***there is a quiz at the end of this article***
When do we use the present simple tense in English?
Present Simple Usage
We use present simple to talk about any actions and situations in ‘general time.’
– It is not important for the action to be happening at the time of speaking.
Example, Dogs bark.
– The situation is a general truth or maybe permanent.
– The action is completed.
There are two types of verbs we use in the present simple.
Dynamic verbs are those which describe movements. E.g. walk, work, ask…
Static verbs are those that don’t describe physical movement. They express thoughts, wishes, feelings, sentiments. And since they can’t possibly be used in present continuous tense, we use present simple tense. They indicate of the current state of being.
There are six groups of stative verbs:
a. Verbs of senses- see feel hear taste smell
b. Verbs of mental activity- trust recall feel agree appreciate
c. Verbs that express feelings and emotions- admire fear hate
d. Verbs of possession- belong owe own possess
e. The auxiliaries- except ‘be’ and ‘have’ in certain cases.
USES OF SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE:
1. Repeated actions:
We use the simple present to express the idea that an action is repeated or usual. The action can be a habit, a hobby, daily events or routines, a scheduled event or something that happens often.
The simple present tense is often used with adverbs or phrases of adverb of frequency such as
always never often occasionally sometimes normally seldom on Mondays etc
a. Habits, hobbies or daily events or daily events
– He drinks.
– Does he play cricket?
– I seldom go to the temple.
– Does she always wear a watch?
b. To describe series of actions taking place one after another (habitual)
– She wakes up at 6 every morning.
She bathes, has her breakfast and then catches the bus.
c. Scheduled events
We can use the simple present to indicate scheduled events i.e. action set by a timetable or schedule ( because they are pre-determined in advance). This is most commonly done when talking about:
– Public transportation with verbs that express departure and arrival
· The bus leaves at 6 am.
· When do we board the train?
– Opening and closing timing of Govt. offices, banks, hospitals, schools, colleges, cinemas
· The zoo opens at 9 am.
· When does the bank close?
2. To indicate facts and generalizations;
The simple present can also indicate the speaker believes that a fact was true before, is true now and will be in the future. It is not important if the speaker is correct about the fact.
· Hamlet is a play by Shakespeare.
· Water boils at 100 degree celcius.
· Dogs bark.
Theories and principles
· Light travels faster than sound.
· Parallelogram has 4 sides.
· A barber cuts hair.
3. To indicate planned future events:
The simple present can also be used (not very often) for the future. Speakers usually use the simple present to give information about planned future events/ actions which are seen as absolutely certain.
· The concert starts at 7 pm.
· Our holidays begin on the 25th of December.
4. Simple present tense with the verb ‘say’:
It is chiefly used with the verb when we are asking about or introducing quotation from books or letters:
· The board says, “no parking.”
· This book says that too much milk is bad for you.
Other verbs of communication are also possible:
· Gandhi advises us not to borrow or lend.
· A notice at end of the road warns people not to go any further.
5. Simple present in place of simple past:
a. In vivid narration of past events
It is used in description of events, a play, drama, story as a substitute for the simple past.
· India wins freedom on the 15th of August.
· Germany invades Poland.
b. In newspaper headlines
It is used in newspapers as a substitute for simple past tense.
· Riots break out in the city centre.
· President receives a huge welcome.
Articles and the verb ‘be’ are usually left out in the headlines.
· Woman assaulted (instead of a woman was assaulted)
c. In writing biographical outlines
We often use the simple present when we write time lines or biographical outlines- even if all the events take place in the past!
1936- a famous freedom fighter is born in India.
6. Simple present for momentary present actions:
We can also use the simple present to talk about momentary present actions- things which take a very short time to happen.
In other words, simple present is used instead of present continuous to describe activities in progress where there is stress on the successionof happenings rather than the duration.
· Virat Kohli passes the opening to Pandya.
7. Simple present in exclamatory sentences to describe activities in progress:
Simple present is also used in exclamatory sentences beginning with ‘here, there’ to express what is actually taking place in the present (to describe activities in progress)
· There goes the bus.
· Here comes Allan.
8. To indicate the ability of the subject:
Simple present is used to indicate the ability of the subject to do something.
· I understand Hindi.
· He speaks six languages.
9. The simple present tense in certain types of subordinate clauses:
The simple present tense is used for the future in certain types of subordinate clauses, especially adverbial time clauses and conditional clauses. Conjunctions which go with the present tenses in this way are “after, as, before, once, until, when, as soon as, if, even if, unless, as long as.
· Whenever it rains, the roof leaks.
· When you open the door, the bell rings.
I hope this article helped you learn the different uses of the present simple tense in English. Rememeber that practice makes perfect; the more you practice the present simple, the better you’ll get better at it.
Make sure to take the quiz at the end of this article about the difference between the present simple and the present continuous to improve your grammar and to test your understanding of this topic. Don’t forget to share your score in the comment section below.
Simple Present or Present Continuous
Put the verbs in brackets into the simple present or the present continuous tense.
You can try other quizzes here.
Follow Sheila on Instagram for more English content!