Present Simple Verb – additional information

This page gives extra information about the Present Simple Verb

Original lesson: Lesson 2 – Present Simple Verb

Also: Lesson 1 – Present Progressive Verb 



What is the Present Simple Verb?  Additional information:

For this verb just use the base form of the verb: speak / eat / walk / think / work.  Things which we think of as generally true and unlimited in time without a beginning or an ending.  You can use the Present Simple to talk about permanent situations and things that happen regularly or all of the time. 

In comparison, we normally use the Present Progressive for actions happening now and for events happening around now that are limited in duration with a beginning and end.  However, the Present Simple also refers to things happening now by using  state verbs.

State verbs:

We need to be careful with these verbs (state verbs) because they usually do not have a progressive form.  The reason is because they describe a state of affairs, with no activity involved.  These verbs are known as: perception verbs / emotion verbs / verbs of thinking.   For example here are some perception verbs: see / hear / taste / sound/ seem / look / feel / small / recognise / appear

NOTE: See, hear, taste, smell, feel, these verbs occur with can or could to express a continuing state, for example: Can you hear the wind? / We can see the mountain from our bedroom window.

Further examples of state verbs:

Emotion verbs and verbs of thinking describe a state of mind.  For example here are some emotion verbs: want / refuse / care (for) / can’t bear (to) / prefer (to) / forgive / love / hate / hope (to) / wish (to) / can’t stand / don’t mind.  Verbs of thinking: think / mean / believe / consider / remember / feel (=think) / know / imagine / agree / note / understand / realize / forget.

Be and have as main verbs do not normally have a progressive form.  They are the most common state verbs, referring to a state of affairs with no activity implied.

Also, some verbs although they are state verbs can occur easily with the progressive.  Here there is little difference in meaning between the simple and progressive forms but the progressive often implies a more temporary state.  Some examples:

sit – we were sitting underneath the tree.

I am feeling ill / I feel ill

my back is hurting / my back hurts

my head is aching / my head aches

Can you please think about it / I’m thinking about it

I’m hoping that you will get better soon / I hope that you will get better soon.


Other uses of the Present Simple:

The Present Simple can be used to refer to events in the past and this is called the historic present and it is used in telling stories.  The present simple makes a story more exciting and like real life.   For example: So she comes through the door, and he says: ‘where were you at 9 0′ clock?’  She replies: ‘with Jack’.   His face goes white with anger.  Here we are using the third person singular: he / she / it, for example: he likes / she likes / she says / he replies.  The third person singular uses the s form (s or es is added on to the verb)

Generally, however, we prefer the Past Simple, for example: She came through the door, and he said…..


Adverbs of frequency:

You can use the Present Simple to talk about habits, routines, repeated actions and things that are done usually, often, regularly, occasionally, sometimes and things that are done on certain occasions. 

I always get the eight o’clock train.

I usually play in defence

The blue cafe closes on Mondays. 

Adverbs of frequency tell us how often something is done.  They can be placed on a continuum of frequency from 0% (it never happens) to 100 % (it happens all the time).  For example:

0%: never / hardly ever / rarely / occasionally  50%: sometimes / often / usually / always 100%

Examples: hardly ever / rarely / never / usually / sometimes.  We put them between the subject and the verb: he never eats meat.  Also, we put adverbs of frequency after be: She is usually at home in the evenings.  Or, before the subject: sometimes she cooks fish for supper.


Further information:

The Present Simple is not used for things happening just around the present.  We do not usually use the simple present to talk about temporary situations or actions that are going on around the present, for example:

water boils at 100 degrees celcius

the kettle’s boiling shall I make tea?  NOT: the kettle boils

I play tennis every Wednesday

where’s John?  He’s playing tennis  NOT: he plays tennis


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