Simple Present

Breaking Down the Simple Present Tense

The Simple Present is one of the three aspects of Simple TenseOpens in new window. The simple present tense expresses something that is habitual or an everyday activity, that is happening right now—it describes a present situation.

In other words, the simple present tense tells something that was true in the past, that is true as at now (presently speaking), and will be true in the future.

Uses of the Simple Present Tense

The confusion with the simple present tense especially for learners of English, is that it does not actually express present time actions. Its three main uses are the following:

1.  Expression of factual statements and universal truth:
  • A mile is 5,280 feet.
  • The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
  • Andy speaks English.
  • Water consists of hydrogen and oxygen.
  • The moon travels around the earth.

All of these sentences express statements of fact.

2.  Expression of habitual actions or daily rituals:
    • I usually study for two hours every night.
    • My classes begin at nine.
    • He always eats his breakfast before leaving for work.
    • John reads his bible first thing in the morning.
    • My dad shaves twice in a week.

    All these sentences express habits or rituals that take place on daily basis.

    3.  Expression predictable future events or actions:
    • The new NBA season starts tonight.
    • We leave for Memphis tomorrow.
    • The county train departs 7:20 a.m to birmingham metropolis.

    All these sentences express future predictable actions.

    How to Use the Simple Present Tense

    1.  Expression of Affirmative Statements with simple present tense — To express affirmative statements, we use the constructive structure: Subject + First Form of Verb

    Rule number one:

    If the subject is in plural form; as in: I, you, we, or they, we use the simple form of verb (also known as base formOpens in new window).

    Examples include:
    • I pray everyday.
    • You pray everyday.
    • We pray everyday.
    • Mum & Dad [they] pray everyday.
    • I usually pray before leaving home.
    Rule number two:

    If the subject is in singular form; as in: he, she, or it, use the singular form of verb (inflected form) by simply adding –s or –es to the simple or base form of the verb.

    Examples include:
    • Andy [he] prays everyday.
    • Gretchen [she] prays everyday.
    • The monkey [it] (probably) prays to get good bananas daily.
    • George usually prays before he resumes work in the office.

    2.  Expression of Negative Statements with simple present tense — To express negative statements with simple present tense, the structure: Subject + do/does + not + base form of verb is used.

    Rule number one:

    The auxiliary ‘does’ is used with the subject ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’ + All Singular Subjects.

    Examples include:
    • He does not pray.
    • She does not pray.
    • It does not pray.
    • Andy does not pray.
    Rule number two:

    Likewise, the auxiliary ‘do’ is used with subject ‘I’, ‘we’, ‘you’, and ‘they’ + All Plural Subjects.

    Examples include:
    • I do not pray
    • We do not pray
    • You do not pray
    • They do not pray
    • Andy’s family do not pray

    Note that the contraction form of auxiliary is also used:

      Short (Contracted) Form of ‘do not’don’t:
    • [I,we,you,they] don’t pray.
      Short (Contracted) Form of ‘does not’doesn’t:
    • [He,she,it] doesn’t pray.

    3.  Expression of Interrogative Statements with simple present tense — To express interrogative statements, the Interrogative structure: Do/Does + Subject + First Form of Verb is used.

    Rule number one:

    The auxiliary ‘does’ is used with subject ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’ + All Singular Subjects.

    Examples include:
    • Does he pray?
    • Does she pray?
    • Does the monkey [it] pray?
    Rule number two:

    Likewise, the auxiliary ‘do’ is used with subject ‘I’, ‘We’, ‘You’, and ‘They’ + All Plural Subjects.

    Examples include:
    • Do I pray?
    • Do we pray?
    • Do you pray?
    • Do they pray?

    4.  Expression of Interrogative-Negative statements with simple present tense — To express interrogative-Negative statements, the interrogative-negative structure: Do/Does + Subject + Not + First Form of Verb is used.

    Rule number one:

    The auxiliary ‘does’ is used with the subject ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’ + All Singular Subject.

    Examples below:
    • Does he not pray?
    • Does she not pray?
    • Does the monkey [it] not pray?
    Rule number two:

    Likewise, the auxiliary ‘do’ is used with subject ‘I’,‘We’,‘You’, and ‘They’ + All Plural Subjects.

    Examples below:
    • Do I not pray?
    • Do we not pray?
    • Do you not pray?
    • Do they not pray?

    Note that the contraction form of auxiliary is also used:

      Short (Contracted) Form of ‘do not’don’t:
    • Don’t I/we/you/they pray?
      Short (Contracted) Form of ‘does not’doesn’t:
    • Doesn’t he/she pray?
    Important Hint!  

    Do not use ‘Auxiliary + Not’ before Subjects! For good grammar purpose, you must use contracted form of ‘Auxiliary + Not’ before Subjects:

      It is wrong to say:
    • Does not he/she talk?
    • Do not I/we/you/they/ pray?
    • [These are wrong]
      You should instead say:
    • Doesn’t he/she pray?
    • Don’t I/we/you/they pray?
    • [These are correct]

    Note the Structure for Use of Interrogative Word:Interrogative Word + Do/Does + Subject + Not + First Form of Verb is used.

    • Why does he/she not pray?
    • Why doesn’t he/she pray?
    • Why do I/we/you/they not pray?
    • Why don’t I/we/you/they pray?

    Note that the Interrogatives are rarely used in formal contexts. Chances are you will seldom have needs to use interrogatives.

    Bonus Thought
    We Can Use Simple Present Tense When Discussing Literature

    In academic situations, especially when writing papers, it’s conventional to use simple present as the main tense to tell the story of a work of fiction like a novel, a play, or a short story, even if the work itself is written in the past tense.

    Example: In the piece below, verbs used in the simple present are underlined.

    • Romeo and Juliet tell the tragic story of two young lovers. Two families in the town of Verona, the Capulets and the Montagues, hate one another. Romeo is the son of the Montague family and Juliet is the daughter of the Capulets. Romeo and Juliet meet at a party, fall in love, and secretly make plans to get married. Soon after the young couple marry, Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, kills Romeo’s closest friend. Romeo, in a blind rage, kills Tybalt. This starts a series of events that ends in the two lovers’ deaths.
      The Four Aspects of Present Tense
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