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 

Average
Average: 4.4 (265 votes)
Profile picture for user Prakash

Submitted by Prakash on Sun, 02/06/2024 - 21:58

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Simple present

'Do/Does' is used as supporting verb to make positive sentences negative, yes/no questions, and wh- questions.

But this does not happen with the verb 'to be.', WHY?
'Am' is used as main verb.

Eg.
I am.
I am not.
Am I?
Am I not?
Who am I?
Who am I not?

Please explain.
1) Why is it so?
2) is 'am' used as supporting verb? Yes? No? (Simple present)

 

KesariSir, Bharat

Hello Prakash,

You're right that the verb 'be' is an exception to the normal rule. This is quite common in languages, in fact, and linguists believe it is because 'be' is such a common word that we learn it before we have internalised the grammatical system. In other words, we learn to use 'be' before we know any grammar patterns and it simply has its own very simple system (just add 'not').

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

It happens with 'have'

 

You have not

Have you?

Have you not?

What have you?

What have you not?

 

You had not

Had yoy?

Had yoy not?

What had yoy?

What had yoy not?

--------

Other verbs?

Hello again Prakash,

'Have' is also an extremely common verb and the explanation is the same. However, although the forms you give as examples are possible, we generally see them as old-fashioned in modern English and use some form of do to form negatives and questions. Thus don't you have? is much more common than haven't you? and you don't have... is more common than you have not....

Please note that in all of this I am talking about have as a main verb, not as an auxiliary in perfect constructions or as a tag question created with have as an auxiliary verb.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

You added, don't you have.

What is proper place of NOT 

 

don't you have, means

do not you have?

Do you not have?

 

  1. Don't you have?
  2. Do not you have?
  3. Do you not have?

Hello again Prakash,

Don't you have... is a contracted form of Do you not have...

The uncontracted form sounds quite formal and is much less common.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Prakash,

I don't use any social media at all. I'm not a fan of it!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

If it is so, (I think) we do have these exceptions:

DO can be used with BE

  1. do be. (do for emphasizing)
  2. do not be. or don't be. (negative imperative)

what are other exceptions?

Hello Kesari-ji,

I'm not sure I'd call those exceptions, but in any case, I can't think of any other cases off the top of my head.

I can say fairly confidently that there are no other exceptions in English as it is commonly spoken in the UK and North America. There could be others, but I'm afraid your question would take some time to research properly. I'd suggest asking in the English Stack Exchange for ideas.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Hi KirkSir,

Thank you for your response and for taking the time to research this for me. I'm sorry it took up your time. Only a true lover of language would do that. I'll check out the English Stack Exchange as you suggested.

If possible, please, contact me using my email.

Hello Kesari-ji,

I'm happy to help and hope you find some useful information in the Stack Exchange.

I'm afraid we don't contact users from our individual email accounts. Sorry!

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Khangvo2812 on Fri, 09/02/2024 - 05:57

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Hello,
Can you tell me why the present simple is used in the sentence below?
I heard from David last night. He says hello.

Hello Khangvo2812,

You can use the past simple or present simple here. The past simple means 'He said hello to you when I spoke' while the present simple can be understood as 'He says hello to you through me right now.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by HLH on Fri, 22/09/2023 - 07:31

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Hello Peter
I don't anticipate it stopping means :
Most people consider a long time : a month or more than a month and
Temporary: a few days or a few weeks
can I use What most people consider ?

Hello HLH,

I'm afraid I don't understand what your question is. Could you please use inverted commas (') around the language that you're asking about? I think that would help me understand.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by HLH on Wed, 20/09/2023 - 12:20

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Hello Peter
example
i study computer engineering
i am studying computer engineering
you have said before i use simple present if we do not except to change in the near future
what does mean near future
more than year i use simple present
a year or less i use present continuous?

