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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Average: 4.2 (31 votes)

Submitted by anie1 on Tue, 01/01/2019 - 17:04

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Hello, I would like to ask about the following: In the specific following case, which is better to use?: Example: I always lived in Italy but now I live or I am living for 3 years in France Can temporary, in this case, be 2-3 years or it is better to use Simple Present? Thank you in advance
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 04/01/2019 - 07:29

In reply to by anie1

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Hello agie,

Since your sentence contains 'for three years' it is describing a time which began in the past and is not finished. Present perfect is therefore needed.

You can use present perfect simple or continuous. Simple suggests that you believe that living in France is something permanent for you. Continuous suggests that you see living in France as something which will not be permanent.

I always lived in Italy but I've lived in France for 3 years now.

I always lived in Italy but I've been living in France for 3 years now.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Sat, 22/12/2018 - 05:57

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The govt. authorised agencies to snoop on the computers of public. And this was followed by an editorial in the newspaper with the headline - We don’t want no police state What I understand from the tilte is we don't want state without policing ; that means we want police state. But the editorial writes exactly opposite of it ; it critises the government for authrising agencies to snoop on the computers of public. I undrestand that this is double negation , but won't two negatives make it positive.

Hello dipakrgandhi,

We don't want no... is a non-standard form used in some dialects and in some forms of slang. It has the same meaning as we don't want a... or we don't want any...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by espe on Fri, 07/12/2018 - 19:21

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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

Submitted by Johnman on Mon, 26/11/2018 - 01:37

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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.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 26/11/2018 - 07:39

In reply to by Johnman

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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

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Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Sun, 18/11/2018 - 09:36

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' 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?

Hi dipakrgandhi,

'served' is a past participle (V3) form, which in this case doesn't refer to time but rather makes the meaning passive. 'come' isn't really conjugated here, I'd say, but I suppose you could call it the base form (V1).

The longer version of this would be something like 'The first one who comes is the first one who will be served', but this is simplified into 'First come, first served'.

'First came, first served' would sound quite strange to my ears, at least, unless it were used in a humorous way.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Sat, 17/11/2018 - 13:23

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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 ?

Hello dipakrgandhi,

In a letter or email, I would recommend that you use 'despite the fact that my account ended on 31 October 2018'. In a letter like this one, it would be unusual to omit the auxiliary verb.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Slava B on Thu, 08/11/2018 - 10:28

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Thanks a lot again,Kirk,for very helpful advice!
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Submitted by Slava B on Tue, 06/11/2018 - 17:22

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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

Hi Slava,

You could use all three of these options, but I suppose 1 or perhaps 2 would be best. The context makes it clear that the questions are being asked in the moment.

You might want to consider translating exactly what each speaker says. For example, if the Russian says (in Russian) 'I would like to invite you to a meeting', instead of saying (in English) 'He says he would like to invite you to a meeting', say 'I would like you to a meeting'.

I was trained to do this when I was an interpreter and it worked well. It also has the advantage of saving you some time and mental effort!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Mon, 29/10/2018 - 12:11

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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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Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Fri, 26/10/2018 - 16:12

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I was following a text commentary of a cricket match on a well known cricket website. The match ended in a tie and after that the comments were : What.a.match. Is it correct to palce a full stop after every word ? The english on the website is always of highest standard and I don't think they ever go wrong Please clear my doubt. Regards Dipak Gandhi

Hello Dipak,

It's not standard to put full stops after every word, but it is used sometimes on the internet as a way of adding emphasis or showing astonishment in such situations, especially in phrases like 'What a...'

For example:

Kohli has become the fastest player to reach 10,000 runs in one-day cricket.

What.a.player.

 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Hopefinder on Sun, 21/10/2018 - 11:42

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Hello Learn English team, Would there a difference in meaning if I said "We will not go out if it is raining. versus if it rains" Thanks in advance.

Hi Hopefinder,

No, there is no real difference in meaning. The present continuous could suggest you are imagining that rainy day and the present simple is more matter-of-fact, but in the end they mean the same thing.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by manuel24 on Sun, 26/08/2018 - 14:49

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"all we can do is watch and wait".... why is there not infinitive form(to watch)or ing form(watching) in this example?

