Simple Present or Present Progressive in English GrammarJust here for the exercises? Click here.
Simple present vs. present progressive
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 facts, permanent states, regularly occurring actions and 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 use of the simple present and present progressive tenses in English grammar with Lingolia. Practise using these tenses in the interactive exercises.
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.
When to use simple present and present progressive
The table below provides an overview of the differences between the English simple present and present progressive tenses.
|Simple Present||Present Progressive|
actions that occur in a sequence
actions that are in progress at the moment of speaking
actions that occur according to an official schedule or programme
actions that occur at a time that is personally arranged or organized
permanent actions that occur regularly with signal words such as always, often, never
temporary actions that occur for a short or fixed time period
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.
Simple present signal words
|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.|
Present progressive signal words
|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
- 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|
|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.|
You smell like a summer breeze.
|smell something (action)||Why are you smelling your sunglasses?|
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?|