Present Simple & Present Continuous

What's the difference?

Present Simple and Present Continuous

Form

Simple PresentPresent Progressive
infinitive
(3rd person singular: infinitive + 's')
I speak
you speak
he / she / it speaks
we speak
they speak
form of 'be' and verb + ing
I am speaking
you are speaking
he / she / it is speaking
we are speaking
they are speaking
Exceptions
Exceptions when adding 's' :
  • For can, may, might, must, do not add s.
    Example: he can, she may, it must
  • After o, ch, sh or s, add es.
    Example: do - he does, wash - she washes
  • After a consonant, the final consonant ybecomes ie. (but: not after a vowel)
    Example: worry - he worries
    but: play - he plays
Exceptions when adding 'ing' :
  • Silent e is dropped. (but: does not apply for -ee)
    Example: come - coming
    but: agree - agreeing
  • After a short, stressed vowel, the final consonant is doubled.
    Example: sit - sitting
  • After a vowel, the final consonant l is doubled in British English (but not in American English).
    Example: travel - travelling (British English)
    but: traveling (American English)
  • Final ie becomes y.
    Example: lie - lying
See also explanations on Simple Present and Present Progressive

Use

In general or right now?

Do you want to express that something happens in general or that something is happening right now?
Simple PresentPresent Progressive
in general (regularly, often, never)
Colin plays football every Tuesday.
present actions happening one after another
First Colin plays football, then he watches TV.
right now
Look! Colin is playing football now.
also for several actions happening at the same time
Colin is playing football and Anne is watching.
Signal words
  • always
  • every ...
  • often
  • normally
  • usually
  • sometimes
  • seldom
  • never
  • first
  • then
  • at the moment
  • at this moment
  • today
  • now
  • right now
  • Listen!
  • Look!
Note: The following verbs are usually only used in Simple Present:
be, have, hear, know, like, love, see, smell, think, want

Timetable / Schedule or arrangement?

Do you want to express that something is arranged for the near future? Or do you refer to a time set by a timetable or schedule?
Simple PresentPresent Progressive
action set by a timetable or schedule
The film starts at 8 pm.
arrangement for the near future
I am going to the cinema tonight.

Daily routine or just for a limited period of time?

Do you want to talk about a daily routine? Or do you want to emphasis that something is only going on for a limited (rather short) period of time?
Simple PresentPresent Progressive
daily routine
Bob works in a restaurant.
only for a limited period of time (does not have to happen directly at the moment of speaking)
Jenny is working in a restaurant this week.

Certain Verbs

The following verbs are usually only used in Simple Present (not in the progressive form).
  • state: be, cost, fit, mean, suit
    Example: We are on holiday.
  • possession: belong, have
    Example: Sam has a cat.
  • senses: feel, hear, see, smell, taste, touch
    Example: He feels the cold.
  • feelings: hate, hope, like, love, prefer, regret, want, wish
    Example: Jane loves pizza.
  • brain work: believe, know, think, understand
    Example: I believe you.
  • Introductory clauses for direct speech: answer, ask, reply, say
    Example: “I am watching TV,“ he says.

Exercies on Simple Present and Present Progressive

Tests on Simple Present and Present Progressive

Present SimplePresent Continuous
Things which are always true:
  • Water boils at 100 degrees.
Things which are happening at the moment of speaking:
  • The water is boiling now, so you can put in the pasta.
Permanent situations (or nearly permanent; true for a few years at least):
  • Julie lives in London.
Temporary situations:
  • Julie is living in Paris for a few months (usually she lives in London).
Situations which are slowly changing:
  • I'm getting better and better at speaking English.
Habits or things we do regularly:
  • drink coffee every morning.
Temporary or new habits:
  • I'm drinking too much coffee these days because I'm so busy at work.
Annoying habits (usually with 'always'):
  • My flatmate is always leaving the kitchen in a mess!
Future events which are part of a timetable:
  • My plane leaves at eight tonight.
To talk about the future after certain words ('when' 'until' 'after' 'before' 'as soon as'):
  • I'll call you when I get home.
Definite future plans:
  • I'm meeting John after class today.
To talk about what happens in books, plays and films:
  • At the end of the book, the detective catches the killer.
To talk about people in pictures and photos:
  • In this photo, my mother is walking beside a lake.
Remember:
  • We use the present simple with stative verbs. We can't use any continuous tense (including the present continuous tense, of course) with stative verbs.
2: Check Present Simple or Continuous
Complete each sentence by choosing the most likely future form:
1)  anything later? I thought we could go out. 
2)
 The lesson  soon so we need to get back to college.
3) Susan  me for lunch later.
4) The match  at 3.00.
5) What time  later?
6) I  my Nan next Sunday.
7) I  work early today as I have an appointment at the dentist.
8) I've just phoned the centre and the doors  at 1.00.
Check your answer

Multiple Choice Cloze Practice

Read the text below.
For each question choose the best answer to complete the gap.
MEMO
To: Sarah
From: Director of Studies
As you know, I have quite a busy week coming up. On Monday I A)  with the Marketing team all day to discuss next year's brochure. On Tuesday I B)  our partner school in London. My train C)  at 7.30 so I won't be coming to the office first. We have interviews for the new teacher's job on Wednesday. The first one D)  at 9.30 and they E) at 3.30 - 6 people altogether I think. I F)  the deputy head on Thursday and as soon as I get back there's the weekly team meeting - that usually G)  on until 5.30. I have a day's holiday owed to me so I H)  a day off on Friday. But as the new term  next Monday I  in on Saturday or Sunday briefly to check everything is OK. Email me at any time if you need advice.
Check your answer

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