Hi manuel24,

It's possible to use 'to' ('All we can do is to watch ...') but it's much more common not to use 'to' here. As far as I know, this is just due to usage, i.e. this is just how people speak. This is a kind of cleft sentence -- perhaps reading a bit more about how these work would be interesting for you. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jitu_jaga on Wed, 11/07/2018 - 07:15

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Thanks a lot Peter. Nice explanation . Have a good time.

Submitted by jitu_jaga on Tue, 10/07/2018 - 22:31

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Hi Kirk and Peter, Most of the times in movies I find dialogues like 1.Miguel! I give you my blessings. 2.(on the stage to the audience) Now, I give you Mr Bunny the talking rabbit. Why simple present tense is uesd here not continuous. I don't understand the grammar here. Please explain it.

Hello jitu_jaga,

To answer this, first it is helpful ot be clear on the concepts behind simple and continuous forms.

We use continuous forms when an action is in progress. In other words, if I say 'I am standing' then the standing began a moment before and has not yet finished; I am in the middle of it. We use simple forms when the action either is or is perceived to be a single event - one thing rather than an ongoing process.

 

Most verbs have some kind of process and so can have continuous aspect. Certain verbs, however, cannot. Verbs conveying feelings and emotions such as love, like, hate and so on generally do not have continuous forms, for example.

The is another group of verbs which are not used in continuous forms. These are verbs which declare an action. In other words, the action is done by speaking. For example, the verb 'promise' is very rarely used with continuous aspect because the way we make a promise is by saying 'I promise'. In other words, the act of promising starts when we begin speaking and ends when we finish speaking. There is no process and no action which began before and continues. This is the reason that in a traditional wedding the two people getting married say 'I do' not 'I am doing', and why in a court a witness says 'I swear to tell the truth' not 'I am swearing to tell the truth'.

 

In your first example, the phrase 'I give you my blessings' is another instance of this. How does the speaker give his or her blessings? By saying the words.

Your second example is similar. The phrase 'I give you' means 'I present to you' and, again, the speaker does this by saying the words.

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Marua on Mon, 02/04/2018 - 13:01

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Thank you for your fast answer. I've got another question. Can we start a sentence with this expression ' in the morning/evening'? Eg. In the evening, I do my homework at 6 o'clock and read a book at 8. Thank you.

Hi Marua,

Yes, that is perfectly correct.

You're welcome!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Marua on Mon, 02/04/2018 - 12:40

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Hello. I've got 1 question about linking words used in the present. Is it appropriate to use 'after this/that' when it comes to daily routines? 'I get up at 8 o'clock and have breakfast. After this/after that I go to school...' I know that 'then' works better here, but what about 'after this/ that'? Thanks.
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 02/04/2018 - 12:53

In reply to by Marua

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Hi Marua,

Yes, that's fine, I'd say, though, as you say, 'then' is more common. 'after that' is better than 'after this' -- we usually use 'that' when speaking about something's that's just finished.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Donald Harrison on Mon, 26/03/2018 - 00:20

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Hello Team, Could you help me to understand this? Sentence 1: Let me know when you finish the report. Sentence 2: Let me know when you have finished the report. Are the both sentences correct? If so, what is the difference?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 26/03/2018 - 07:31

In reply to by Donald Harrison

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Hello Donald Harrison,

Both sentences are correct and in almost all contexts there is no difference in meaning. Some people might suggest that the first sentence emphasises that the speaker wants to be informed immediately upon completion of the report, but I think both forms can emphasise this through intonation much more effectively.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kashif ch on Sun, 18/02/2018 - 13:12

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Why we use "is" in present tense except present continous? I mean what are the indications to use "is" as helping verb in present tense except present continious?

Hello Kashif ch,

Complete English sentences always have a verb. In the present simple, 'is' is not a helping verb -- it is a main verb.

I'm not completely sure I've answered your question. If not, please don't hesitate to ask again.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team