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 (24 votes)

Submitted by howtosay_ on Wed, 29/03/2023 - 01:47

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Hello!

Could you please clarify the following:

1. Present Continuous for something which happens again and again:
It's always raining in London.
They are always arguing.
George is great. He's always laughing.

As far as I understand, first two sentences reveal irritation, which is absent (if I understand it correctly) in the third one about George.

So, "something which happens again and again" sounds like habitual actions to me. So, can I say that "I'm calling my friend every day" (it happens again and again") or "I call my friend every day" (it has become my habit), I drink coffee (habit) or I am drinking coffee (it happens again and again)? Or can I use these sentences interchangeably?

So, could you please clarify the difference between habitual actions and something that happens again and again, besides irritation?

I'm very very grateful for your immense help and thank you very much for the answer to this post beforehand!!!

Hi howtosay_,

It's an interesting question. I should point out that the example sentences all include "always". This word combines with the present continuous to give the meanings of irritation or repeated actions. Without "always", the meaning is not the same. Compare "He's always laughing" with "He's laughing". If you say "He's laughing", it just shows an ongoing or temporary action (i.e. he's laughing right now - it's not habitual). That's also the apparent meaning if you say "I'm calling my friend every day" - it's an ongoing or temporary action. If it is a habitual action, you could say "I'm always calling my friend (every day)".

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Hello, Jonathan!

Thank you very much for your reply! Now I draw my attention that "always" makes a big difference.

But could I ask you to clarify about the following:

Can I say "I always call my friend in the evening" and "I'm always calling my friend in the evening", "I always drink coffee" and "I'm always drinking coffee" with no sign of irritation and other differences in the meaning?

Hi howtosay_,

I'm glad it was helpful!

Yes, right. The present simple is used for actions that are factual in nature and which don't really end or change over time. The present continuous is used for actions that are true at the moment, but which may not necessarily continue forever - i.e., we understand that they will eventually stop. So, both "I always call my friend in the evening" and "I'm always calling my friend in the evening" indicate regular activities, but using the present simple means the speaker sees this action as more long-lasting and possibly going on forever. On the other hand, using the present continuous suggests that this may be true now, but may not go on forever.

About irritation, we should point out that meaning comes not only from the words and grammar in the sentence, but also the context in which it is said. Saying "I'm always drinking coffee" does not necessarily show irritation. But, it can have this meaning, depending on the context. For example: "I'm always drinking coffee to give me energy but I know it's not good for me and I wish I could cut down on it."

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Hello, Jonathan!

I'm very very grateful for your explanations!!! One more question has come to my mind: I'm used to hearing sentence like "My daughter goes to school". It is a fact in the present and probably it will last for about 10 years, so I guess it's about long-lasting action. Could you please tell which variant would you choose:

1. My daughter goes to school.

2. My daughter is going to school.

The second sentence sounds like she is going to school for some short period of time. Am I right in thinking so?

Hi howtosay_,

That's great. I'm glad it was helpful!

Yes, I would choose 1 as well. You're right that 2 sounds like a short period of time (e.g., you are talking about what your daughter is doing right now, at the moment of speaking; or she is temporarily going to a school that is not her regular school). I think most people would view this as a long-lasting action.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by The Best of Th… on Sun, 16/10/2022 - 17:07

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Hello Teacher,
Our neighbours ___ on holiday. I don't know how they can afford it.(go)

I chose "always go" but I was wrong. The correct answer is "are always going". Why?

Hello The Best,

It's possible to say 'Our neighbours always go on holiday' to speak about a habitual action. We often say something like 'Chris and Kimberly always go to the beach on holiday', which describes what they do every year.

Here, though, the situation is a little different. The second sentence reveals the speaker's feelings and thinking about the subject. By saying 'I don't know how they can afford it', they show that the speaker doesn't approve or doesn't like it for some reason.

When we speak about a regular action that someone else does that we don't approve of in some way, then we often use 'always' and the present continuous to communicate this idea.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by minhoang on Sun, 24/10/2021 - 11:07

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Hi team. Can you explain for me about the reason I wrong in two sentences? Firstly, "Each song only costs/is only costing 50 cents at the moment because they are on special offer", and I chose "is only costing" because I think this is a changing situation, but I'm wrong. Secondly, "I want everyone to do exercise, and that includes/is including you too!", I chose "is including" because I think this is an action happening now and I'm wrong again. Thank you very much for your explanations.

