The Present tenses
The Present Simple and the Present Continuous
The Present Simple:
|What is it?||It defines an action that happens regularly or as a routine|
It also defines general truths or scientific facts
It is used to express functions of systems in technical English
|How is it constructed ?||Take the infinitive of the verb for example 'to work' and remove 'to'. There is no change except for the third person singular which requires the addition of s/es/ies|
|Positive forms: The verb only changes in the third person singular i.e. he/she/it. We attach 's' or 'es' or 'ies':|
I work play read
you work play read
he/she/it works plays reads
we work play read
they work play read
|Time markers||They mark the regularity of an action.|
Frequency adverbs: always, usually, often, sometimes, hardly ever, rarely, never. Their position is usually between the subject and the verb in the positive form or before the verb in the negative or question forms.
Time expressions: every day/week/month/year, on Sundays, etc. They are at the beginning or at the end of the sentence.
|Learn some irregular forms of the third person singular:|
|After verbs that end in -s/-ch/-sh, add 'es'.|
The pronunciation is /iz/
pass - passes
Note the third person singular of the verbs 'go' and 'do':
When a verb ends in 'y', if preceded by a consonant you eliminate 'y' and add '-ies'
If 'y' is preceded by a vowel, you don't eliminate anything. Just add 's' as usual:
|Negative form||The main scheme for the negative form is: |
Subject + auxiliary -not/n't + verb
i.e.: I don't study
It is the same for all persons BUT for the third person singular: He doesn't study
|Question form||The main pattern for the question form is:|
Wh- + auxiliary + subject + verb
i.e.: Where DO you come from?
The auxiliary DO is used for all persons except the third person singular: Why DOES he always arrive late for work? DOES she like travelling?
When to use the Present Simple:
- Water boils at 100°C
We use the present simple with adverbs of frequency to describe habits, routines and regular or rare events: Among these adverbs we find: always/often/usually/sometimes/occasionally/rarely/hardly ever/never etc. These normally come BEFORE the verb, although 'sometimes' and 'occasionally' may change position:
- He always studies after dinner
- I usually wear plastic goggles when I perform experiments in the laboratory
- Prof. Taylor's lecture normally starts at 11.15, but today it starts at 10.30.
- Franco never prepares for his exams and leaves revision until the very last moment.
- The weather here is not very good. It often rains.
- Dr. Braithwaite usually prepares his presentations using Powerpoint
- Sometimes I get headache if I look at the computer screen too long.
|Try out a general knowledge quiz based on scientific facts: Click here >>|
The Present Continuous (or Progressive):
|What is it?|| |
This tense is used to describe what IS HAPPENING NOW.
Key time expressions are: 'NOW', 'AT THE MOMENT', 'CURRENTLY'. Note that the adverb ACTUALLY in English is not translated into Italian as 'ATTUALMENTE'. It is a so-called false friend, and means 'really', 'in actual fact'. Translate 'ATTUALMENTE' as 'NOW', 'AT THE MOMENT', 'CURRENTLY' etc.
It is also used to describe future plans and intentions. Although grammatically, its construction does not change, using relevant time expressions such as '', 'TONIGHT', 'NEXT WEEK', 'TOMORROW' transforms the sentence into future time. It is particularly used when talking about future arrangements and diary entries.
|How is it constructed?||This tense is composed of: the verb "to be" and the present participle form of the verb in -ing:|
| For example, take the verb "to work": |
To make a negative, just transform the verb "to be" into the negative and add the -ing form of the verb:
To make a question, INVERT the verb "to be" and the subject:
Try out an amusing listening quiz based on animal sounds using the present continuous: Click here >>
Practise using the present simple when describing general facts and truths:
try out the general knowledge quiz Click here >> and the world knowledge quiz Click here >>