The Present Simple Tense in English

Use the Present Simple tense (“I go”, “He goes” etc) to talk about facts, things that are always true, or for routines and habits.

For example:

In England it often snows in winter. (a fact)
I live in London (true – I don't change my house every day)
John eats cereal for breakfast (routine or habit)

How to form the Present Simple

Use the same verb ending as the infinitive form for I, you, we and they. For he, she or it, add s or es or ies.

I play tennis
You play tennis
He / She plays tennis
We play tennis
They play tennis

Add es for verbs that end -ss, -sh, -ch, -tch:

I kiss / He kisses
I wish / She wishes
I match / It matches
I march / She marches
I study / She studies (the y changes to ies for verbs that end in 'consonant + y')

In the present simple of all verbs (except the verb to be and other modal verbs) you need an auxiliary to form negatives and questions. The auxiliary is do / does (for questions) and don't / doesn't for negatives.

Negative form of the Present Simple

To form the negative, use the auxiliary don't (for I, you, we, they) and doesn't (for he, she, it).
Then follow the auxiliary with the infinitive form of the verb.

For example:

I don't live here
You don't live here
She doesn't live here
We don't live here
They don't live here

In all the above, live is the infinitive form.

Questions

To form the question, use do / does as the auxiliary. Use do for I, you, we, they; and does for he, she, it.

Here is the word order for questions in the present simple:

Question word (optional) – auxiliary – subject – verb

Where do you live?
What does he do?
What does this computer program do?
Why do they argue all the time?
Do you like tennis? (There is no question word "why", "what",  "where" in this question, so the question starts with the auxiliary "do".)

The verb that comes after the subject is the infinitive form.

Short answers

You can answer a "do you" type question with a short answer. Use the auxiliary do / don't; or does / doesn't in your reply - NOT the infinitive.

Do I sign here? Yes, you do / No you don't.
Do you work here? Yes I do / No I don't.
Does she speak Spanish? Yes she does / No she doesn't.
Do we take this train? Yes, we do / No we don't.
Do they do their homework? Yes they do / No they don't.

Also check out the page Nationalities and the verb to be for more grammar help.

Common errors

Be careful to avoid these common errors.

Affirmative

He live in London. (Correct: He lives in London.)
He does live in London. (Correct: He lives in London)

Question

He does live in London? (Correct: Does he live in London?)
Does live he in London? (Correct: Does he live in London?)

Negative

He don't live in London. (Correct: He doesn't live in London.)
He doesn't lives in London. (Correct: He doesn't live in London.)

Present Simple Exercise

Choose the correct answer.

1. __ he live here?
2. No, he __
3. __ you like classical music?
4. Yes, I __
5. She __ work here now.
6. They __ like restaurants.
7. __ they often go on holiday?
8. __ it often rain in the UK?
9. Yes, it __
10. I __ like watching football on the TV.

Now get essential verbs and phrases to talk about your job and daily routine (plus how to tell the time) on the next page: Talking About Your Job


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