Present Simple or Present Continuous?

News in Slow English 4
2 septiembre, 2016
Present Simple or Present Continuous?
4 septiembre, 2016
Show all

Hi there everyone!

Today we’re going to look at maybe the most commonly used tense in the English language: the present tense.

The present has two forms: the simple and the continuous. Do you know the difference? Answer

Did you get it right? Well done! The present simple is used for general truths and recurring events, for example «I play tennis on Saturdays»  = every Saturday, I play tennis. The present continuous is used for actions happening at the moment, for example «I am playing tennis» = right now, I am in a tennis match.

NB – both of these structures are also used in the future voice, which we will see in a later lesson…


The present simple is very easy to conjugate. Simply take the infinitive of the verb, remove the «to», add the correct pronoun, and remember that the third person singular has an «s» at the end:


I play We play
You play you (plural) play
He/she/they (singular)/it plays They (plural) play

NB: when a verb ends in «consonant + y», the ending becomes «-ies» in the third person singular to preserve the sound. For example: he studies. 

It is often found in sentences with time adverbs such as often, usually, frequently, sometimes, occasionally, never.

The continuous form uses the auxiliary verb «to be», in the correct conjugation, plus the present participle (verb stem + ing ending), for example:


am playing We are playing
You are playing you (plural) are playing
He/she/it is playing They (singular or plural) are playing


The present continuous is often used following time adverbs expressing specific times, such as now, today, at the moment. 

There are some verbs which rarely appear in the present continuous, these are known as state verbs because they refer to thoughts, emotions, relationships, senses, states of being and measurements. For example, love ice cream, rather than am loving ice cream. 

That’s all there is to it! Let’s practice:

John often _______ (goes/is going) running in the morning.
Goes, as it refers to a habitual action.
I'll have to call you back later, I ________ (drive/am driving).
I am driving, because it refers to an action taking place.
I ________ (don't think/am not thinking) that's a good idea.
I don’t think, because ‘think’ is a state verb, so rarely appears in the present continuous.
What _______ (are you thinking about/do you think about) at the moment?
What are you thinking about at the moment? In the context of an action in progress even state verbs can appear in the continuous.
Where _______(do you keep/are you keeping) the sugar?
Where do you keep, because it refers to a habit or general rule.
They went outside. I think they_______ (smoke/are smoking)
They are smoking, because it refers to an action in progress.
-Would you like a cigarette? -No thanks, I_______ (don't smoke/am not smoking).
I don’t smoke, because it refers to a general rule/situation.
I _______(don't drink/am not drinking) tonight because I have to drive home.
I am not drinking, because it refers to a specific, current situation: tonight.
_______(Do you know/are you knowing) where he lives?
Do you know, as ‘to know’ is a state verb.
I always_______ (am going/go) home at Christmas.
I always go, because we are talking about a recurring action. The adverb ‘always’ is a clue.


That’s all folks! Well done!

Deja un comentario

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *