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SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE

Definition
In English grammar, the simple present tense is a form of
the verb that refers to an action or event that is ongoing or that
regularly

takes

place

in

present

time

(for

example,

"He cries easily"). (For other possible meanings of the simple


present, see the observations below by Ron Cowan and Michael
Pearce.)
Except in the case of be, the simple present is represented in
English

by

either

the base

form of

the

verb

(e.g.,

"I/You/We/They sing") or the base form plus the third-person


singular -s inflection ("She sings").
A verb in the simple present tense can appear alone as the main
verb in a sentence. This finite verb form is called "simple"
because it doesn't involve aspect.
Pattern : (+) S + Be (is, am, are) + Object
S + Verb1 + object
(-) S + do/does + not + verb1 + Object
S + be + not + Object
(?) Be + S + Object +?
Do/does + S + Verb 1 + object +?
The simple present tense is used:

To express habits, general truths, repeated actions or


unchanging situations, emotions and wishes:
I smoke (habit); I work in London (unchanging
situation); London is a large city (general truth)

To give instructions or directions:


You walk for two hundred meters, then you turn left.

To express fixed arrangements, present or future:


Your exam starts at 09.00

To express future time, after some conjunctions: after,


when, before, as soon as, until:
He'll give it to you when you come next Saturday.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:


Examples and Observations
"The wheels on the bus go round and round,

round and round, round and round.


The wheels on the bus go round and round,
all through the town!"
(Verna Hills, "The Wheels on the Bus," 1939)
"I push the light switch button andclickthe light goes

on.
I push the lawn mower button andvoomit mows the lawn.
I push the root beer button andwhooshit fills my cup.
I push the glove compartment button andclackit opens up.
I push the TV button andzapthere's Wyatt Earp.
I push my belly button . . .
BURP!"
(Shel Silverstein, "Push Button." The Light in the Attic.
HarperCollins, 1981)
"Home is that youthful region where a child is the only real

living inhabitant. Parents, siblings, and neighbors are mysterious


apparitions, who come, go, and do strange unfathomable things
in and around the child, the region's only enfranchised citizen."
(Maya Angelou, "Home." Letter to My Daughter. Random House,
2008)

"A jerk . . . is a man (or woman) who is utterly unable to


see himself as he appears to others. He has no grace,

he is tactless without meaning to be, he is a bore even to his best


friends, he is an egotist without charm. All of us are egotists to
some extent, but most of usunlike the jerkare perfectly and
horribly aware of it when we make asses of ourselves. The jerk
never knows."
(Sidney J. Harris, "A Jerk." Last Things First, 1961)

Basic Meanings of the Simple Present


"The simple present tense expresses states, as exemplified in
(8), and habitual action, as in (9). Notice that the verbs in (8)
are stative verbs. The habitual action meaning of the simple
present . . . generally requires the presence of time expressions
(e.g., every Friday, regularly, always + time), as illustrated in (9).
states
(8a) The lake looks like it's frozen.
(8b) He seems to be confused.
(8c) She owns three rare Chinese vases.
habitual actions
(9a) He eats steak and kidney pie every Sunday.
(9b) They always go to the mosque on Friday.

In a third meaning usually included in textbooks, the simple present


expresses what are often referred to as general statements of
fact or scientific truths. This meaning . . . is actually a variation of
the first meaning mentioned, since these statements of fact or
scientific truths are usually expressed with stative verbs such
as be, exist, equal, thrive, and so on, or with ergative verbs that
carry an inherent change of state meaning such as boil, cool,
dissolve, expand, freeze, grow, harden, rise, and so on. . .
"Another meaning of the simple present tense that is also
common . . . is that of future tense. In this meaning, . . . the

simple present tense is accompanied by time expressions such


as eight o'clock, at dawn, or tomorrow."
(Ron Cowan, The Teacher's Grammar of English. Cambridge
University Press, 2008)

Seven Main Meanings of the Simple Present Tense


"Present tense (or 'simple' present tense) forms are used to
express seven main meanings:
1) Permanent state: Jupiter is a very massive planet.
2) General truth: The earth is round.
3) Habitual action: Her daughter works in Rome.
4) 'Live' commentary: In each case I add the two numbers: three
plus three gives six . . ..
5) Performative: I pronounce you man and wife (see speech-act
theory).
6) Past time (see historic present): He moves to the window
alongside, and sees her inside the office moving away from the
door. He shoots twice through the window and kills her.
7) Future time: My flight leaves at four thirty this afternoon."

(Michael Pearce, The Routledge Dictionary of English Language


Studies. Routledge, 2007)

Simple Present vs. Present Progressive


"English differs from languages like French in opposing
the simple present to a progressive present. In English,
present-tense event predications, if intended as reports upon
circumstances ongoing at present, must appear in the present
progressive. Thus, a sentence like He falls, while having the
potential for a habitual interpretation, is anomalous if interpreted
as a report about the present state of things: the moment of
speech cannot accommodate the extended temporal profile of
the event. The present-progressive sentence He is falling is,

however, acceptable."
(Laura A. Michaelis, Aspectual Grammar and Past Time
Reference. Routledge, 1998)