explain the difference between something that is 'generally true' and a fact? 'The Nile is the longest river in Africa.' is a fact and not something which is generally true. 'Generally' would imply 'not always', and I don't think there is a situation when the Nile is not the longest river in Africa.

Any clarification would be much appreciated.

Hi Johnman,

We can use the present simple for things that are always true as well as generally true. I will edit the page to make it clearer.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

' First come, first served ' :
Here, 'come' is in V1 form or V3 form ? I think the tense in both the parts of sentence should be same, so come is in V3 form.

What do you say sir?

This is the first sentence from the letter I have written to Electricity Distribution Company :

I have been billed for the above referred consumer number and address for the month of November 2018 despite my service been withdrawn in October 2018 itself.

I have littele doubt about the part of the sentence despite : ... despite my service ' been ' withdrawn in October 2018 itself.

Can I write : ... service been withdrawn... ; 'been' without preceding 'has' , or should have I written 'despite the fact that
my service has been withdrawn.'
Further, can we ever use ' been ' without have ,has or had ?

Thanks a lot again,Kirk,for very helpful advice!

Hello again!
What would be the best way to say in the following situaton:
Imagine situation where I am acting as a interpreter  between english and russian speakers. Russian asks Englishman about something... Question!- How can I say here in most correct way -
1.He is asking about...
2.He asks about...
3. He asked about...
I*m inсlined to think that the 1 option is most correct,but maybe there are any others options(cliches) here on english-speaker opinion?
Thanks in advance

My relative studies in a medical college.Yesterday she fell ill.The college wanted to get her admitted for treatment but she did not want to get admitted in the college hospital. So college asked her to give it in writing.

This is what her room-mates gave in writing : ' We are not admitting the patient and we are taking leave at our own risk.'

I have some doubt about first part of the statement - ' we are not admitting ' :

In my opinion ' we are not admitting ' will always be considered college's statement as they are the authority to admit the patient and ' we are not admitting' will always mean that college is not ready to admit the patient for whatever reason.

Patient can not say ' we are not admitting ' if she does not want to get admitted. Rather her friends should say ' we do not want/ wish to get the patient admitted '

Am I right sir ? What do you say ?

Hello dipakrgandhi,

I agree with you. The hospital is the body which admits or does not admit someone, not your relative. Thus it should be phrased as you say, though I would suggest 'be admitted' rather than 'get admitted'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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