In this lesson, you can learn about using the present simple and present continuous verb forms. You’ll see many different ways to use these verb tenses, from basic meanings to more advanced uses.
QUIZ: Present Simple & Present Continuous
Now, test your knowledge of what you learned in the lesson by trying this quiz. There are 20 questions, following the same order as the lesson, so the first four questions are for level 1, the next four for level 2, and so on. You can get help with some questions if you press ‘Hint’. You will get your score at the end, when you can click on ‘View Questions’ to see all the correct answers.
Time limit: 0
0 of 20 Questions completed
You have already completed the quiz before. Hence you can not start it again.
There are five levels. Each level is more difficult than the previous one.
Level one is beginner. Levels two to four are intermediate. Level five is high intermediate to advanced.
If you’re not a beginner, start at level two! At each level, you can see what you need to focus on if you have difficulties.
You’ll see five sentences which use the present simple or present continuous. You need to complete each sentence with one word.
The verb you need to use is given at the end of the sentence.
Here are your sentences.
She ________ to work by bus. (GO)
I ________ up at 7:30 every morning. (GET)
I can’t talk right now – I’m ________ lunch. (HAVE)
Are you ________ with us to the cinema tonight? (COME)
Does he still ________ in Hamburg? (LIVE)
Pause the video and think about your answers.
Ready? Let’s look.
She goes to work by bus.
I get up at 7:30 every morning.
I can’t talk right now – I’m having lunch.
Are you coming with us to the cinema tonight?
Does he still live in Hamburg?
What do you need to know here?
You need to know how to form the present simple and present continuous.
For example, you need to know rules like: add ‘s’ to the verb in the present simple after ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘it’.
You need to know that you make the present continuous with the verb ‘be’ plus an -ing verb.
You should also know how to make negatives and questions with these two tenses.
Easy? Maybe, but even advanced English learners sometimes make mistakes with these points. Practise them carefully so you don’t form bad habits!
In this section, you need to choose the correct form in each sentence.
Look at your questions.
I (don’t often cook/am not often cooking) dinner in the evening.
What (do you watch/are you watching?) It looks interesting.
He (looks/is looking) for a new housemate.
Temperatures in summer (reach/are reaching) forty degrees most years.
On the left of the photo, there’s a woman who (looks/is looking) at something on the floor.
Pause the video and find your answers.
Did you do it? Let’s check.
I don’t often cook dinner in the evening.
What are you watching? It looks interesting.
He is looking for a new housemate.
Temperatures in summer reach forty degrees most years.
On the left of the photo, there’s a woman who is looking at something on the floor.
Here, you need to think about the meaning of these two verb forms.
Use the present simple for habits or things you do regularly, like in sentence one.
Use the present continuous for things which are happening right now, like in sentence two.
You also use the present continuous for things which are unfinished, like in sentence three.
For facts and things which are generally true, use the present simple, like in sentence four.
If you’re describing a photo or a picture, and want to say what’s happening, use the present continuous, like in sentence five. Learn more about this topic in this Oxford Online English lesson: Describing Pictures.
If you understand these ideas, you’ll be able to use the present simple and the present continuous in many everyday sentences. However, there are many more things you need to know to use these verb forms well.
Here, we have a different challenge for you.
This milk is smelling a bit strange. Maybe it’s gone bad?
We’re meeting them outside the train station around seven.
I’m having a Spanish class at ten tomorrow morning.
She’s promising that she won’t be late next time.
Average rents are increasing all over the city.
Some of these sentences are correct; some are incorrect.
Your job is to find the correct sentences, and correct the mistakes in the others.
Pause the video and do it now.
What do you think? How many correct sentences do you think there are? Could you correct the mistakes in the others?
Let’s look together.
This milk is smellingsmells a bit strange. Maybe it’s gone bad?
We’re meeting them outside the train station around seven.
I ’m havinghave a Spanish class at ten tomorrow morning.
She ’s promisingpromises that she won’t be late next time.
Average rents are increasing all over the city.
Sentences two and five are correct; the others all have mistakes.
Now, you can see the mistakes, and the corrections. Can you explain the problems with sentences one, three and four? Why are they wrong?
Verbs of sensing, like ‘smell’, ‘see’ or ‘hear’ are not generally used in the present continuous. In sentence one, even though you’re talking about something which is just true now, you use the present simple because you’re using a verb of sensing – ‘smell’.
Sentence two is correct. Use the present continuous to talk about arrangements in the future. This is common for talking about social plans.
You can also use the present simple to talk about the future, like in sentence three. Do you know why you use the present simple here?
Use the present simple to talk about future events which follow a timetable. This includes things like trains, planes, meetings, appointments and lessons.
Verbs of thinking or speaking, like ‘promise’, aren’t generally used in the present continuous. Can you think of other verbs like this?
There are many, but ‘know’, ‘realise’, ‘remember’, ‘admit’ and ‘state’ are almost always used in the present simple, even if you’re talking about something which is happening now.
In general, you can divide verbs into two types: *action* verbs and *state* verbs. Action verbs, like ‘run’, ‘do’ or ‘cook’, can be either simple or continuous. State verbs, like ‘be’, ‘know’ or ‘love’, cannot normally be used in the present continuous.
There are exceptions to this, but it’s a useful general rule to remember.
Finally, in sentence five, can you explain why you need to use the present continuous?
Use the present continuous to describe changing situations, or to talk about trends. This is useful if you need to talk about statistics; for example ‘sales are falling by an average of 2% annually.’