Submitted by minhoang on Sat, 02/10/2021 - 10:50

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Hi team. I have a question about what difference between actions happen again & again (using in present continuous) and current habits (using in present simple)? For example, in a sentence: our neighbors are always going on the holiday. I think this is a current habit of neighbors on the holiday, so I think we should use "always go" replace "are always going", right? Thank you very much in advance for your explanation.

Hello minhoang,

Usually we choose a simple form for habits, so we would say 'Our neighbours go on holiday in the summer'. The time reference is probably needed as the sentence doesn't really convey much information otherwise.

When we use a continuous form for a habit it suggests irritation on the part of the speaker. The implication is that something happens too often and is annoying. For example:

Our neighbours are always throwing parties during the week. I can't get a decent night's sleep!

Thus, it's possible to use the continuous for if the action (going on holiday) is irritating in some way. That would depend on the context and the speaker, of course.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 06:32

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Hi fantastic team! I am writing to find out more about the difference reduced adjective clasues and postponed adjective clauses. However, I can't decide whether the word 'related' in the sentence below is postponed adjective clause or reduced passive adj clasue. "experiences related to reopening schools" I have a habit of mixing postponed adjective clauses up with reduced passive adj. clasues. I would be grateful if you could clear up my confusion. I look forward to hearing from you. Best wishes!

Hi Nevi,

I guess what you mean here is postposed or postpositive adjective (i.e. an adjective which follows the noun it describes) rather than postponed. In any case, I think your example here is a relative clause (experiences which are related to...).

 

Postpositive adjectives are quite rare in English. You can read more about them here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postpositive_adjective

You can also read a discussion on the topic here:

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/91664/when-can-an-adjective-be-postposed

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 14:57

In reply to by Peter M.

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Thanks for the links teacher. You said 'experiences which are related to' is reduced passive adj clasue. But I am not sure who is the agent doing the action 'to relate A to B ' However, I thought 'related' is postposed adjective because related can also be adjective like in the following link https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/related?q=Related You'd be really helping me out.

Hello again Nevi,

In my answer I said that it is a relative clause; I did not say whether I would class related as a passive verb or an adjective. This was deliberate. The sentence is ambiguous and can be read either way (people relate it to..., for example).

Past participle adjectival forms are often ambiguous. Even a simple sentence such as 'I was interested' this can be read either way, and I don't think it makes any difference which label you choose to apply to it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Thu, 29/04/2021 - 18:01

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Hi incredible team! I wonder sth. about the sentence below. "Virus really took away those closest to them.” Which grammatical structure is used in the part -those closest to them-?, teacher. I haven't known yet. I'd really appreciate it.

Hi Nevı,

This is a reduced adjective clause. The full version would be:

  • The virus really took away those people who were closest to them.

 

There are a couple of things to note:

  1. 'those' refers to people.
  2. To make the reduced adjective clause, take out the relative pronoun ('who', in the sentence above) and also the form of 'be' ('were').

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Teacher, I studied it, but I haven't seen sth. like the sentence I wrote. I usually saw In active meaning 'The girl running in the park is my sister'= 'The girl who is running/runs... is ' In passive 'A house destroyed by the fire will be built. =' A house which was destroyed by the fire will.. ' -------------------- ' ... those people who were closest to them.' Can we reduce also superlative or comparative adjective relative clauses? I would be grateful if you could explain to me. I look forward to hearing from you.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Sat, 01/05/2021 - 08:55

In reply to by Nevı

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Hi Nevı,

Let me make a correction to my previous comment. I hope this one will explain it better :)

The basic position of an adjective is before the noun. But, it can be positioned directly after a noun, and this is called postposition. Postposition is compulsory with pronouns, e.g. 'those' and 'something':

  • The virus took away those closest to them.
  • I’m looking for something new to read.

The examples above have single adjectives ('closest' and 'new'). But adjective phrases tend to be put in postposition, even with ordinary nouns, if the adjective phrase is ‘heavy’. ‘Heavy’ means that the phrase is long and contains a lot of information. So, it would be natural to say:

  • National income will rise by an amount greater than the initial increase in exports.
  • I need a training course more relevant to my career than this one.

It’s not compulsory, though, and it’s also possible (but perhaps less preferred) to say:

  • National income will rise by a greater amount than the initial increase in exports.
  • I need a more relevant training course to my career than this one.

But not:

  • National income will rise by an amount greater.
  • I need a training course more relevant.

This is not specifically about comparative or superlative adjectives, but since those types of adjective often occur in heavier phrases, they are often postposed. Here are some other examples with ordinary adjectives.

  • She’s the manager responsible for the whole department.
  • His was a performance perfect in every way.

This may also have a lexical element. Some adjectives are used in postposition even as single words, e.g. 'available' in There are a few rooms available, so I believe phrases starting with 'available' will also be commonly postposed (e.g. There are a few rooms available in the hotel).

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Mon, 24/05/2021 - 19:21

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Thank you teacher for the information. However, I read following sentence in the news "Agent gave his boss the background information necessary to understand the issue" I think the adj. phrase 'necessary to understand the issue' may be - heavy- like you said so it is postponed. Am I correct, teacher?
I really appreciate it. I wonder if the sentence below has the same meaning. "Agent gave his boss the necessary* background information to understand the issue" You'd be really helping me out.
Hi there Teacher Jonathan! I have little two confusions 1)I realised following sentence while reading the news.And I think its is postponed because it is 'heavy' like you said. I am not sure if I am right The deal has some observers concerned that a few media companies are getting too big 2)And I wonder if the sentence is shortened from the sentence below. -The deal has some observers who are concerned that a few media companies are getting too big.- If it is, it's like reducing relative clauses. But I think we just remove 'to be' not other verbs and relative pronoun usually /who\ Again I am not sure whether I am true. I would be grateful if you could share your thoughts about my interferences. Best wishes!

Hi Nevı,

It's possible to understand the sentence that way. But actually, I think the intended meaning is different. In the structure have + object + past participle, 'have' means 'to cause something to happen or someone to do something' (Cambridge Dictionary). This is the meaning of the has some observers concerned part. It's saying that the deal was the cause of an effect (some observers have become concerned). News reports often report on events and their consequences, so that's how I understand this sentence.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Tue, 16/03/2021 - 13:31

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Hi helpful team, I want to learn one more thing.I am learning the subtopic 'The Present Habits' and I am confused about one thing. My book says 'tend to' and 'usually' has the same meaning. Firstly, If they are the same meaning, why we don't just use usually?we don't need the 'tend to'? Secondly, when Should I use 'tend to' insted of 'usually'?

Hello Nevı,

I wouldn't say they have the same meaning, though the meanings are similar. I'd suggest you look them up in the dictionary to see more precise definitions and example sentences. If you want to check your understanding with us afterwards, we're happy to help you work out any final doubts.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Aysn on Sat, 06/02/2021 - 13:37

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Hi team, While I am reading news, I don't understand one thing in this sentence. "A new study suggests the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine cuts transmission of the virus." Why we didn't say" vaccine cut"?Verb in that clause must be an infinitive form with suggest? Could you tell me why?
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sat, 06/02/2021 - 14:37

In reply to by Aysn

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Hello Aysn,

The verb 'suggest' can be followed by 'that' + a clause. This is the structure of the sentence you ask about. The word 'that' is omitted here -- this happens quite frequently -- but if it were included, the basic elements of the sentence would be: 'A study suggests that the vaccine cuts transmission'.

Perhaps you are thinking of is a different structure after 'suggest' -- the use of a verb in the '-ing' form. This can be seen in the sixth example sentence in the dictionary entry I referred you to: 'Tracey suggested meeting for a drink after work'.

Does that make more sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Teacher,If that is not omitted, sentence would be"Study suggests that the vaccine cuts transmission. " OK I understand, but that clause in the sentence" must be bare infinitive", says dictionary. Why is" vaccine cuts" instead of "vaccine cut"?

Hello Aysn,

I can see how that is confusing. Let me explain it more fully, and I'm sorry that my first reply didn't help.

The first thing to note is that 'suggest' has several different meanings. The most common meaning, which is the first one in the dictionary, is to propose something. For example, a teacher often suggests that a student study -- it's like a recommendation.

