Present simple: 'to be'

young woman studying

Do you know how to use the verb to be in the present simple? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how we use to be in the present simple. 

I'm a student.
My mum's a doctor.
They aren't very busy.
Is he a teacher?

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar A1-A2: Present simple – to be: 1

Grammar explanation

We can use the present simple of the verb to be to talk about situations and states in the present. 

Affirmative Negative Question
I am I am not Am I?
You/we/they are You/we/they are not Are you/we/they?
He/she/it is He/she/it is not Is he/she/it?


We can contract the verb, especially when we're speaking.

I am a shop assistant. = I'm a shop assistant.
You are a good friend! = You're a good friend!
He is my wife's brother. = He's my wife's brother.
We are very busy at the moment. = We're very busy at the moment.
They are on holiday in Italy. = They're on holiday in Italy.


For negatives, use not after the verb. We can contract the verb or not.

I am not at work. = I'm not at work. Note: I amn't is not possible.
She is not a student. = She's not a student. = She isn't a student.
is not important. = Money's not important. = Money isn't important.
are not hungry. = We're not hungry. = We aren't hungry.
are not at home. = They're not at home. = They aren't at home.


For questions, change the order of am, is or are and the person.

Are you tired?
Is she Mexican?
Is this your phone?
Are we late?
Are they your children?

Short answers

Affirmative Negative (Verb contracted) (not contracted)
Yes, I am. No, I am not. No, I'm not. No, I amn't.
Yes, you are. No, you are not. No, you're not. No, you aren't.

Yes, we are.

No, we are not. No, we're not. No, we aren't.
Yes, they are. No, they are not. No, they're not. No, they aren't.
Yes, he is. No, he is not. No, he's not. No, he isn't.
Yes, she is. No, she is not. No, she's not. No, she isn't.
Yes, it is. No, it is not. No, it's not. No, it isn't.

Note that with short answers, we only use contractions with no answers.

Questions with question words

We can also make questions by using a question word like where, when, who or what. We put the question word at the beginning.

Where are you from? I'm from Brazil.
When is the meeting? It's next Tuesday.
Who's she? She's my sister.
What time is it? It's six o'clock.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar A1-A2: Present simple – to be: 2

Language level

Average: 4.5 (35 votes)
Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.
Profile picture for user dipakrgandhi

Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Wed, 13/09/2023 - 12:57


Apologies if I am posting my question in a wrong section.

This is how my son replied during our WhatsApp chat:
'Main work will start after we will get the laptops.'

I know it should be: ...after we get the laptops - and not '... after we will get the laptops.', but I do I explain this to him. What is the reason that 'will' in the second clause is wrong?

Kindly help me explain my son.


Dipak Gandhi

Hello dipakrgandhi,

You are right that the verb form here should be present, though the meaning is future. The reason is that in time clauses we use present forms and not 'will'. This is true when we use time words such as after, before, when etc.

You can read more about the topic here:


By the way, it should also be 'The main work...'



The LearnEnglish Team

What about this sir - is this not a time clause? :
I will finish my work, and then will go home.
Don't we need 'will' in both the places here? How is this time clause different then?

We can rewrite with 'after' also:

I will finish my work, and after that will go home.


Dipak Gandhi

Hello Dipak,

The present form is used only after certain adverbs and conjunctions. The most common are these:

if, when, after, before, as soon as, once, until, while, once


We also use it after certain expressions:

the moment (that), the minute (that), by the time, the day (that), the second (that)


Other time linking words like then, next, after that, following that and subsequently do not follow this rule, which is why in your example you use the modal will in each clause.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by WHYtheRUSH on Sun, 23/07/2023 - 13:34


hi, learn English team I'm asking about the (grammar test 2) especially the seventh question why we should use 'are' and not 'is'

and thanks


The question is: Where _____ the toilets, please?

The subject is "the toilets" (= "they"). It is plural (more than one toilet), so the verb is "are".

If you are talking about only one toilet, then use "is": Where is the toilet, please?

Does that make sense?


LearnEnglish team

The subject toilets is a plural noun,
plural form of "to be" verb is "are"
singular form of "to be" verb is "is"
so here for toilets,
"Where are the toilets, please?"
if it is toilet,
"Where is the toilet, please?"

First person : (I) am
Second person : (you) are
Third person : (he/she/it) is
First person : (we) are
Second person : (you) are
Third person : (they) are