The simple present tense in English is used to describe actions that are repeated, habitual, true, or factual. Despite the name, you can also use simple present for things that are about to happen in the near future. We also use the simple present when describing states of being or feeling, even if they are temporary.
We form the simple present tense by using the base form of the verb, ie, the infinitive without the “to.” In the third person, we add “-s” or “-es” to the base form.
|Subject||Verb (base form or base form + “-s” or “-es”||Rest of Sentence|
|I/you/we/they||watch||the basketball game.|
|he/she/it/Matilda||watches||the basketball game.|
When to use the Simple Present Tense
Habits and Repeated Actions
If something happens repeatedly, including in the present, use the simple present tense.
- The train for Paris leaves at 5:50 am every day.
- I get up at 6:00 am on weekdays.
- Lucy is happier in the summer.
- They go to church every Sunday.
Facts and Generally True Statements
When something is always or generally true, use the simple present tense.
- Ice melts if you leave it on the table.
- John plays basketball well.
- My grandmother comes from England.
- Rabbits eat vegetables.
- The president of the United States lives in the White House.
The Near future
When something is almost certain to happen soon, you can also use the simple present tense:
- I go to college in the fall.
- My flight leaves at 7:00 pm tomorrow.
- When do you arrive?
- I start work next month.
We generally use the present continuous (to be + verb-ing) to express things that are temporarily happening right now, but when we want to describe an internal or abstract state, we use simple present tense.
Existence: be, exist
Mental States: believe, doubt, think, know, realize, understand
Likes, Dislikes, Desires: like, hate, love, loathe, need, prefer, want
Possession: have, have got, own, belong
Sense: see, hear, touch, taste, smell, sense, feel
Appearance: look, seem, appear
- You look worried.
- The doctor believes in the power of science to heal.
- We need a better car if we want to take a road trip.
- I don’t understand computer languages.
You can find more information about stative verbs here.
To make the negative with the simple present tense of “to be,” just add “not” after it:
- I am not happy about this.
- She is not going to the party.
- They are not here right now.
To make the negative with the simple present tense of other verbs, add “do not” (don’t) or (doesn’t) before the verb:
- They don’t look like they’re going to work.
- The rose bush doesn’t get enough sun.
Questions with “To Be”
To make a yes/no question with the simple present tense of “to be,” put the verb before the subject:
- Are you a doctor?
- Am I wrong about this?
- Is she hungry?
To make an open-ended question with the simple present tense of “to be,” put the verb before the subject, and a question word (who, what, where, when, why, how) before the verb:
- Who makes you breakfast?
- When is your flight?
- Where are you?
Questions with Other Verbs (not “To Be”)
Information Questions about the Subject
To make a question about the subject of a sentence, use a question word as the subject. The form is: question word + verb + rest of sentence:
- ??? people shop at this store. –>
- How many people shop at this store?
- ??? knows the answer. –>
- Who knows the answer?
- ???’s sister goes to school here. –>
- Whose sister goes to school here?
Questions about the Verb or Words after the Verb
To make a yes/no question about the verb or words after the verb, with the simple present tense of other verbs, put “do” or “does” before the subject and verb:
- Do you know the answer?
- Does she play basketball with you?
To make an open question about the verb or words after the verb with the simple present tense of other verbs, put a question word before “do” or “does” and the subject.
- You know the answer because ???.
- How do you know the answer?
- She plays basketball at ???.
- Where does she play basketball with you?
- You eat breakfast at ???.
- When do eat breakfast every day?
- You do ??? after school.
- What do you do after school?