The second most common meaning is to indicate, and that is the meaning in the sentence you ask about. In other words, the results of the study indicate that the vaccine cuts transmission.

When 'suggest that' has the first meaning (propose), then the verb goes in the bare infinitive form. I'm not sure if you're familiar with the idea of the subjunctive, but that is the idea here -- if that doesn't mean anything to you, then don't worry, it's not important.

But when 'suggest that' has the second meaning (indicate), the verb goes in the normal form. That is why your sentence says 'cuts' instead of 'cut'.

Does that make more sense now? Sorry for not explaining it in more detail the first time!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Sat, 05/09/2020 - 11:15

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Hello sir, Sir, I read a sentence in a textbook. Then came the giant wave that swept both of them away. "came" verb is written before the subject, the giant wave. I want to know sir, is there any inversion? As I know, inversion takes place when we write Verb or Helping Verb before the subject. My question is that there is any inversion or not. Please clarify Sir. :)
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sat, 05/09/2020 - 13:56

In reply to by Kapil Kabir

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Hello Kapil Kabir,

Inversion can be used in many different ways. Probably the most common is in question formation, but it can also be used for emphasis and for other reasons. In this case, 'then' is one of a group of short adverbs (others, for example, are 'here' and 'there') that often go first in a sentence. After these, subject-verb inversion is common, unless the the subject is a pronoun -- in such a case, usually there is no inversion.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Thu, 03/09/2020 - 17:36

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Hello sir, I have a confusion regarding a sentence, mention below She could not bear his separation. The correction in this sentence is that, Use the phrase "Separation from him" instead of " his separation" She could not bear separation from him. I wanna know why the phrase is replaced to the other one. Is there any rule...? Please help sir.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 04/09/2020 - 07:48

In reply to by Kapil Kabir

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Hello Kapil Kabir,

It's very hard to say without seeing the context in which the sentence is used. I think 'the separation' or 'their separation' would be more likely, but I'd need to see the context to be sure.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Sun, 26/04/2020 - 05:03

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Sir, As far as I know about copular verb, it tells us about the state of the subject and change in state of the subject. Suppose I say, "He look handsome." Here "look" is a copular verb representing only state of the subject or change in state of the subject? Same sentence if i say like this "He looks handsome these days" is it representing copular verb change in state of the subject??
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sun, 26/04/2020 - 08:00

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb

As I understand it, 'look' isn't used to speak about a change of state, but rather about a state, even if you modify the sentence with an adverbial such as 'these days'.

You might find it interesting to do a little research on this subject. A good place to start might be the Linking verb and Copula entries in the Wikipedia.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Sat, 25/04/2020 - 08:32

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Sir, I have a question?? If I say, "he got angry" here get is a copular verb as it is describing change in state of the subject right??

Hello Rsb

Yes, that is correct – 'get' is a copular verb in this phrase.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Wed, 22/04/2020 - 13:28

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Hello, Like we say "Sachin would have played" here it is hypothetical situation of past. we used "would" here for past imagination. If I say for present hypothetical situation, can we use "would" here for hypothetical situation of present. Suppose "sachin would be playing now" showing imaginory situation of present. Is it correct "would" can be used for present hypothetical situation??
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Wed, 22/04/2020 - 17:00

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb

Yes, that is correct -- your sentence is correct. Well done!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Fri, 13/09/2019 - 09:48

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This is the sentence I came across in a newspaper : The minister directed the concerned authority and got help to the elderly lady by getting her an LPG connection. ' Got help to the ... ' , is that the correct usage ? I would use ... and saw that the elderly lady gets/got help ... What would you say sir ?

Hello dipakrgandhi

Yes, that is correct -- one of the meanings of 'get' has to do with causing something to be done. You could also say 'saw that she got help' ('gets' is not correct in that case, since it's the past) in this case. Another possibility would be 'and helped her get an LPG connection'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kamil on Tue, 13/08/2019 - 05:24

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What is the difference between drive out , drive away and drive off...please reply

Hello Kamil

In general, 'out' suggests the vehicle is leaving an enclosed space, 'away' expresses that it is leaving a person or place behind and 'off' also focuses on the vehicle leaving a person a behind.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team