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The Present Simple - How to use it?

This week I’m going to talk about the present simple and explain how and when we use the present simple tense. It is one of the first tenses we learn when studying English but believe it or not, it also one of the tenses which students find most difficult to use correctly. I often see students at an upper-intermediate or advanced level still making mistakes with the present simple. So don’t get demotivated, keep trying and trying.

So what is the present simple?

The simple present is a tense used in the English language for the following situation:

  • To talk about habits: I go to work at 8 am every day.
  • To talk about permanent situations: Peter lives in Dubai.
  • To talk about states: I like the new film with Robert De Niro.
  • To talk about general truths: There are 52 cards in a deck of cards.

The verbs in bold above are all in the present simple.

!! Remember that you can ask me questions about this grammar point at the bottom of this page !!

How to Form the Simple Present?

In the simple present, most regular verbs use the root form (also called infinitive without to), except in the third-person singular (he, she, it) which ends in -s.

First-person singular: I love

Second-person singular: You love

Third-person singular: He/she/it loves (note the ‑s)

First-person plural: We love

Second-person plural: You love

Third-person plural: They love

For a few verbs, the third-person singular ends with -es instead of -s. Typically, these are verbs whose root form ends in o, ch, sh, th, ss, gh, z

First-person singular: I watch

Second-person singular: You watch

Third-person singular: He/she/it watches (note the ‑es)

First-person plural: We watch

Second-person plural: You watch

Third-person plural: They watch

The Verb to Be in the Simple Present?

Infinitive: to be

I am / am not

You are / are not

He, She, It is / is not

We are / are not

They are / are not

How to Make the Simple Present Negative?

The formula for making a verb in the present simple negative is do/does + not + root (also called infinitive without to). You can also use the contraction don’t or doesn’t instead of do not or does not.

Pauline does not watch TV after work. She doesn’t like watching TV, she prefers reading.

Be Careful: Exception with the verb to be

To make the verb to be negative, the formula is to be + not.

I am not American, but Pauline is American. 

We aren’t at work.

Here are the contractions for the verb to be in the negative:

I’m not / You’re not / She’s not / He’s not / we aren’t / They aren’t

How to Ask a Question?

The formula for asking a question in the simple present is do/does + subject + root form of verb (also called the infinitive without to)

Do you know how to cook?

How much does this car cost?

Common Verbs in the Simple Present?

Infinitive: to ask

I  ask / do not ask

You  ask / do not ask

He, She, It asks / does not ask (look at the s)

We ask / do not ask

They ask / do not ask

asks / does not ask

Infinitive: to work

I work / do not work

You work / do not work

He, She, It works / does not work (look at the s)

We work / do not work

They work / do not work 

Infinitive: to call

I call / do not call

You call / do not call

He, She, It calls / does not call (look at the s)

We call / do not call

They call / do not call 

Infinitive: to have

I have / do not have

You have / do not have

He, She, It has / does not have (look at the s)

We have / do not have

They have / do not have

So there we go for this week’s explanation of the present simple. Next week I will explain how to use the present continuous.

If you have any questions or comments, please join the conversation at the bottom of this page. I would love to hear from you.

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