Are you trying to learn English? Are you teaching English? Learning about the tenses is going to help you or your students really get a solid hold on this difficult language, especially present simple and present continuous tenses. Even many native English speakers don’t understand how to use tenses properly, or don’t realize how many tenses there actually are. This lesson will help you understand the difference between these two tenses and give you some exercises to practice with.
English has twelve tenses. Yes, twelve. It’s overkill but thankfully most of the tenses aren’t popular in everyday conversation. Specifically, the top five most useful tenses are present perfect, present simple, present continuous, past simple and future simple. The other seven tenses are used here and there, but they are bulky and don’t always sound grammatically correct (even though technically they are). Those tenses include present perfect continuous, past continuous, past perfect, past perfect continuous, future continuous, future perfect and future perfect continuous. Here, we’ll go over the present simple and the present continuous.
The present simple is arguably the most popular tense in the English language. It’s used every day by everyone at some point. It’s used to describe:
the present, what is happening right now
the future – in some cases
routines and habits
facts (this does not mean it is actually true)
Here are some examples.
1. You are a boy. (present)
2. The game starts at 6 PM. (future)
3. I drive to work every day. (routine)
4. The world is round. (universal truth)
5. Dogs are better than cats. (generalization)
6. The Empire State building is located in NYC. (fact)
The present continuous is one of the five most popular tenses in the English language. It has five primary uses. To learn more grammar tips about the present continuous (and other tenses), try this introduction to English grammar course.
1. It is used to express that something is happening right now. So if you are reading this article you would use the present continuous to say I am reading this article.
2. You can also use this tense negatively to indicate that something is not occurring right now. I am not reading this article.
3. Use it to indicate something that is happening “now”, which in English, can actually mean right this second, today, in an hour in a year. It just means that we are in progress with the event. I am studying to be an accountant.
4. Sometimes people use this tense to talk about the near future. I am meeting friends for drinks after work.
5. Recurring event that is irritating. The present simple uses the adverbs of frequency to describe events that happen regularly, but the present continuous is used to describe negative emotions. Usually always and never are the adverbs of choice here. He is always running late.
I am sitting. (happening right now)
Are you coming with us tonight? (near future)
He is always complaining. (negative emotion, reoccurring event)
I am reading the book Memoirs for a Geisha. (ongoing event, in progress)
They are not teaching at the University. (not occurring right now)
She is studying to be a lawyer. (on going event, in progress)
Below are four exercises to help you practice your new English grammar skills. If this is a breeze, try checking out Advanced English grammar. It’s easy to learn as long as you have a basic understanding of the most popular tenses.
Decide whether each sentence is in present simple or not by writing Y, for yes it is present simple and N, for no it is not.
I brush my teeth in the morning.
We are starting the show tomorrow.
I always wake up before the sun comes out.
They start classes at 8 AM.
Are you reading?
I love to read.
He drives to work.
He is driving to work.
They are always late.
We are happy.
Decide which form of the verb is most appropriate for the sentence. Then determine whether it is present simple or present continuous.
I make / am making my bed every morning.
What’s that? A baby cries / is crying.
My aunt is in South America. She calls / is calling every week.
He goes / is going skiing in the Rockies every February.
My mom always cooks / is cooking.
I work / am working in the garden today.
The neighbors visit / are visiting their family right now.
Are you go / going to work today?
Steve doesn’t have / isn’t having practice this week.
Megan went to the movies. She watches / is watching a film.
Decide whether each sentence is in present continuous or not by writing Y, for yes it is present continuous and N, for no it is not.
Is he visiting his parents this weekend?
He never stops talking.
What are you doing?
She is sleeping.
Tom is loving this ice cream.
They are driving to the game.
I read every day.
The dog likes to swim in the river.
The students are not doing their homework.
I am reading the book Lolita.
Complete the sentence with either present simple or present continuous.
I’ve met Sarah. She ______________ (be) a funny girl.
I’ve met Sarah. She is a funny girl.
He ___________(hate) snow.
That brownie _______ (taste) really good.
That backpack __________(belong) to me.
Please be quiet. I ____________.(think)
Joe __________(meet) friends after work tonight.
She can’t take the call right now. She ________________(take) a shower.
_____you ____________(read) a book?
They ____________(love) traveling abroad.
I __________(have) lunch. Can I meet with you later?
Don’t throw that book away. Lori _______(need) it.
Are you reading