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?

Contractions

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.

Negatives

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.
Money
is not important. = Money's not important. = Money isn't important.
We
are not hungry. = We're not hungry. = We aren't hungry.
They
are not at home. = They're not at home. = They aren't at home.

Questions

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 (72 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.

Submitted by anafrancis on Mon, 13/05/2024 - 17:10

Permalink

hi I need help beacuse the all excersises are wrong and just the fisrt is good I dont know what doing

Profile picture for user RajithaSL

Submitted by RajithaSL on Mon, 25/12/2023 - 07:15

Permalink

Hi,
I know we can contract this - "teacher is" to "teacher's"
(But my Grammarly spell checker suggest it is wrong)
My question is can we contract - "teachers are"
If the answer is Yes, how? And if the answer is No, why?
Thanks in advance.

Hi RajithaSL,

Grammarly and similar apps are only ever rough guides. They can be useful but they are fairly blunt instruments, especially when it comes to grammar suggestions, as they do not take much context into account.

Contractions can lead to ambiguity. For example, teacher's could be teacher is or it could be a possessive form. Apps like Grammarly have problems identifying which one you intend and often correct to the unambiguous option, sacrificing variety and style in the process. Whether or not teacher's is a good choice for your text would depend on the broader context, so I can't say whether it would be a good choice in your case.

 

Generally we contract other forms of 'be' only with pronouns (I, you, he etc). Sometimes 'will' is contracted in informal writing, but it is unusual. Thus, you can contract 'are' with you, we and they, but not with full nouns.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ashiecajlenreese on Tue, 31/10/2023 - 15:25

Permalink

hello i know this is not the right place to ask this.

I'm just really curios what is the difference between for getting and to get? when is the spesific time we use for/to?

thank you so much for answering my question 🙏

Hello ashiecajlenreese,

This depends upon the particular verbs used and the context. However, there are some tendencies.

First, we generally use for + -ing to talk about the use of an object (what the object is capable of) whereas we use to + verb to talk about the intention or purpose of the agent (what the person doing the action is trying/hoping to do). For example:

1. I need a knife for cutting bread. [i.e. the kind of knife which lets me do this]

2. I need a knife to cut bread. [I have some bread to cut and I need a knife]

The difference is subtle and there are many contexts in which both would be possible, such as when standing in a kitchen and cooking or when in a shop and buying. However, imagine a situation in which I am doing something else and need a knife. For example, I may be cutting some rope or a cable. In this case I would use the first sentence because I am asking for a particular type of knife, not telling you what I am going to do with it.

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you a little. It is a very subtle, as I said, and in many contexts both forms are fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user dipakrgandhi

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

Permalink

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.

Regards

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:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/english-grammar-reference/verbs-time-clauses-if-clauses

 

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

 

Peter

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.

Regards

Dipak Gandhi