The Present Simple Tense
We use the present simple (is, am, are, has, have, do go, play etc.) to talk about the following:
Things in general:
We use the present simple to talk about the things in general. We are not thinking only about now. We use it to say that something happens all the time or repeatedly or that something is true in general. It is not important whether the action is happening at the time of speaking though rarely it may express what is actually going on now. In other words, the present simple is used for states (things staying the same), facts and things that are true for a long time. Let’s understand it with few examples:
- Cows give milk. (true in general)
- Nurses look after patients. (true in general)
- We come here every morning. (repeated action)
- My family lives in Kashmir. ( the same for a long time)
- Plato is the planet most distant from the sun. (fact)
- Paper burns easily. (permanent fact)
- We live quite near. (state)
- I love parties. (state)
- I like school (state)
- She is known to all. (state)
- She speaks English. (state)
while talking about habits, we also talk about how often we do things. These are called habitual actions. These are expressed in the present simple tenses; as:
- Roshina wears very expensive clothes.
- I go jogging once a week.
- We always do our shopping at Lal chowk.
Some general statements refer to what is true and are called “eternal truths”. These are expressed in the present simple tenses; as:
The sun rises in the east.
The moon goes round the earth.
Bananas grow in a warm climate.
We used the present simple for thoughts and feelings; as:
- I think so.
- I like it.
- Tahira likes her job.
Sometimes we do things by saying something for example, when you promise to do something, you can say
‘I promise …….’
when you advise something you can say
‘I advise ……’.
We use the present simple (promise/advise etc) in the sentences like this:
I promise I won’t be late.
It is a nice day; I suggest we go out for a walk.
He denies the charges. I agree to abide by the rules.
It is all right I forgive you.
In the same way, we say;
I insist …… / I apologise….. / I agree ……. I refuse ……….. Etc.
We use the present simple for instructions; as:
- Take a right turn and then go straight down the road.
- Tie one end of a string to a paper clip. Attach the other end of the string to a wooden board with a drawing pin. Hold the magnet in one hand and pick up the paper clip until the string is taut. Keep on raising the magnet until it is separated from the clip.
Proverbs are supposed to be true for all the time, so we use the simple present here; as:
- A stitch in time saves nine.
- Make hay while the sun shines.
- Honesty is the best policy.
Timetables and programmes:
When we talk about public transport, arrival and departure of trains and plains, cinema show timing, match timing, we use the simple present.
- The match starts at 9 o’clock.
- What time does the show begin?
- Tomorrow is Monday.
- The bus leaves for Baramulla at 8 am.
- The next flight is at 7.00 tomorrow.
Quotations are often introduced with says (the present simple):
Keats says, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”.
Helen Keller says, “The most beautiful thing in this world can’t seen or touched but can be felt by heart”.
In broadcast commentaries on sports events, the simple present is used, instead of the present continuous to describe activities in progress where there is a stress on the succession of happenings rather than on the duration; as:
Younis comes, balls, the batsman plays on it on-drive
Book reviews also make the use of the simple present:
Robin Hood is a delightful book. The eponymous here is a friend of the poor. He robs the corrupt rich to pay the poor. The story has many events which move fast. The reader is seldom bored.
As an introductory phrase, I gather and I understand are used in the present simple. The speaker uses these expressions while checking information:
- I gather you are looking for a house. Yes, you are right.
- I understand you worked as a supervisor for 10 years.
- Not ten, only 7 years I, worked as a machinist for 10 years.
Phrases like I hear and I see are used in the simple present even though they have a perfect or past meaning. They introduce a piece of news.
I hear that Javid is getting married.
I see there’s been an accident here.
The simple present is used, instead of the present continuous, with the following verbs, on account of their meaning:
Verbs of perception: see, hear, smell, notice, recognize.
Verbs of appearing: appear, look, seem.
Verbs of emotion: want, wish, desire, feel, like, love, hope, refuse, prefer.
Verbs of thinking: think, suppose, believe, agree, consider, trust, remember, forget, know, understand, imagine, mean, mind.
Have (= possess): possess, belong to, contain, consist of, be (except when used in the passive).
These grapes are tasting sour. (Wrong)
These grapes taste sour. (Correct)
She is seeing him. (Wrong)
She sees him. (Correct)
I am thinking you are wrong. (Wrong)
I think you are wrong. (Correct)
He is having a cellular phone. (Wrong)
He has a cellular phone. (Correct)
Note: The verbs listed above can be used in continuous tenses with change of meaning.