Hello HLH,

The near future is not a fixed time which we can describe in this way. It is a question of how the speaker sees the action or situation. If the speaker sees the situation as permanent or unlikely to change for what they consider a long time then the present simple will be used. If the speaker sees it as temporary then the present continuous will be used. Sometimes a temporary situation can last year if in the speaker's mind it is going to change at some point. It's not a question of how long but rather how the speaker sees things.

I can say 'I study physics' even though I know the course only lasts four years because I don't anticipate it stopping. I can say 'I'm living in London' even if I think I'll be in London for a decade because I don't see it as my home but rather a place I'm in for a certain time. It's a question of perspective and it's subjective.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Prakash on Thu, 07/09/2023 - 10:40

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In the Simple Present Tense, we often use 'do' and 'does' as auxiliary verbs to emphasize positive sentences and commands. For example, 'I do speak' and 'He does come'
However, when 'do' is used as a main verb, can we also use 'do' or 'does' for emphasis in sentences like-
I do do.
He does do.
And similarly, can we use 'do' for emphasis in commands like-
Do do.

I'd like to understand if 'do' and 'does' can be used to emphasize when 'do' is functioning as a main verb, such as 'I do my homework' or 'He does the dishes.'

Is it common to use 'do' and 'does' for emphasis in such sentences?

Additionally, can they be used in commands like-
Do do your work

I am aware that these sentences may not be typical in daily conversation, but I am inquiring about their grammatical usage.

Kesari Prakash, Maharashtra, India.

Hi Prakash,

Yes, it is grammatically fine, including in commands (imperatives). As you suspected, these sentences sound a bit unusual because of the double "do", but they are grammatical.

I should mention that "do" as a main verb requires an object or a complement, so the first set of sentences should be something like:

  • I do do (well).
  • He does do (a good job).
  • Do do (that).

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

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Submitted by Prakash on Thu, 07/09/2023 - 10:22

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Could you please explain the grammatical differences between the following sentences:

'It is a bus.'
'There is a bus.'
'There goes the bus!'
Additionally, could you clarify the grammatical roles of the words 'there' and 'bus' in these sentences? Specifically, are they considered dummy subjects, subjects, adverbs of place, or nouns?

Hi Prakash,

Sure, I'll try to help.

It is a bus - in this sentence, the speaker/writer is identifying something ("It"). "It" is a dummy subject.

There is a bus - "There" is an adverb, introducing the subject of the sentence "a bus". The normal word order of the sentence is inverted.

There goes the bus - "There" is an adverb of place. It indicates a particular place or space (while in the previous sentence, in the most common use of "There is", "There" indicates the existence of something, with a weaker meaning of pointing to a particular place or space). The normal word order is inverted too. The subject is "the bus".

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by chonburi on Tue, 25/07/2023 - 08:24

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Hello,
Which grammatical construction should I use in video tutorials? I mean knitting tutorials, where I show how to knit step by step. Is it correct to use Present Simple in tutorials and video instructions? For example: «I just cut it in two places, here and here, to have such tails, and after this I make 9 loops with the needles...»
I've met people using Present Simple and/or Going To in their tutorials. Why nobody uses Present Continuous without Going To in the tutorials?

Hi chonburi,

Grammatically, there's no problem with using present continuous to explain what you are doing in that moment (I'm cutting here ... I'm looping it ...). The present continuous focuses on what's happening at a particular moment.

But since you probably have many steps to make the final product, it would be unusual to use the present continuous to focus on every single step. It's more usual to use the present simple to describe a sequence of actions like this. But, while mainly using the present simple, you can also use present continuous at particular times to emphasise important moments or actions.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by CarolinaRuiz on Sun, 18/06/2023 - 20:48

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Hello

Can I use the present simple to describe what I see in an image? Not just the facts, but even the actions in progress at the time the photograph was taken?

Hello CarolinaRuiz,

My sense is that we typically use the present continuous to describe an image, unless we're using link or stative verbs.

