What Is the Simple Present Tense? (with Examples)

by Craig Shrives

Simple Present Tense

The simple present tense is used:
  • To describe facts and habits. For example:
    • He plays chess.
  • To describe scheduled events in the future. For example:
    • The plane lands in 5 minutes.
  • To tell stories (particularly jokes). For example:
    • He asks the policeman for directions.
    • (This use of the simple present tense is quite rare.)
The simple present tense is quite easy to form, but it quite difficult to use. In fact, it's complicated. (There's more on this below.)

A Video Summary

Here is a short video summarizing the simple present tense:

Infographic for the Simple Present Tense

Here is an infographic explaining the simple present tense:

simple present tense

More Examples of the Simple Present Tense

The simple present tense is used:

(1) To describe facts and habits:
  • I like chocolate. (Fact)
  • Angela runs a youth club full of glue-sniffers. (Fact)
  • I ride horses in the summer. (Fact and habit)
  • It always snows here in January. (Fact and habit)
  • Dawn plays chess in the evenings. (Fact and habit)
(NB: These activities do not have to be happening right now.)

This type of sentence, especially if it's describing a habit, will usually include a time expression like "always," "every year," "never," "often," "on Mondays," "rarely," "sometimes," or "usually."

(2) To describe scheduled events in the future
  • The train arrives at 5 o'clock.
  • It is low tide at 0234.
(Yes, we know! It's supposed to be the present tense!)

(3) To tell stories (particularly jokes) to make your listener or reader feel more engaged with the story.
  • A horse walks into a bar, and the barman says, "why the long face?"
  • (Compare to: A horse walked into a bar, and the barman said, "why the long face?")
  • We heard the helicopter overhead. Suddenly, the radio bursts into life.
(This is sometimes called the fictional present or the historic present.)

Forming the Simple Present Tense

The simple present tense is quite easy to form.
base form


or
base form
+
"s"


Let's look at the verb to run (whose base form is run). In the simple present tense, run looks like this:
PersonExample
First person singularI run
Second person singularYou run
Third person singularHe/She/It runs
First person pluralWe run
Second person pluralYou run
Third person pluralThey run

In other words, it only changes in the third person singular (he / she / it). It adds either s, es or ies.

The Negative Version

To create a negative sentence, use "do not" + [base form of the verb]. (Use "does not" with third person singular (he / she / it).)
"do not" or "does not"
+
[base form of the verb]
  • I do not like chocolate.
  • Angela does not run a youth club full of glue-sniffers.
  • I do not ride horses in the summer.
  • It does not always snow here in January.
  • Dawn does not play chess in the evenings.
In speech and writing (especially informal writing), "do not" is often shortened to "don't," and "does not" is often shortened to "doesn't." If you want to add some emphasis, use one of the long versions (i.e., "do not" or "does not"), and emphasize the word "not."

The Question Version

If you need to ask a question, you can use the following word order for a yes/no question:
"do" or "does"
+
[subject]
+
base form of verb
  • Do you like chocolate?
  • Does Angela run the youth club?
You can use the following word order for a question-word question:
[question word]
+
"do" or "does"
+
[subject]
+
base form of verb
  • Why does Tony talk so quickly?
  • When do the farmers plant the corn?
You can use the following word order for a choice question:
"do" or "does"
+
[subject]
+
base form of verb
+
choice A
+
or
+
choice B
  • Does Mark sing or dance?
  • Do they want hamburger or sausages?

The Spelling Rules

For regular verbs, just add s:
  • talk > talks
  • improve > improves
For verbs that end in s, ss, sh, ch, x and o, add es:
  • guess > guesses
  • mash > mashes
  • fix > fixes
  • go > goes
For verbs ending [consonant]-y, change the y to i and add es:
  • fly > flies
  • study > studies

Verb Tense Widget

Use this widget to learn about the different tenses. How do you use this widget? Well, if there's a button, a drop-down menu, or a , you can click it!

The Other Present Tenses

The simple present tense is one of four present tenses. They are:

The 4 Present Tenses Example
simple present tense I go
present progressive tense I am going
present perfect tense I have gone
present perfect progressive tense I have been going

Slider Showing All the Tenses

The following slider shows all 12 tenses. The simple present tense is highlighted with a yellow background.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

Take a test on the simple present tense Tenses Simple past tense Past progressive tense Past perfect tense Past perfect progressive tense Present progressive tense Present perfect tense Present perfect progressive tense Simple future tense Future progressive tense Future perfect tense Future perfect progressive tense Glossary of grammatical terms