Simple Present Tense

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Simple Present Tense? (with Examples)

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.)

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

Infographic for the Simple Present Tense

simple present tense
The tables below show all 12 tenses so you can see the simple present tense among the other tenses. (You can change the verb by clicking one of the green buttons.)

Top 10 Regular Verbs

Top 10 Irregular Verbs

All 4 Past Tenses

PersonSimple PastPast Progressive TensePast Perfect TensePast Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
The simple past tense is for a completed activity that happened in the past.
  • was present participle
  • were present participle
  • was present participle
  • were present participle
  • were present participle
  • were present participle
The past progressive tense is for an ongoing activity in the past. Often, it is used to set the scene for another action.
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
The past perfect tense is for emphasizing that an action was completed before another took place.
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
The past perfect progressive tense is for showing that an ongoing action in the past has ended.

All 4 Present Tenses

PersonSimple PresentPresent Progressive TensePresent Perfect TensePresent Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • base form
  • base form
  • 3rd pers sing present
  • base form
  • base form
  • base form
The simple present tense is mostly for a fact or a habit.
  • am present participle
  • are present participle
  • is present participle
  • are present participle
  • are present participle
  • are present participle
The present progressive tense is for an ongoing action in the present.
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
  • has past participle
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
The present perfect tense is for an action that began in the past. (Often, the action continues into the present.)
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • has been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
The present perfect progressive tense is for a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present (or finished very recently).

All 4 Future Tenses

PersonSimple FutureFuture Progressive TenseFuture Perfect TenseFuture Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
The simple future tense is for an action that will occur in the future.
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
The future progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will occur in the future.
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
The future perfect tense is for an action that will have been completed at some point in the future.
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
The future perfect progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will be completed at some specified time in the future.

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

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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

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