Simple Present Tense. Free English Lesson with Test and Certificate.
Quick Simple Present Tense study for SAT, IELTS, TESOL and other exams.
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How to use the simple present tense in English
Your English lesson about the Simple Present Tense
In this lesson, we will cover many of the rules and common uses of the simple present tense.
The simple present may seem like a basic lesson, but it is good to review these lessons. Many advanced students sometimes make mistakes with this tense.
Even if you have learned these rules before, it is a good idea to practice the example sentences in this lesson.
You will also see examples of the simple present tense in the story at the end of the lesson.
Let’s get started!
The simple present is constructed like this:
[VERB] + s/es for he/she/it
[VERB] for I/you/we/they
You speak English.
Jane plays the piano.
They like baseball.
We eat at noon.
The cat drinks milk.
The spelling for the verb in the third person (he/she/it) changes depending on the ending of that verb, and this is an area that causes confusion with some students.
For verbs that end in -O, -CH, -SH, -SS, -X, or -Z, we add -ES in the third person.
I go. She goes. They go.
I go – he goes
You catch – she catches
They wash – he washes
You kiss – she kisses
We fix – he fixes
I buzz – she buzzes
For verbs that end in a consonant + Y, we remove the Y and add -IES.
marry – marries
study – studies
carry – carries
worry – worries
For verbs that end in a vowel + Y, we just add -S.
play – plays
enjoy – enjoys
say – says
To make a negative sentence we normally use Don't or Doesn't with all verbs except “To Be” and modal verbs (can, might, should etc.).
You will see that we add don't between the subject and the verb. We use don't when the subject is I, you, we or they.
Affirmative: You speak French.
Negative: You don't speak French.
When the subject is he, she or it, we add doesn't between the subject and the verb to make a negative sentence. Notice that the letter ‘s’ at the end of the verb in the affirmative sentence (because it is in third person) disappears in the negative sentence.
Affirmative: He speaks German.
Negative: He doesn't speak German.
The following is the word order to construct a basic negative sentence in English in the present tense using Don't or Doesn't.
[Subject + don't/doesn't + Verb*]
*The verb that goes here is the base form (that is, with no ‘s’).
Look at the following examples of negative sentences with Don't and Doesn't:
You don't speak Arabic.
John doesn't speak Italian.
We don't have time.
It doesn't take long.
They don't want to go to the party.
She doesn't like fish.
Asking questions in the simple present tense
To make a question in English we often use Do or Does. This is normally put at the beginning of the question.
You will see that we add Do at the beginning of the affirmative sentence to make it a question. We use Do when the subject is I, you, we or they.
Affirmative: You speak English.
Question: Do you speak English?
When the subject is he, she or it, we add Does at the beginning to make the affirmative sentence a question. Notice that the letter ‘s’ at the end of the verb in the affirmative sentence disappears in the question.
Affirmative: He speaks French.
Question: Does he speak French?
We DON'T use Do or Does in questions that have the verb To Be or Modal Verbs (can, must, might, should etc.)
The following is the word order to construct a basic question in English using Do or Does.
[Do/Does + Subject + Verb*]
*The verb that goes here is the base form of the infinitive.
Here are some examples of questions with Do and Does:
Do you need a dictionary?
Does Mary need a chair?
Do we have enough people?
Does it rain a lot in April?
Do they want to go to the party?
Does he like pizza?
We often use the simple present to express the idea that an action is repeated or usual. It can also be something a person often forgets or usually does not do.
I play tennis on Saturdays.
He plays golf often in the summer.
I brush my teeth in the morning and evening.
He can play the piano.
The train leaves every morning at 8 AM.
The train does not leave at 9 AM.
She always forgets her purse.
He never arrives late.
More simple present tense exercises
The simple present tense can also indicate the speaker believes that a fact was true before, is true now, and will be true in the future. It is not important if the speaker is correct about the fact. It is also used to make generalizations about people or things.
Cats like milk.
Birds do not like milk.
Do dogs like bones?
New York is in America.
New York is not in China.
Windows are made of glass.
Windows are not made of wood.
New York is a small city. (It is not important that this fact isn’t true.)
It happens in the future
You will also see the simple present tense frequently used when speakers talk about scheduled events in the near future. This can be confusing because these events will actually take place in the future. This is most commonly done when talking about public transportation, but it can be used with any scheduled event. Notice how this works in the examples below.
The train leaves tonight at 6:00.
The bus does not arrive at 11 AM, it arrives at 11 PM.
When do we board the plane?
The party starts at 8 o'clock.
When does the football game start?
It’s happening now
Lastly, speakers sometimes use the simple present tense to express the idea that an action is happening or is not happening now. This can only be done with non-continuous verbs and certain mixed verbs.
I am here now.
She is not here now.
He needs help right now.
He does not need help now.
He has his ticket in his hand.
Do you have your ticket with you?
It’s story time
Now that we’ve learned a lot about the simple present tense, let’s see how this is used in a short story. As you read the following story, pay attention to how the simple present tense is used.
Justin is twelve years old, and he is very busy. School starts at 8:00, but he arrives at 7:15 because he doesn’t want to arrive late. Sometimes, he uses that time in the morning to review his assignments, but often he likes to talk with his friends.
He has a full day of classes from 8:00 until 3:30. Then, at 3:30, does he go home? No, he doesn’t go home. At 3:30 he goes to study English at an English academy. After English academy, he meets his best friend Ethan, and they walk to math academy together. Justin doesn’t do well in math, but Ethan usually gets high scores.
After math academy, Justin says goodbye to Ethan, and he finally goes home. It is 7:30 when he finally walks in the door, and he kisses his mother. They eat dinner together as a family, and Justin tells his parents about his day.
In the evening, Justin’s mother and father relax. His father watches television, and his mother plays on the Internet. Justin doesn’t like it, but he has to study at that point. He studies the rest of the night until it’s time for bed.
He doesn’t understand why he must work so hard. His parents tell him that he has to get high grades if he wants to study abroad someday. He knows that they want the best for him, but sometimes he doesn’t think it is so important to study in America.
That’s the end of the lesson on the simple present tense.
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