Simple Present or Present Progressive in English Grammar

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We use the simple present and the present progressive to talk about things that take place in the present. The simple present is used for permanent actions, to describe daily events, facts or as a narrative form for stories that take place in the present. The present progressive is used for temporary actions and to describe what is happening at the moment of speaking.

Compare the usage of the simple present and present progressive tenses in English grammar with Lingolia. In the exercises, you can put your knowledge to the test.


The Smiths are going on holiday. They usually go on holiday by train. They take a taxi to the station, check the timetable and get on the train.

At the moment, they are standing in front of the timetable. The train departs at 15:12 and arrives in Brighton at 16:45.

At 6pm the Smiths are meeting Ben’s aunt in Brighton. She studies law in London, but she is working as a waitress in Brighton during the summer holiday.


The chart below provides an overview of the differences between the English simple present and present progressive, also present continuous, tenses.

Simple Present Present Progressive

actions that occur in a sequence

They take a taxi to the station, check the timetable and get on the train.

actions that are in progress at the moment of speaking

The Smiths are going on holiday.
At the moment, they are standing in front of the time table.

actions that occur according to an official schedule or programme

The train leaves at 15:12 and arrives in Brighton at 16:45.

actions that occur at a time that is personally arranged or organized

At 6 pm they are meeting Ben’s aunt in Brighton.

permanent actions that occur regularly with signal words such as always, often, never

She studies law in London.
They always go on holiday by train.

temporary actions that occur for a short or fixed time period

She is working as a waitress in Brighton during the summer holiday.

Signal Words: Simple Present vs. Present Progressive

Signal words can help us to recognise which tense to use in a sentence. Below is a list of signal words for the simple present and present progressive tenses.

Signal Words for Simple Present

Signal Word Example
always I always take the train to work.
every day/month... My grandma watches the news every evening.
first First cook the onions in some oil.
hardly ever I hardly ever go to bed after twelve o’clock.
never You can never find your keys when you're in a hurry.
normally It normally rains in the UK.
often We often go to the cinema.
rarely I rarely drink wine, I prefer beer.
sometimes I sometimes meet friends after work if the weather is good.
then First fry the onions in some oil, then add the garlic.
usually My dad usually watches the football at the weekend.

Signal Words for Present Progressive

Signal Word Example
at the moment I live in France but at the moment I'm working in London.
currently He’s currently living in Australia.
for now I’m staying with a friend for now but I’m looking for my own place.
Listen! Listen! They are playing my favourite song!
Look! Look! The kids are dancing!
now Now we’re planning a bigger party.
right now Right now I’m working on a new project.
this week/summer... He’s travelling around Europe this summer.
today Today people are watching more online content.

Verbs that are not used in the Present Progressive

The following verbs are not generally used in a progressive form.

  • stative verbs
    be*, cost, fit, mean, remain, suit
    They are on holiday.
  • verbs that show possession/belonging
    belong, have*
    The luggage belongs to the family.
  • verbs of sensation
    feel*, hear, see*, smell*, taste*, touch
    They hear the loudspeaker announcement.
  • verbs that express emotions
    hate, hope, like, love, prefer, regret, want, wish
    Ben loves going by train.
  • verbs of thought and recognition
    believe, know, realise, recognise, seem, think*, understand
    He knows where they have to get off the train.
  • clauses accompanying direct speech
    answer, ask, reply, say
    “We must hurry to get the train”, Ben’s father says.

*change of meaning

Some stative verbs also have a progressive form, but the meaning of the progressive form is sightly different.

stative form progressive form
verb meaning example meaning example
be state She is happy about the holiday. deliberate behaviour She is being silly.
have possession He has two suitcases. in particular expressions He’s having a good time.
feel opinion I feel that’s a bad idea. feel (health) He’s not feeling well.
feel (sense) It feels like you have a temperature. touch I’m feeling inside my suitcase to find my passport.


sight I see the train coming. be together with somebody Nigel and Beatrice are seeing each other.
understand I see what you mean. have an appointment or meeting We’re seeing our aunty this afternoon.
smell smell (sense)

You smell like a summer breeze.

smell something (action) Why are you smelling your sunglasses?
taste taste (sense)

This soup tastes delicious.

try, test (action) I am tasting the soup to see if it’s been poisoned.
think think, believe I think it’s going to be hot today. contemplate What are you thinking about?


For information on the conjugation of these two tenses, see: