Present simple

Learn about the present simple and do the exercises to practise using it.

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 

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Hi lRaisa,

Telling a story in present tenses is typically done in speaking, not writing, and is usually considered informal in style. In formal speaking and writing, I would use past tenses.

For summarising a book (etc.) using present tenses, this is done in speaking and writing, and is neutral in style. Plot summaries on Wikipedia, for example, are often written using present tenses. So, I would say that it is acceptable, unless your teacher expects you to use a very formal and literary style. It would be best to check exactly how formal the teacher expects you to be in your speaking/writing.

I hope that helps!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
I am curious about telling a story in the past but using the future tenses; I read about that it is a way of delivering a story that is yet to occur .It is also useful for describing spontaneous actions or predictions. But when do we use them? I mean what do they describe? A main plot or a subplot? For example:
It is 8:00 pm I am in the kitchen. I am staying and doing a juice my fiancee look at me and she is approaching to me, she slips and I help her, but the juice spilt and the glass broke. I'm about to clean it up when somebody calls me.
In this situation we have: Present, Past and Future. So, The future tense here describes the subplot the same as past? Background of the action? And do we just use it to describe what will happen in the future in the story?
Btw is it the same as summarising something?

Hi IRaisa,

I'll try to answer your questions.

  • Future forms are not usually used for main plot events - because if the main narrative is told in the present, using the future shows that they are outside the main sequence of events.
  • The example about the spilt juice has mixed timeframes. I don't see a clear reason for changing from the present to the past for "the juice spilt and the glass broke".
  • I wouldn't describe "the juice spilt and the glass broke" and "I'm about to clean it up" as "subplot". A subplot is less important than the main plot, but it is still a plot that develops. However, these actions don't clearly develop into a subplot, in my understanding.
  • Future forms can be used to describe what will happen in the future of the story, and also things that the characters think, expect or intend to happen, in their point of view, even if they do not actually happen - as in the example of "I'm about to clean it up". This apparently does not happen, since the speaker is interrupted by the call.
  • Sorry, I'm not quite sure if I understand your question about whether it's the same as summarising. A summary includes the main ideas but not the detail or less important ideas, so it's not the same as a story.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Yeah, it makes sense. About summarising, I meant the future forms. Is it possible to use them? And does it make sense?
You wrote for summarising using present tenses is done in speaking and writing. And it may be very formal if teachers expect that.
Past tenses are subplot and what about the future tenses?

Hi lRaisa,

Yes, if you are summarising something (e.g. a story) using present tenses, you can use future forms for some events, with the meanings that you mentioned in your previous comment.

Sorry, I don't understand your last question about "subplot". A subplot is a part of a story that develops separately from the main plot and it is usually of secondary importance. This may involve past, present and future events - it depends on what the particular subplot is.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by alyssa_rom on Wed, 20/04/2022 - 20:31

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hi! how would you explain the use of present simple in this sentence: “i can’t talk right now, i’m busy”? technically the “right now” part should indicate the present continuous tense. also i couldn’t find the answer in the non-continuous verbs list either, it doesn’t seem to fit.
thanks in advance!

Hello alyssa_rom,

Your sentence has a modal verb (can) followed by the bare infinitive. Modal verbs do not have continuous forms so only this form is possible.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gulnara_BC on Tue, 02/11/2021 - 04:18

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Hello!

Could you please clarify if it's correct to use Present Simple in this sentence below or it must be Present Perfect and why?

This building is not occupied and is not used since the beginning of the pandemic.

Thank you!

Hello Gulnara_BC,

There are two verbs in this sentence, but I assume you are asking about the second one ('is not used').

'is not used' is not correct; 'has not been used' is the form you need here. The first verb in the present simple is correct because it's speaking about the condition of the building now, but the second one needs to be present perfect because the beginning of the pandemic is not now, but rather in the past.

When we think of a period of time that began in the past (in this case, late 2019 or early 2020 when the pandemic began) and is still ongoing now (because the pandemic is not finished), we often use the present perfect to refer to it.

Hope this helps you make sense of it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir,
I have a question – In the following sentence is there any error in
'made it clear' → 'made clear'
OR
'poses' → 'pose ' ( as CLIMATE CHANGE and Continued Ecosystem Degradation two nouns are used
so we should not add 's/es' in the main verb

Please make it clear

Hello Sir,
I have a question – In the following sentence is there any error in
'made it clear' → 'made clear'
OR
'poses' → 'pose ' ( as CLIMATE CHANGE and Continued Ecosystem Degradation two nouns are used
so we should not add 's/es' in the main verb

Please make it clear
Sorry sir,
The sentence is:
Science has made it clear the adverse impacts that climate change and continued ecosystem degradation poses for the physical world.

Hello abhay,

It's not correct to say 'made it clear' in this sentence; instead, as I think you suggest, you should say just 'make clear'. This is because the object of 'make clear' is 'the adverse impacts', including the clause after it. Many writers avoid using 'make clear' when its object is very long and use 'clarify' instead. 'has clarified' would work well in your sentence, but I also think it's clear enough with 'has made clear'.

