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Present Simple Tense

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Introduction

The present simple tense describes an action happening at the present time.

However, the present simple tense often has a timeless quality to it, and is not necessarily happening right now.

Form

The present simple is easy to form. Use the base form of the verb and add an s for the third person singular:

Note too that verbs that end in –y often change their ending to –ies (e.g., cry becomes cries) in the third person singular. The exception is if a vowel precedes the –y (e.g., slay becomes slays).

In addition, some verbs add –es in the third person singular (e.g., he stitches, she caresses). This is because the base form ends with a sound such as “s” or “ch.”

Negative Form

The negative form consists of do not (or don’t) and the base of the verb:

We don’t smoke.

I don’t drink and drive.

Asking Questions

To ask a question, use do and the base of the verb:

Do you think so?

Do you subscribe?

Uses

Habitual / Repeated Actions

The monks prune the hedges faithfully.

On the first day of each month, Fred cuts his fingernails.

General Statement

Female lions hunt more than males.

Arranged or Scheduled Actions

They always catch the 7:30 train.

With the Future Tense

Sometimes the present simple is used together with a future tense verb:

George will not be happy once he finds out.

Instructions

Please come and have a look at this document.

Historical Present

You can occasionally use the present simple to talk about something that happened in the past:

We were in the Cheesecake Cafe when out of the blue he proposes to me!

This use is more common in literature and in casual conversation.

Conclusion

The present simple is rarely used to describe an action that is immediate to the speaker. For that you are more likely to use the present progressive (e.g., I am typing right now). Instead, the present simple is primarily used to describe recurring, timeless, and habitual actions. That’s why the present simple is often accompanied by references to time (every day, tomorrow, sometimes, etc.).

More Information

For more information, please see our introduction to all twelve verb tenses in English.