Simple Present Tense in English Grammar

Introduction

The simple present is also called present simple or present tense. We use it to talk about present actions and events that take place repeatedly or one after the other, facts, and future actions that are determined by a timetable or schedule. It is one of the most commonly used tenses in the English language.

Learn how to conjugate positive, negative and interrogative sentences in the simple present tenses with Lingolia. In the exercises, you can put your knowledge to the test.

Example

Colin likes football. He is a forward. A forward tries to score goals for his team.

Colin plays football every Tuesday. His training starts at five o’clock. After school Colin goes home, packs his bag, puts on his football shirt and then he goes to football training. He has to take the bus. The bus leaves at half past four.

Advertisement

Usage

We use the simple present tense for:

  • events that take place regularly or habitually with signal words such as: always, never, rarely, often
    Example:
    He plays football every Tuesday.
  • events that take place one after the other
    Example:
    After school Colin goes home, packs his bag, puts on his football shirt and then he goes to football training.
  • facts, or things that are generally valid
    Example:
    A forward tries to score goals for his team.
  • future actions that are planned and predetermined (e.g. by a timetable or programme)
    Example:
    The bus leaves at half past four.
    His training starts at five o’clock.
  • static verbs and verbs of thought/memory
    Example:
    Colin likes football.
    He is a forward.

Conjugation of English Simple Present Tense

The conjugation of English verbs in the simple present is relatively simple. We add an -s/-es to verbs in the third person singular (he/she/it), otherwise the verb does not change. In positive sentences, we use the verb in its present form. In negative sentences and questions, we use the auxiliary verb do or does in the third person singular. The main verb is used in it the infinitive form.

positive negative question
I/you/we/they I speak I do not speak Do I speak?
he/she/it he speaks he does not speak Does he speak?

Exceptions

To conjugate verbs in the third person singular in English grammar, we simply and an -s to the verb. However, there are a few exceptions to take note of:

  • When the verb ends with an -o, -ch, -sh, we add -es.
    Example:
    do – he does
    wash – she washes
  • When the verb ends with a consonant + y, we change the y to ie before adding the -s. However, verbs that end in vowel + y simply take -s.
    Example:
    worry – he worries
    (but: play – he plays)
  • Modal verbs such as can, may, might, and must never take an -s. They remain the same in all forms.
    Example:
    he can swim
    she must go

The Verbs be and have

be

The verb be is irregular in all its forms. In negative sentences and questions, we do not use it with an auxiliary verb.

positive negative question
I I am I am not Am I?
he/she/it he is he is not Is he?
you/we/they you are you are not Are you?

have

There are two version of the verb have in the simple present: have and have got. They are conjugated differently in positive, negative and interrogative senteces.

positive negative question
I/you/we/they I have/I have got I do not have/I have not got Do I have?/Have I got?
he/she/it he has/he has got he does not have/he has not got Does he have?/Has he got?

Usage of have got

Have got expresses possession/belonging in British English. This form is uncommon in American English.

Contractions

Contractions are a combination of certain pronouns, verbs and the word not. They are mostly used in spoken and informal written English. The table below provides an overview of contractions in the present simple using the verbs be, have and do.

long formcontractionexample
am (not) …’m (not) I’m (not) (not: I amn’t)
are …’re you’re
are not …’re not/… aren’t we’re not/we aren’t
is …’s he’s
is not …’s not/… isn’t she’s not/she isn’t
have …’ve they’ve
have not …’ve not/… haven’t I’ve not/I haven’t
has …’s she’s
has not …’s not/… hasn’t he’s not/he hasn’t
do not don’t you don’t
does not doesn’t it doesn’t

To Note

In written English, the contracted form of are can only be used after pronouns, not after nouns, or names.

Example:
They’re not interested in football.
(but not: The girls’re not interested in football.)

Signal Words

The following is a list of signal words that indicate the simple present tense:

  • always, normally, usually
  • often, sometimes, seldom
  • never
  • every day/week/month/…