Archive for October, 2009

Simple Present and Present Continuous Tenses

October 30th, 2009 in English Grammar, English Learning, ESL

The present indefinite or the simple present


I work.
She works.
They/you work.


I don’t work.
She doesn’t work.
They/you don’t work.


Do I work?
Does she work?
Do they/you work?

The simple present tense has several uses.

Habitual action

Read the sentences given below.

Water boils.
The dog barks.
The cow eats grass.
Birds fly in the air.
John wakes up at 7 am.

In the sentences given above, the simple present tense is used to talk about a habitual action.


Here comes the bus.
How beautiful she is!
There goes the dinner bell!

Here the simple present tense is used in exclamatory sentences.

General truth

The earth revolves around the sun.

Honesty is the best policy.
Man is mortal.
Honey is sweet.
Glass is brittle.

Here the simple present tense is used to talk about some general or universal truth.

Historic present

The two boxers sparred for sometime. Suddenly John Louis knocks his opponent out with a terrific upper cut for the full count.

Here the simple present tense is used instead of the simple past tense to make the narration lively and immediate. This use of the simple present tense is called the ‘historic present’.

Schools re-open on Monday.
We leave for Mumbai tomorrow.
The Prime Minister returns next Monday.

Here the simple present tense is used to talk about a planned future event.

Conditional clauses

The simple present tense is also used in conditional clauses when the result clause is in the future tense.

When you go abroad, who will look after your house?

The present continuous tense


I am working.
He is working.
They/you are working.


I am not working.
He is not working.
They/you are not working.


Am I working?
Is he working?
Are they/you working?

The present continuous tense is used to talk about an action that is going on at the time of speaking. Note that the present continuous tense is more frequently used for this purpose than the simple present.

I am writing.
It is snowing.
She is working.
We are watching TV.
They are waiting for us.

To talk about a future event

The present continuous tense can be used to talk about a pre-planned future event. This is very common in informal English.

We are coming.
I am going to New York tomorrow.
He is getting married.

Note that there are some verbs that are not normally used in the present continuous tense. Examples are: think, know, want, suppose, understand, remember, trust, agree, hear, see, smell, wish, desire, love, hate etc.

I love her. (NOT I am loving her.)
I know. (NOT I am knowing.)
I understand your predicament. (NOT I am understanding your predicament.)
I think he is right. (NOT I am thinking he is right.)