There’s a lot of information in this video. Remember that you can always review a section if you need to! Or, take a break and come back later.
Now, let’s move on to level four.
Level four is a little different again.
Look at your sentences.
She (works/is working) for a fashion wholesaler.
He (always forgets/is always forgetting) to take his phone with him when he goes out.
I (realise/am realising) I was wrong to trust him.
They (play/are playing) tennis every Friday after work.
My English (gets/is getting) better year after year.
This time, you have two jobs.
First, are both forms possible? In some sentences, you can use either the present simple or the continuous. In at least one sentence, you can’t use both. Where can you – or can’t you – use both forms?
Secondly, where you can use both forms, is there a difference in meaning? If so, can you explain it?
Pause the video and think about these questions now. Take your time!
Ready? Let’s check.
In sentence one, both forms are possible.
Using the present simple suggests that this is a permanent situation. She works there because this is her long-term job, and she’ll probably continue to work there.
Using the present continuous suggests that this is something temporary. She’s working there for a short time, and she’ll probably be working somewhere else soon.
In sentence two, both forms are also possible.
Using the present continuous expresses that you find this habit annoying or strange.
You can do this with adverbs like ‘always’ or ‘constantly’. The adverb is necessary! You can *only* use the present continuous to talk about a habit if you use an adverb, like ‘always’. Learn more with our lesson on adverbs in English.
Using the present simple here is neutral. It doesn’t add any extra meaning. It just expresses that he has this habit.
In sentence three, using the continuous expresses that you’re just starting to understand this idea.
In level three, you saw that verbs of thinking, like ‘realise’, aren’t generally used in the present continuous. That’s true, but there’s an important exception.
Use the present continuous to express feelings which you are just starting to be aware of. When a feeling is coming to you, and you’re still processing your thoughts, you can use the present continuous to talk about it.
Here, it means that you’ve just started to understand that he’s been lying to you, or you’ve recently found out that he’s dishonest. You’re still processing those thoughts.
Using the present simple suggests that this is not a new feeling. It suggests that you understood that you were wrong to trust him some time ago.
Sentence four is similar to sentence one. Both forms are possible; using the present simple suggests that this is a more permanent situation, while using the present continuous suggests something more temporary.
For example, if they’ve only just started playing tennis, and they’re both really lazy and you’re sure they’ll give up soon, then you’d probably use the continuous here.
But, if they’ve been playing tennis on Fridays for years, and you know they’re both really enthusiastic about it and are likely to continue for a long time, then you’d use the present simple.
Sentence five is different. Why? Because there isn’t a difference in meaning.
There’s another point: while it’s possible to say ‘My English gets better year after year,’ using the continuous sounds better. You’re talking about a changing situation – like you saw in level three – and it’s more common to use the continuous in this case.
Up to now, you’ve seen many different ways to use the present simple and continuous. Are you ready for the hardest challenge?
Here are your sentences.
Firmino (cross) the ball, Origi’s in the middle, he (head) it, and (score)!
He (never listen) to constructive criticism, which many people (find) irritating.
So I (sit) there, (mind) my own business, and this guy (come) up to me and (throw) a glass of water in my face!
Minister (Resign), President (Deny) Involvement in Scandal
I (not see) why you (still see) her given that you broke up two months ago.
Your task is simple: put the verbs into either the present simple or the present continuous.
You know what to do! Pause the video and find your answers.
Ready? Let’s see how you did.
Firmino crosses the ball, Origi’s in the middle, he heads it, and scores!
He never listens to constructive criticism, which many people find irritating.
So I’m sitting there, minding my own business, and this guy comes up to me and throws a glass of water in my face!
Minister Resigns, President Denies Involvement in Scandal
I don’t see why you’re still seeing her given that you broke up two months ago.
Did you get them all right? If so, great job! If not, don’t worry. These sentences test some more difficult and specialised uses of the present simple and continuous.
In sentence one, do you know why you use the present simple? A question: what is this sentence? Who’s saying it?
This sentence sounds like live commentary on a football match. When commenting on live events, it’s common to use the present simple, even for things which are happening right now, when you would usually expect to hear the continuous.
In sentence two, did you think it might be correct to use the continuous?
The first part of the sentence – ‘he never listens’ – sounds like an annoying habit. You saw in level four that you can use the continuous to talk about strange or annoying habits. But, you can’t use it here. Why not?
It’s because you can only use the present continuous in this way with specific adverbs – ‘always’ is the most common – and you can’t do this with ‘never’.
In sentence three, you can use present tenses to tell a story, especially in informal conversation. In most cases, you’d use past tenses to tell a story, but you can also move the past tenses into the present: past continuous becomes present continuous, past simple becomes present simple, and so on.
This can make your story sound more vivid, as if it’s taking place now.
For sentence four, where do you think this sentence comes from? Notice the capital letters, and the fact that it doesn’t have a full stop at the end.
It’s a newspaper headline. Headlines are written in a specific style, and often use the present simple to talk about events in the recent past.
What about sentence five? Can you explain what’s going on here?
The key here is that ‘see’ has different meanings. The first ‘see’ means ‘understand’. This is a state verb, so it can’t be continuous.
The second ‘see’ means ‘meet’ or ‘have a relationship with’. It’s an action verb, so it can be continuous.
There are other verbs like this, where there are multiple meanings, some of which are actions, and some of which are states. Other common verbs like this are ‘have’, ‘think’, ‘expect’ or ‘look’.
How did you do on this lesson? Which points did you find most difficult or confusing? Let us know how you did in the comments, and what was most difficult for you!
Thanks for watching!
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