Using English tenses is a bit confusing until you learn which situation requires a specific tense. Their meaning may be hard to distinguish from each other, as they are sometimes used in similar situations. However, there are some ground rules you want to stick to choose the right tense every time. Read the following sections to find out more about how to write in present simple and when to use it.
How to compose sentences in the present simple?
This tense always uses a base form of each verb. The only exception is the third person where you need to add “-s” at the end of the verb.
- For example, “I run every day”, but “She works at the store”.
As simple as it gets, however, things are more complicated in negative forms and questions.
If you want to use a negative, you need to add the verb “to do” which is so-called auxiliary verb. In third person, the same rule saying you need to add “-s” at the end applies, except that “do” ends with a vowel, thus making it “es”.
- For example, “I do not work here”, but “He does not think that way”.
The negative particle (“not”) is often contracted to “n’t” in spoken English. In written English, it is not that common, but permissible in less formal situations.
- For example, “We don’t live here”, but “She doesn’t know about it”.
Sometimes, the negative particle is replaced with “never” – in such case, the auxiliary verb is not required.
While formulating questions, the auxiliary verb comes first, followed by the subject and the actual verb. Note that, in third person, if the auxiliary verb is present, the “-s” or “-es” suffix is added to the auxiliary verb (“do” or “does”), not the actual verb.
- For example, “Do I live here” or “Does she like it?” or “How do you do?” or “Where does he buy food?”.
There is an exception, however. Questions that start with “who” do not use the auxiliary verb (“to do”).
- For example, “Who works there?” or “Who says so?”.
How to use the present simple?
The present simple tense is used to express the following:
1. Something that is true in the present:
- He works at the music store.
- I live in that white house over there.
- She is twenty years old.
2. Something that is always true:
- Five plus five equals ten.
- Warsaw is the capital of Poland.
- It takes more than 8 minutes for the sunlight to reach the Earth.
3. Something that happens regularly:
- I play football each Sunday.
- They go to the music club every now and then.
- She plays chess on a regular basis.
The present simple tense is used with the adverbs of frequency, such as “always”, “often”, “usually”, “sometimes” and “never”. For example, “I sometimes go to the bar”.
The present simple is also used to tell something that happens in the future, such as:
1. Something that is fixed in the future:
- School begins in September.
- The train leaves at seven thirty.
- Next month we fly to Rome.
2. Something in the future after such time words “when”, “after” and “before”:
- I’ll take out my umbrella when it rains.
- You must find your ring before the wedding starts.
- These chores must be finished after mom comes home.
3. Something in the future after such words as “if” and “unless” (future conditional):
- I’ll see you if we find the book.
- We will make this cake if you can find the recipe.
- You shall sign this agreement unless your board says otherwise.
This tense may also be used while telling a story or giving an account of a book, a movie or a play.
When the present simple should not be used?
You should not use present simple if the activity you want to speak takes place once at a specific moment in time. This is also not the right choice if such activity takes place for a longer time, making it a continuous activity. In such cases, the present continuous is the right option.
Conclusion: How to be sure the present simple is the right choice?
As the name suggests, this is the simplest option you will use most of the time unless present continuous is a better choice. The present simple is used to tell about something that happens always or often or sometimes or even never, and such are the words used in combination with the tense. If something happens with such frequency, the present simple will always be right!
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