Imagine an image of a family having a picnic on the grass in a park. We'd typically say things like 'The mother is giving the children some fruit', 'The father is arranging the blanket', 'The girl is drinking some water' to describe actions -- note all the present continuous forms here. But we do also use the present simple quite a bit, e.g. 'The boy looks hungry', 'The father is happy', 'The girl wants to play football', etc. These are all stative or link verbs.

But of course if we're talking about an image of a picnic we were at some time in the past, we'd probably use a range of past tense forms.

In a speaking exam where we're asked to speculate what will happen next in an image, we of course would use appropriate forms there as well.

Hope this answers your question. If not, please let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Wed, 07/06/2023 - 23:52

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Hello!

Could you please help me with the following:

1. From today, they take their exams. (Their exams started today and will continue for about two weeks). Is Present Simple correct here? Or have I to day "From today, they have taken/have been taking their exams" or "From today they are taking their exams"?

2. I've seen the following sentence on BBC website: "Goalkeeper signs new three-and-a-half-year Bristol City deal". Could you please explain why Present Simple is used here? Is "will sign" or "is going to sign" possible here?

Thank you so much for your help! I appreciate it a lot! And I'm grateful for the answer to this post beforehand!

Hello howtosay_,

1. The present simple is fine here. The exams are a scheduled event and the present simple is appropriate for this. You could use other forms. Will be taking is often used for expected events or actions, and are taking is also possible for arrangements. Will take is possible but would suggest a decision being taken by the speaker rather than a description of the situation. The present perfect does not work here as it suggests an action which began in the past and continues to the present, not one beginning in the present and extending into the future.

2. The present simple is very common in news headline. If you look at the article you will see other verb forms used in the main body, such as present perfect and past simple.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JameK on Sat, 11/02/2023 - 15:04

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Sir, could you please answer me which one is correct?
1.When I have breakfast, my mom prepares my lunch.
2.When I am having breakfast, my mom prepares my lunch.
Is there have any difference? could you explain me, Sir?

Hello JameK,

The second sentence tells us that your mom prepares your lunch while you are in the process of eating breakfast.

The first sentence is ambiguous. It could mean that your mom waits until you have breakfast and then starts to prepare lunch. Maybe you prepare your breakfast and the kitchen is only available for her to prepare lunch once you sit down to eat, for example. Alternatively, it could mean that on certain days you don't have breakfast and on certain days you do and on the days when you have breakfast your mom prepares your lunch. Without any other context it's not clear.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tal D. on Mon, 21/11/2022 - 16:28

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Hello Sir,
thank you so much for your wonderful and practical explenation.
I wanted to please ask you about the last part, where you explained about using "Present simple" \ "Present continuous" - when talking about the "past" - when you're telling a story and you want to pull the listener into the moment .
In the example story you gave, you used both tenses.

My question is -
how sould I know, in this case, when to use in the story the"Present simple" and when the "Present continuous"?

Hi Tal D.,

Great, I'm glad you found it useful :)

The present simple is used for the main sequence of events (i.e. the things that happened). The present continuous is used for events which are a background to others, as in the example above ("While we are standing there ..." - it seems that "standing there" was the background action to another action that happened). In that way, the use is similar to the use of the past simple and past continuous in a conventional past narrative.

The present continuous can also be used to heighten even further the effect of being in the moment. Adapting the example above, for example: "Well, he's looking a bit dangerous so I'm not feeling sure ..."

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir I'm have some questions regarding simple present tense. For example Daniel goes to market or I don't like black coffee. These are simple present but what about these sentences like Tom does work everyday or I do work everyday. Can you explain do and does sentence ? Next one is about questions. For example where do you live ? or where she does live ? these sentences are easy because w form words are used in first place but the problem is with the sentences like. Do you know how to bake a cake ? In this w form word is used in between of the sentence. Sir can you explain this too ?

