The present simple tense varies according to whether it is being used with a third person singular subject or other subjects.
In this lesson we will look at:
It is important to be aware of the third person singular (he/she/it) and other subjects (you/we/they) when forming the present simple because the form of the tense varies according to this:
The formation of the tense will also vary according to whether you are using the affirmative, negative, or a question.
The 3rd person singular refers to the following subjects:
The present simple tense table below shows you how the formation will vary according to the affirmative, negative, or a question. You'll see we need to add an '-s' to the verb for affirmative statements, but we add in does / doesn't (auxiliary verbs) for negative statements and questions.
Note that questions can either be yes / no questions or have questions words. For example:
For many 3rd person verbs in the present simple tense, we add '-s':
However, typically if the verb ends in o, ss, sh, ch, x or z, we add '-es'
For verbs ending in a consonant plus -y, the -y is replaced with an i, then -es is added.
It should be noted at this point that with the question word 'who' in the present simple tense, we often do not use auxiliary verbs:
For the other subjects in the present simple tense (i.e. I, you, we, they), no '-s' is added to the verb, and we use do or don't for negative statements and questions.
The verb to be follows a different pattern to other types of verbs. We still use the '-s' for third person singular (is) but we do not use do / does - rather we use is / am / are:
It should be noted that it is accepted to use 'aren't I' rather than 'am not I', even though this does not fit the grammar rules.
A common use of the present simple tense is to describe repeated events, or what we also refer to as habits and routines. It's quite common to use adverbs of frequency (e.g. always, often, usually etc) and expressions of repeated time (e.g. on Mondays, in the winter, every month) for habitual behaviour.
We also use the present simple tense for general facts, or things that are always true (or at least true at the time the fact is given).
The present simple tense is used to talk about states, or in other words with stative verbs. This is because we do not tend to use these verbs with the present continuous tense.
For instance, we can't say "I am having a headache". We say "I have a headache".
We can also use the present simple tense to talk about the future, either the fixed future, using phrases such as next week, tomorrow, at 5pm, or after time words (e.g. when, before, after) and after if and unless.
Though we usually use past tenses for stories or narratives about the past, very occasionally we use the present simple.
This is usually to tell a comic story or dramatic story, and using the present simple tense gives the story a sense of immediacy (making the person listening feel like they are there) or excitement.
Now practice or test yourself in this online Present Simple Quiz
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