Grammar: Present Simple vs. Present Progressive (Review & Exercises)

English Level: High Beginner, Lower-Intermediate

Worksheet Downloadpresent-simple-present-progressive-worksheet.docx (scroll down to study the exercises online)

Jump to: Present Simple (below), Present ProgressiveExercises


Timeline for the present simple verb tense

Present Simple keywords: never, sometimes, often, usually, always, every day

1) Use the Present Simple for Habits: “I study English every day”

When we talk about actions that happen usually, often, or every day, we use the present simple. For example:

  • John works at a bank.
  • My father smokes cigarettes.

John works at a bank. Maybe he isn’t working now (maybe he is sleeping now), but usually he works at a bank. That is his job. He works from Monday to Friday. It is something he does regularly, so we can use the present simple.

Conjugation – Singular Subjects

  1. I work. / I don’t work.
  2. You work. / You don’t work.
  3. He works. / He doesn’t work.*

*add an ‘s’ to the main verb when the subject is ‘He/She/It’. This is called the third person singular.

When the verb is in the negative, we put the s in the auxiliary (helping) verb so it becomes ‘doesn’t’. And because the s is in the helping verb, we don’t need to add it to the main verb.

  • She don’t work. (wrong – you have to add an ‘s’ to the helping verb)
  • She doesn’t work. (correct!)
  • She doesn’t works. (wrong — don’t add another ‘s’ to the main verb)

Conjugation – Plural Subjects

Making sentences with other subjects is easy. You don’t have to add s.

  1. We work.
  2. You work.
  3. They work.

2) Use the Present Simple for Facts/Truths

When you talk about things that are always true, use the present simple.

  • Children play with toys.
  • Cats sleep a lot.
  • Water freezes in cold temperatures.

These are facts. Also, you can see that we only added an s to the verb of the last sentence because the subject, ‘water‘, means ‘it‘. ‘It’ is the third person singular. The other subjects, ‘children’ and ‘cats’, mean ‘they’.

So we only add ‘s’ when the subject is ‘He/She/It’, for example:

  • My sister sings well. (My sister = she)
  • My boss works a lot. (My boss = he)
  • That computer doesn’t work. (Computer = it).

Those are the main rules for the present simple.

Verb Tense Review: Present Progressive (Present Continuous)

(The present progressive is also called present continuous.)

Timeline for present continuous/progressive verb tense

Form: Subject + Auxiliary Verb (BE) + Verb in ~ing

He is sleeping.

Present Progressive keywords: now, right now, at the moment, currently, presently, today

1) Use the Present Progressive for Actions Happening Now (or Around Now)

  • You are reading this sentence.
  • My father is washing the dishes now.
  • It isn’t snowing today.

These sentences talk about something happening now. We are focusing on an action happening today, this morning, or right now. We are not talking about what happens regularly, which may be different. Look at this sentence:

  • John works at a bank, but today he isn’t working.

The green part of the sentence is in the present simple because we talking about what John regularly does. The blue part of the sentence talks about what is happening now, so we use the present progressive.  John works at a bank (usually, from Monday to Friday), but today he isn’t working today (because it is Saturday maybe).

We can also use the present progressive when ‘now’ is a longer time period. For example:

  • John works at a bank, but this month he isn’t working.

The main idea is that John usually works, but now (= this month) he’s doing something different. This is a temporary action that is not usual.

2) Use the Present Progressive for Future Plans

We can also use the present progressive to talk about plans we have decided for the future. For example:

  • Jack and Jill are getting married next summer. (This is a plan)
  • John is going home in 10 minutes. (This is his plan).

Why do we use the present tense to talk about the future? Well, the plans are in the future, but they are something we have now. When I say “I’m going home soon”, it means that now, you have a plan to go home soon. When you say “I am buying a house next month”, you are saying that now, you have a plan to buy a house next month.

So, when we talk about something we have decided (planned) for the future, we often use present progressive. When we talk about something for the future that did not plan for, we use will. Compare these two sentences:

  • (Peter) I am driving home soon. Do you want a ride to your house? 
  • (Lisa) Sure! I will go with you. Thank you. 

Peter says “I am driving home” because it is something he has planned. He has his car keys. He plans to go home.

Lisa says “I will go” with you because this is a decision she has just made. This was not her plan. When we talk about future actions that we did not plan or are uncertain, we use will. And when we talk about plans we have decided for the future, we can use the present progressive.

Do you understand all the rules? Try the exercises below to see. When you’ve finished, try our lesson on verbs that cannot be used in the present progressive.

 

Exercises on Present Simple & Present Continuous

Hint: Pay attention to the keywords (see above) for each verb tense. Also, you can use the tab key to easily move between questions.

  1. Millions of tourists (travel) to Paris every year.
  2. My father  (play) tennis twice a week.
  3. My brother (not/sleep) right now. He (check) his e-mails.
  4. People sometimes (fall) when they go skiing for the first time.
  5. John lives in Vancouver, but he (visit) his brother right now in Chicago.
  6. Every Friday afternoon, my friend and I (eat) lunch together.
  7. Mr. Wallace (talk) with a customer at the moment.
  8. My sister (not/eat) meat. I  (not/eat) it either. We are vegetarians.

 

 

  1. I (brush) my teeth every morning and night. My brother also (brush) his teeth too.
  2. Right now, my brother (do) his homework. He (go) to university, so he usually (have) a lot of homework.
  3. My sister is at home too. She (not/do) homework. She (watch) TV. She always (watch) TV at night. She (work) every day, so after work, she (feel) tired.  She (relax) when she watches TV.

 

  1. I decided that I (not/go) to university next year.  I am going to travel.  I (love) traveling.
  2. My father (be) a police offer. He usually (work) in the evenings. Tonight, however, he (not/work) because today is his birthday. We (go) to a Mexican restaurant at 8 p.m. My father (love) Mexican food.
  3. My family (have) a dog. Our dog is always hungry. It (eat) a lot. My mother is in the kitchen now. She (make) a sandwich. The dog (look) at her. He wants food too. We (leave) in an hour to go a restaurant with my father.

 

 

  1. It is cold outside, and it (snow) this evening. Usually it (not/snow) much in my town. Snow (fall) two or three times a year.
  2. To learn English, some students (read) grammar books. You (not/read) a book right now. You (study) English on the Internet.  The Internet (have) many English websites.
  3. Young people (enjoy) the Internet, but many older people (not/use) it.

 

Please leave a comment below if you have a question or if you find a mistake.

– Matthew Barton (copyright) / Creator of Englishcurrent.com


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