Cracking the Simple Present

Learners of English find the Simple Present difficult to master. And there is a reason for that. The Simple Present is neither simple nor present. This tense speaks about the recurrence of a particular action and not about the performance of the action itself, either in the present, the past or in the future.

When I say He reads books, I don’t mean that he read the books or he is reading the books or he will read the books. I mean that he has the hobby or the habit (it depends on how you look at it) of reading books. My uncle reads the newspapers in the toilet!

The verb in the simple present is in the root form; the root forms of the verbs are, for example, go, read, travel and work. We add s to this root form when we combine it with He, she or it.

He works for a bank. I get up at four in the morning. The bus stops here.

We use this tense quite frequently in our speech situations. We use it to speak about what we do every day or every time:

He drives to work. They go to the sea-side every weekend.

We use this tense to speak about how frequently an action is performed.

He goes to church on Sundays. He rarely goes on vacations. Yeah, he calls me sometimes.

We use this tense to speak about customs or norms that people follow.

They celebrate the 21st birthday on a grand scale.

We use this tense to speak about actions that in our opinion are permanent.

He lives in Kenilworth. (He has settled there.) She works for Price Water Coopers. (She holds a permanent position there.)

And finally, we use this tense to speak about what are universal truths. They follow universal laws and do not change.

The sun rises in the east. It rains in August. Water boils at 100 degrees.

We form questions in the simple present by using do or does.

Do you smoke? Does she call you?

We negate the simple present tense by using do not or does not.

She does not smoke. They do not make this product any more.

Remember that do not is contracted to don’t, and does not is contracted to doesn’t.

Next time when you write or speak, find out whether you use this tense correctly.