They are having lunch (having = eating)
I am thinking about the problem.
Structural Rules ( Form) of the Simple Present
Positive Statements / Affirmative Sentences
We normally use the root (infinitive) form of the verb in the simple present tense, that is, we use verb without any ending.
In passives we use:
Present form of BE ( am, is , are) + Past Particle (play)
Here are examples :
I play the piano. ( Active)
The piano is played by me. (Passive)
We play the piano. (Active )
The piano is played by us. (Passive)
You play the piano.
They play the piano.
My boys play the piano.
But in the third person singular (after he, she, it, your friend, Ali etc); the verb ends in s or es.
He plays the piano.
She plays the piano.
It plays the piano.
Your friend plays the piano.
Some more examples:
I like apples. (not likes)
She likes apples. (not like)
I get the lunch ready at one o’clock usually. (not gets)
It gets busy at the weekend. (not get)
Most children like ice cream. (not likes)
Sarah catches the early train. (not catch)
You know the answer. (not knows)
She knows the answer. (not know)
Negative Statements / Negative Sentences
In the negative sentences, the pattern is:
I/We/you/they/ your friends +do not + root form of the verb.
He/she/it/your friend + does not + root form of the verb.
Subject ( patient) + Be (am, is , are) +not + past participle (main verb)
I do not play the piano. (Active)
The piano is not played by me. ( Passive)
We do not play the piano.
You do not play the piano.
They do not play the paino.
Your friends do not play the piano.
He does not play the piano.
She does not play the piano.
It does not play the piano.
Your friend does not play the piano.
Questions/ Interrogative Sentences
In the interrogative sentences, the pattern is:
Do + I/you/we/they + root form of the verb.
Does/he/she/it/your friend + root form of the verb.
Be ( am, is, are) + Subject (Patient) + Past Participle ( Main Verb).
Do I play the piano?
Is the piano played by me?
Do we play the piano?
Is the piano played by us?
Do you play the piano?
Is the piano played by you?
Do they play the piano?
Is the piano played by them?
Do your friends play the piano?
Is the piano played by your friends?
Does he play the piano?
Is the piano played by him?
Does she play the piano?
Is the piano played by her?
Does it play the piano?
Is the piano played by it?
Does your friend play the piano?
Is the piano played by your friend?
Negative interrogative pattern is:
Does + he/she/it/your + not + root form of the verb
Doesn’t + he/she/it/your friend + root form of the verb.
Do + I/you/we/they + not + root form of the verb.
Don’t + I/you/we/they + root form of the verb.
Note: We use a form of do in negatives and questions. We use do and don’t except in the third person singular, where we use does and doesn’t.
We don’t live for away. (negative)
Do you live here? Yes, I do. (question)
He does not want to go shopping. (negative)
Does he want to go shopping? No, he doesn’t. (question)
What does he want? (wh question)
I/you/we/they do not get money or don’t get money.
He/she/it does not get money or doesn’t get money.
Do I/we/you/they get money?
Does he/she/it get money?
Remember: We do not add s or es to the main verb in negatives and questions:
He doesn’t gets the money. (Incorrect)
He doesn’t get the money. (Correct)
Does he gets the money? ( Incorrect)
Does he get the money? (Correct)
If the interrogative begins with a wh-word, the pattern is:
Wh-word + do/does + subject + root form of the verb.
What do you want for lunch?
What does he want for lunch?
Difference Between Present Continuous and Present Perfect
We use the Present Simple
- for regular actions or events
I watch TV most evenings.
The sun rises in the east
- facts know about the future
The plane leaves at 5.00 in the morning.
- thoughts and feelings about the time of speaking
I don’t understand.
We use the Present Continuous
- at the time of speaking (‘now’)
I’m watching a movie on TV.
- things which are true at the moment but not always
I’m looking for a new job.
- present plans for the future
I’m taking my husband to New York for his birthday.
Look at these sentences:
- I usually don’t drink coffee but I’m having one this morning because there is nothing else.
- I often drive to work but I’m taking the train this morning because my car is in for repair.
- I’m thinking about dying my hair blonde but I don’t think my wife will be very happy about it.
- My parents live in New York but I’m just visiting.
Notice how in all these examples we use the present continuous to talk about events which are temporary/limited in time and the present simple to talk about events which are habits/permanent.