Use of the present simple

(Using the present simple – expressing the present)

Table of contents – present simple

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of the present simple
  2. Peculiarities of the present simple
  3. Further explanations and exercises

When is the present simple used?

The present simple is an English verb tense and is used to express things in and around the present. This means in detail that it describes general truths, habits, repetitive actions, perceptions (especially of the senses) that are taking place at the moment or that apply now. Compare the following utilization:

Attention: Be careful not to confuse the present simple with the present continuous for ongoing actions in the present!

  • Utilization of the present simple for general truths which means facts that cannot be influenced, for example, or natural things:
    • “The sky is blue.”
    • “The river flows through the valley.”
    • “Elephants live in Africa and Asia.”
  • Repetitive actions or habits are also expressed with the present simple (signal words for example are adverbs of frequencyAdverbs of Frequency like ‘always, sometimes, never, every, normally, often’):
    • “He often takes the bus.”
    • “She never drinks milk.”
    • “I usually walk home after work.”
    • “Everybody makes mistakes.”
  • It is also used for fixed procedures such as opening hours or timetables and schedules:
    • “The shop opens at 9 o’clock.”
    • “The bus leaves at 5 o’clock.”
  • The simple present regularly appears with verbs that are related to perceptions, emotional states, or emotions, and that are only used in the present progressive in exceptional cases. Such verbs can be ‘sound, believe, feel, hate, hear, love, prefer, see, seem, want, like, mean, agree, realize’:
    • Do you believe that’s a good idea?”
    • “He doesn’t understand the instructions.”
    • “I prefer tea.”
  • Also it is utilized with verbs that have possessive character (examples are ‘own, possess, consist of, depend, belong, have’). As a rule, these verbs cannot be used in the present continuous either:
    • “The bike belongs to Peter.”
    • “The box contains all the photos I have.”

Peculiarities of the present simple

Info: In case of possessive use of the verb ‘to have’ in informal English (mainly in British English), ‘have got / has got’ is frequently used instead of its present form ‘have/has’. Although the form ‘have/has got’ is actually the present perfect simple, it is still employed to express present facts (see → detailed explanation of ‘has/have got’):

  • Some sentences with the use of ‘have got’ instead of ‘havewithout changing the meaning:
    • Example 1 “Sandra owns a computer.” can be expressed as:
      • “Sandra has got a computer.”
        or
      • “Sandra has a computer.”
        • Both statements can be used to express that Sandra possesses a computer at present.
    • Example 2 “I know some friends in America.” can be expressed as:
      • “I have got some friends in America.”
        or
      • “I have some friends in America.”
        • There is no change of meaning; both can similarly be used.
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