How to use Present Simple

Learn about the Present Simple in English grammar. Clear and simple explanation of meaning and use, with examples.

Keith Taylor

Forming the present simple

verb (+ “s” in third person singular of most verbs – see additional points below)

Meaning

  1. Present simple is used to talk about permanent situations.
    • She doesn’t speak English.
    • Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.
  2. Present simple is used to talk about things that happen repeatedly.
    • I go to school every day.
    • Jack sometimes plays tennis.
  3. Present simple is used to ask for and give instructions.
    • How do I get to the bathroom?
    • You go up the stairs and turn right.
  4. Present simple is used in narrative (to tell stories).
    • At the start of the film a big spaceship comes to Earth and lands in LA. Then the aliens eat all the people.
  5. Present simple is used to talk about future scheduled events.
    • The meeting starts at 10am.
    • The train leaves at 7.32pm.
  6. Present simple is used in certain introductory expressions.
    • I hear you went on holiday to Spain this summer.
    • I gather you’re leaving the company.

Additional points

Third person singular form:

  1. – most verbs: add s.
    • play – plays
    • sleep – sleeps
  2. Verbs which end in consonant + y: change y to ies.
    • hurry – hurries
    • reply – replies
  3. Verbs which end in s, z, ch, sh or x: add es.
    • push – pushes
    • watch – watches
  4. Exceptions
    • do – does
    • go – goes
    • have – has

Pronunciation

See the phonemic chart for IPA symbols used below.

The pronuciation of the third person singular ending depends on the last phoneme of the verb:

  1. If the last phoneme of the verb is a vowel, a diphthong, /b/, /d/, /g/, /v/, /ð/, /m/, /n/, /ŋ/ or /l/, we don’t add a syllable and the ending is pronounced /z/
    • goes: /gəʊz/
    • runs: /rʌnz/
  2. If the last phoneme of the verb is /p/, /t/, /k/, /f/ or/θ/, we don’t add a syllable and the ending is pronounced /s/
    • hopes: /həʊps/
    • pats: /pæts/
  3. If the last phoneme of the verb is /tʃ/, /dʒ/, /s/, /z/, /ʃ/ or /ʒ/, we add a syllable, pronouncing the ending /ɪz/
    • catches: /kætʃɪz/
    • snoozes: /snuːzɪz/

Related grammar points

Present Continuous
Present Perfect
Present Perfect Continuous
Tense and aspect

Keith Taylor

Keith is the co-founder of Eslbase and School of TEFL. He's been a teacher and teacher trainer for over 20 years, in Indonesia, Australia, Morocco, Spain, Italy, Poland, France and now in the UK.

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