Present simple – 'to be'

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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: 4.3 (13 votes)
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