Yes, 'poses' should be changed to 'pose' since it has two subjects.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I am sorry sir I can't understand what you are trying to say.
Is the right sentence is :

Science MAKES it clear the adverse impacts that climate change and continued ecosystem degradation POSE for the physical world.

But sir it seems it'll convey a wrong meaning.
Please clarify as it is a question of a government exam :

Select in which part of the question there is an error.

Question: Science has made it clear the adverse impacts that climate/ change and continued ecosystem/ degradation poses for the physical world./ No error

Answer key says — “poses threat to the physical world”

My confusion is
Confusion — I can't understand the meaning of the first part of the sentence.

In my opinion the answer key is wrong.
Please clarify.
Thank you.

Hello abhay,

I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I don't understand very well, either. I don't understand what the slashes (/) in the question refer to, and I don't understand what the task is -- i.e. what you as the person taking the exam have to do.

The following sentences are not grammatically correct:

Science MAKES it clear the adverse impacts that climate change and continued ecosystem degradation POSE for the physical world.
Science has made it clear the adverse impacts that climate/ change and continued ecosystem/ degradation poses for the physical world.

The following sentence is grammatically correct:

Science has made clear the adverse impacts that climate change and continued ecosystem degradation pose for the physical world.

'Science' is the subject; 'had made clear' is the verb phrase; 'the adverse impacts' is the object; 'that climate change and continued ecosystem degradation pose for the physical world' is a relative clause whose antecedent is the object 'the adverse impacts'. This sentence is slightly awkward because a verb phrase such as 'to make clear' normally has a shorter object, but it is grammatically correct.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Fri, 16/04/2021 - 17:53

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General doubt, not relevant to this page. Sorry for that The sentence is: the probability of two people drawn at random being able to have a conversation in their mother tongue was 0.5. In terms of grammar, how is the " being able " acting in the sentence? In my opinion: two people who are able is reduced to being able. Like who are contracted into being in this case. Is my explanation correct? If not, please explain me the manner in which "being able" is used in this context.

Hello Mussorie,

You're correct: the meaning of 'being able...' here is the same as 'who are able'. It has an adjectival function as it describes the noun phrase before it ('two people drawn at random').

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Tue, 13/04/2021 - 15:26

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Could I know what is the difference or the meaning of the two sentences? 1.He has had a headache since last Monday. 2.He is to have had a headache.

Hello Mussorie,

The first sentence tells us that the person started having a headache last Monday and still has a headache at the time of speaking.

The second sentence does not make sense. You can use is to have done when you are giving a date by which something is to be completed, but this does not work with a headache as it is not something which we can control.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rizk Hussein on Mon, 15/03/2021 - 15:58

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Need help please The boss isn’t available right now. He............. an important meeting. a. has b. is having C has had I think all options are right, what is your opinion , sir

Hi Rizk Hussein,

The first two options make sense. I would choose one of those two.

Option c is possible, but less likely. He has had an important meeting means that the meeting has finished by now, so he is not in the meeting now. But he may still be unavailable if, for example, the meeting was stressful and he needs time to relax because of it.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please explain how the second option " is having " is valid in this context? Because we don't use "having" ( stative verb) as in its continuous form. In this context, the meeting is not an experience right, then how can we use it. Please explain it.

Hi Mussorie,

The verb have has several meanings. The ‘possession’ meaning is stative, e.g.:

  • She has a big house. (She's having a big house.)
  • He has short hair. (He's having short hair.)

But have can also refer to doing an action, as in the examples below, and that’s why it possible (and common) to use it in continuous tenses:

  • I’m having a break.
  • She’s having a meeting.
  • They’re having lunch.
  • I was having a shower when you called.

Take a look at this page on Stative verbs for more explanation and examples of verbs with these two meanings. I hope it helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Please reply, why can't we use has had in a different context like the meeting is continuing (because it started in past and continuing till the question being asked). That is the reason why he is not available. Can we assume in that sense?

Hello Mussorie,

We use the present perfect simple to talk about a finished event that has some connection to the present. Especially when it's a event like a meeting, it is clearly finished. For this reason, it's not appropriate in this context in which the meeting is over.

If the meeting is still happening when this question is asked, then I'd say 'He is in an important meeting'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by luharriet on Mon, 22/02/2021 - 15:46

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Hello, is this sentence present simple? I always go to the beach when it's hot

Submitted by Erfan1806 on Sat, 23/01/2021 - 10:33

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Hi, are these correct: We sing songs. My brother and sister open the presents.

Hello Erfan1806,

Yes, both sentences are grammatically correct.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lucas Nascimen… on Sun, 17/01/2021 - 15:08

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Dear LearnEnglish Team. I did the exercises about "Simple present" and I have doubt in the exercise: * (Simples present question 4 / number 8). Is it necessary types "?" in the end of question? If you do not type "?", the system not accept as correct answer. Sincerely Lucas Nascimento da Silva

Hello Lucas,

I'm sorry about that -- that was a mistake on our part. I've fixed it now. Thanks for taking the time to tell us about it and I'm sorry for the convenience!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rashid ali on Mon, 21/12/2020 - 05:31

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I wake up at six o' clock or i wake everyday at six o' clock...... Are these sentences correct?

