The simple tenses

The simple tenses are used to express single actions, repeated actions, or permanent states, in the present, the past or the future.

Why are they called “simple” tenses? The answer is not because they consist of one word or are easy to use. It is because they have one time reference only. (By contrast, the continuous or progressive tenses express continuous actions and the perfect tenses refer to two elements in time.)

The three simple tenses are:

  • the past simple
  • the present simple
  • the future simple.

The present simple tense

The present simple tense is used to describe habits, unchanging situations, general truths, and fixed arrangements.

How it is formed

  • The present simple tense is the base form of the verb. This is the simplest form of a verb, without special endings (or suffixes). It is the form that appears in dictionaries.
  • We use the base form for the first person singular (e.g. I walk), as well as for the first, second and third persons plural  (e.g. you/we/they walk).
  • For the third person singular (she/he/it), we add an -s (e.g. she/he/it walks).

Examples in context

  • Jean-Pierre drinks two cans of coke every day.
  • Jane washes her hair on Fridays.
  • He runs every morning before work.
  • Min Sing lives in South Korea.
  • São Paulo is the richest state in Brazil.
  • The South African flag consists of six colours – red, green, blue, black, white and yellow.
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