The simple present tense


Present simple: form

We use the base form of the verb, and add -s for the third person singular.

+I, you, we, theyshe, he, itwork.works.
I, you, we, theyshe, he, it(full form)do notdoes notwork.
I, you, we, theyshe, he, it(short form)don’tdoesn’t
? +DoDoesI, you, we, theyshe, he, itwork?
? −(full form)DoDoesI, you, we, theyshe, he, itnotwork?
(short form)Don’tDoesn’tI, you, we, theyshe, he, it

Present simple: spelling

For most verbs we add -s to the base form to make the she, he, it (third person singular) form:

comecomesorderorderstraveltravels
eateatsrecordrecordswalkwalks
movemoves

For other verbs, the spelling changes are:

verbshe, he, it
When the verb ends in -ch, -ss, –sh, -x or -zz, we add -es.watchwatches
missmisses
washwashes
mixmixes
buzzbuzzes
When the verb ends in a consonant + –y we change y to i and add -es.hurryhurries
studystudies
replyreplies
But when the verb ends in a vowel + –y we just add -s.paypays
enjoyenjoys
Have, go, do and be are irregular.havehas
gogoes
dodoes
beis

When the verb ends in -s or -z we double the -s or -z and add -es, e.g. quiz, quizzes. These verbs are not common.

Present simple: uses

General truths and facts

We use the present simple to talk about general facts that are always true and permanent about the world:

Ten times ten makes one hundred. (10 x 10 = 100)

There is always a holiday on the last Monday in August in the UK.

Time passes very quickly when you get older.

We use the present simple to talk about general facts that we think are true and permanent at the present time:

I really love my job.

Mrs Clare doesn’t teach me but she teaches my sister.

Do you live in Glasgow? My cousin lives there too.

Spiders don’t frighten me.

Martha does what she wants. No one tells her what to do.

Regular and habitual events

We use the present simple to talk about regular or habitual events. We often use always, often, usually, sometimes, never and other frequency adverbs for regular and habitual events:

How do you get to work? Do you get the bus?

I read every night before I go to sleep.

We always have a holiday in the summer. We never work in August.

We usually fly to France when we go. Lorea doesn’t like the ferry. It makes her feel sick.

Instructions and directions

We use the present simple when we are giving instructions or directions. We often use ordering words, such as and, first and then with this use of the present simple:

[giving directions]

You take the train into the city centre and then you take a number five bus. You don’t get off at the museum. You get off at the stop after the museum.

[giving instructions before a test]

So what you do is … you read the questions first and then you write down your answers in the box. You don’t write on the question paper.

Stories and commentaries

We often use the present simple to describe a series of actions – one action after another. We see this especially in stories, summaries of stories or reviews:

[talking about the series of events in a novel]

Alex doesn’t ring back at midnight … she waits till the morning to ring, and they get annoyed with Liz when she goes on … they know she’s got plenty of money by their standards …

The present simple is often used by sports commentators to give commentaries or report actions as they are happening:

Mwaruwauri Benjani fouls Cahill. Habsi takes the free kick, Caicedo shoots and volleys. O’Brien blocks.

Immediate reactions

We use the present simple, often with verbs of senses and perception, to talk about feelings and reactions at the moment of speaking:

Do you think that meat is ok to eat? It doesn’t smell very good.

Where does it hurt?

[talking about the colour of a dress]

I don’t like the colour. I think I look terrible.

It seems a bit quiet in here. Where is everyone?

Don’t you believe me? It’s true, honestly.

I promise, I swear, I agree (speech act verbs)

We use the present simple with speech act verbs (verbs which perform the act that they describe):

I will pay you back, I promise, when I get paid.

I agree with everything you say.

We also use the present simple in a similar way in formal statements and in business or legal communications:

I attach the original signed copies for your records.

On behalf of the Society, and particularly those involved in medical work, I write to thank you for your kind gift of £20,000 … (more formal than I’m writing to thank you …)

Timetables and plans

We use the present simple to talk about events that are part of a future plan or timetable:

The lesson starts at 9.30 tomorrow instead of 10.30.

Lunch is at 12.30. Don’t be late.

What time do you land? (talking about a flight at some time in the future)

They don’t start back to school until next Monday.

We can also often use will in these sentences, with no change in meaning:

The lesson will start at 9.30 tomorrow instead of 10.30.

Present simple after when, before, etc.

We use the present simple for future reference in subordinate clauses after words like when, before, as soon as, if and whether:

I’ll call you when I get there.

Not: I’ll call you when I’ll get there.

Don’t forget to ring before you go.

Not: Don’t forget to ring before you’ll go.

They hope to move in to the new house as soon as they get back from Australia next month.

Not: … as soon as they’ll get back from Australia next month.

Newspaper headlines

We often see the present simple in news headlines to report past events. It emphasises the drama or immediacy of an event:

Man rescues child from lake

Taiwanese envoys arrive in China

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