Hello AbdulBasit1234,

'do' and 'does' work as both auxiliary verbs and as main verbs. For example, in 'Tom does work every day', 'does' is a form of the verb 'do' -- it means to carry out an action. But in questions or negatives, 'do' and 'does' are auxiliary verbs: in 'He doesn't work on Monday', 'doesn't' is an auxiliary verb; 'work' is the main verb. It's also possible for 'do' to be both an auxiliary and a main verb in a sentence where the main verb is 'do': 'He doesn't do much work' ('doesn't' is auxiliary, 'do' is main).

I'm not sure I understand your second question. If you are asking about 'how', 'how to bake a cake' is simple a phrase. A phrase can take the place of a simple noun. For example, we could replace the phrase with a noun like 'Judy' ('Do you know Judy?') and the sentence structure is the same.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sxphia_jx on Sat, 19/11/2022 - 05:43

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Hi Sir,

I am a little bit confused about the present tense in short story.

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 …

I am confused about where it starts with "I was" and then turns to present tense.

Hope you can answer

Thanks

Hi sxphia_jx,

This is actually quite common in spoken English. Normally, we use past forms for telling stories (narratives). In fact, the verb forms past simple, past continuous, past perfect simple and past perfect continuous are collective sometimes known as 'narrative tenses'. However, when we are recounting a story in a more informal setting (such as telling a joke or a sharing an anecdote), we can use present forms to give a sense of immediacy and to bring the story more to life. As you can see from this text, it's possible to begin with past forms and then switch to present forms for effect.

Present forms can even be used in this way in writing and even in novels. Some well-known examples include One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Ken Kesey), Bleak House (Charles Dickens) and The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ismmohit on Tue, 15/11/2022 - 12:15

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I have gone through the article on present simple. It is wonderfully written and has covered its different uses.

What I learnt is that it can be used to talk about the scheduled future events, for example: -
1. The school term starts next week.
2. The train leaves at 19:45 this evening.
3. We fly to Paris next week.

I would like to ask whether we can use simple future (instead of simple present) in these type of sentences like
1. The school term will start next week.
2. The train will leave at 19:45 this evening.
3. We will fly to Paris next week.

Is there any difference in the meaning of the above sentences due to replacement of present simple by future simple or do they mean exactly the same?

Hello Mohit,

I'm glad that you found the page useful. I think you'd find the Talking about the future page useful as well, as it compares the different forms most commonly used to speak about the future. It doesn't cover all possible uses, but is definitely quite useful.

In theory, the three sentences with 'will' could be correct in an appropriate situation, but I'm afraid I'm having a hard time thinking of an example for any of them. The present simple ones are much more commonly used.

If you have a specific situation in mind, please let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lRaisa on Sun, 09/10/2022 - 19:37

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Hi,
I have questions about summarising.
Is it possible to write a whole summary ( for example a book ) in past tenses?
And why do we use present tenses + past tenses in a summary?

Hello IRaisa,

Yes, it's possible to use past tenses to summarise. People often use present tenses when telling a story because it makes the story seem more alive or more real. The present tense reflects the reality of the listener, who is finding out about the story in the moment they are hearing it.

In a summary, the present can have a similar sense, or it can also have the sense that the story (or film or whatever) is something that is kind of timeless since it can be told at any time. That is, you can read the book now or read it in the future, and other people read it in the past. It might help to think of the story as a building or the sunrise. Both existed yesterday, are happening today, and we expect them to exist or happen again tomorrow. Just as we say 'The sun rises in the morning', we can use a present simple form to tell or summarise a story.

I hope that's helpful (and not more confusing!). In any case, it's OK to use the past to make a summary of a story, but the present is quite commonly used as well.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Thanks, but I still have a question
I read a lot of times when somebody connected Present tenses + past tenses for example
Barbossa recruits Gibbs, who burns the charts, admitting he memorized every location.
Harry deduces that Voldemort is hunting the Elder Wand, which had passed to Dumbledore after he defeated Grindelwald

What is the purpose of that?

Hello IRaisa,

In these cases, the past tense shows that those actions happened before the actions in present tense. The present tense is used to narrate the action or 'current' situation in the story, but, as you have noticed, other tenses can be used when it's necessary to refer to other times.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team