Hello Rashid ali,

Yes, those sentences are grammatically correct and describe typical or normal behaviour. I think 'wake up' is much more common in modern English, but both are possible.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rashid ali on Mon, 21/12/2020 - 04:56

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How can i use present simple for commentaries even that action is in progress?

Hello Rashid ali,

You can hear this use of the present simple if you watch a sporting event with English language commentary. The commentators describe the action using the present simple:

Jones passes to Smith. Smith runs and shoots. He scores!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zuzanna on Fri, 11/12/2020 - 14:27

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Could you please tell me why in the sentence,, I was walking down the street the other day when suddenly this man comes up" past continuous is used at first and then present simple? Would it be correct if I said, I am walking down the street...."?

Hi Zuzanna,

It's an interesting question! When telling a story, we use the present simple for a particular effect: to give the listener a sense that the story events are happening right now, in front of the listener. It makes the storytelling more interesting and engaging.

 

So, what about the sentence you mention? The use of the past continuous shows that this action (walking down the street) is only a background context for the story. It's not a main event of the story, so it doesn't need the special effect that the present simple brings. The main events begin with suddenly this man comes up to me ... and the use of the present simple. 

 

So, you could use I am walking ... , but only if this action is a main event of the story and you want to draw the listener's attention and interest to it.

 

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tinnycool on Thu, 22/10/2020 - 18:50

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Hi, is it possible to say Present simple and past simple in one sentence? For example “your presentation was great. You seem to have a good understanding of the subject, and you succeeded in getting the attention of the audience”.

Hi Tinnycool,

Yes, it's perfectly fine to use two different tenses like that, provided one action/state is a present (or general) action/state and the other is past.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by DaniWeebKage on Fri, 16/10/2020 - 02:58

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It says We use the present simple to talk about fixed in the future. Then, When does this show end? Or When will this show end? Does the meaning change? Can I use both? Thank a lot.

 

Hello DaniWeebKage,

In this context both are possible.

 

The present simple is used for future time when events are regular or part of a schedule. It is similar to asking 'What time is the show supposed to/meant to finish?'

The modal verb will is used for predictions of particular events. It is similar to asking 'What time do you think/expect the show to finish?'

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by DaniWeebKage on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 11:34

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Could you please explain to me why the present simple is used in talking about the Past? What If I use Past simple instead of Present Simple, Does the meaning change?

Hi DaniWeebKage,

Sure! This is quite commonly done when we tell a story or summarise one.

The story events are, of course, past events (i.e. they have already happened). But, using the present tense has a particular effect: it catches listeners' attention and engages them in the story. This is because the present simple presents the story as something that develops and unfolds as the listeners listen. There is a feeling that the story is happening now (i.e. in the moment of telling it). It's a really effective storytelling technique :)

As you suggest, it's also possible to tell a story using the past simple (with other past tenses). This way, you present the story to the listeners as something that happened some time ago, distant from the present moment. It doesn't have the immediate, engaging effect of the present simple.

I just want to emphasise that the present simple is used to talk about the past for these specific conversational actions: telling or summarising a story. We can't use the present simple to talk about past actions in general.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LilyLinSZ on Fri, 02/10/2020 - 14:10

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Hi teachers, I would like to know why the future simple is used instead of the present simple in the following sentences 1. the presumption will not apply to overseas companies. 2. A connected person will not be permitted to vote on the resolution approving the transaction 3. In deciding whether to grant an exemption, the Committee will take into account a number of factors. My view is that these sentences are about general rules and facts. So I am confused about the use of the future simple here. Many thanks!

Hello LilyLinSZ,

You're right in thinking that the present simple could be used here. I can't say for sure why they use the future without knowing more, but I'd say it's because these three phrases/sentences are from quite formal contexts. 'will' is often used in formal situations to speak of rules or official arrangements, or to issue commands. 

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi LilyLinSZ,

It's hard to give a detailed explanation without knowing the context in which a given sentence appears, but I'll comment as far as I can.

1. the presumption will not apply to overseas companies.

This sentence may be describing something which is not yet in effect, or it could be a prediction about the present. The speaker could be speculating about the current situation.

 

2. A connected person will not be permitted to vote on the resolution approving the transaction

The sentence describes a particular vote in the future. The rule may apply to votes in general, but the speaker is referencing a particular vote.

 

3. In deciding whether to grant an exemption, the Committee will take into account a number of factors.

Again, this references a particular decision in the future.

 

By the way, the term 'future simple' is not one we generally use. Will is not a tense, but rather a modal verb like might, should, may and so on. Will often describes future time but so does might, and both can also describe present time.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Sun, 13/09/2020 - 12:40

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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
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 15/09/2020 - 08:28

In reply to by Timothy555

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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