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Present Simple and Present Continuous

What's the difference between the Present Simple / Present Continuous and how to use

We use the present simple tense when we want to talk about fixed habits or routines –
things that don’t change.

We use the present continuous to talk about actions which are happening at the present
moment, but will soon finish.

Compare these two statements:

(present simple) I play tennis.

(present continuous/ progressive) I am playing tennis.

(present simple) ‘I play tennis’ tells us that playing tennis is something the speaker always
does. It is part of a routine or habit. We can call this a permanent situation.

(present continuous/ progressive) ‘I am playing tennis’ tells us that the speaker is playing
tennis right now. Soon the game will be over. We call this a temporary situation.

With the present simple we say:

I play tennis

You play tennis

We play tennis

They play tennis

He/she/ it plays tennis.

With the present continuous we say:

I am playing tennis

You are playing tennis

We are playing tennis

He/she/it is playing tennis

Frequency Adverbs we use with the Present Simple

With the present simple we use these frequency adverbs:

(Notice that the adverb comes before the main verb in the sentence.)

Always: ‘I always read before I go to bed.’

Often: ‘Her sister often comes shopping with us.’

Frequently:‘Michael frequently visits his family.’

Sometimes:‘You sometimes go to the gym, don’t you?’

Occasionally:‘It occasionally rains in summer.’

Seldom:‘They seldom ask for help.’

Rarely: ‘He rarely goes out without his backpack.’

Hardly ever:‘I hardly ever eat pizza.’

Never: ‘Japanese people never wear shoes inside.’

Time Expressions we use with the Present Continuous

With the present continuous we use these time expressions:

(Notice that the time expression can come at the start or at the end of the sentence.)

At the moment: ‘I’m watching TV, at the moment.’

These days: ‘Paul’s living in Cardiff, these days.’

Now: ‘What are you doing, now?’

Nowadays: ‘I think you are smoking too much, nowadays.’

Simple Past Tense–Grammar Rules

The simple past is a verb tense that is used to talk about things that happened or existed
before now. Imagine someone asks what your brother Wolfgang did while he was in town
last weekend.

Wolfgang entered a hula hoop contest.

He won the silver medal.

The simple past tense shows that you are talking about something that has already
happened. Unlike the past continuous tense, which is used to talk about past events that
happened over a period of time, the simple past tense emphasizes that the action is

Wolfgang admired the way the light glinted off his silver medal.

You can also use the simple past to talk about a past state of being, such as the way
someone felt about something. This is often expressed with the simple past tense of the
verb to be and an adjective, noun, or prepositional phrase.

Wolfgang was proud of his hula hoop victory.

The contest was the highlight of his week.

How to Formulate the Simple Past

For regular verbs, add -ed to the root form of the verb (or just -d if the root form already
ends in an e):

Play→Played Type→Typed Listen→Listened Push→Pushed Love→Loved

For irregular verbs, things get more complicated. The simple past tense of some irregular
verbs looks exactly like the root form:

Put→Put Cut→Cut Set→Set Cost→Cost Hit→Hit

For other irregular verbs, including the verb to be, the simple past forms are more erratic:

See→Saw Build→Built Go→Went Do→Did Rise→Rose Am/Is/Are→Was/Were

The good news is that verbs in the simple past tense (except for the verb to be) don’t need
to agree in number with their subjects.

Wolfgang polished his medal. The other winners polished their medals too.

How to Make the Simple Past Negative

Fortunately, there is a formula for making simple past verbs negative, and it’s the same for
both regular and irregular verbs (except for the verb to be). The formula is did not + [root
form of verb]. You can also use the contraction didn’t instead of did not.

Wolfgang did not brag too much about his hula hoop skills. Wolfgang’s girlfriend didn’t
seethe contest.
For the verb to be, you don’t need the auxiliary did. When the subject of the sentence is
singular, use was not or wasn’t. When the subject is plural, use were not or weren’t.

The third-place winner was not as happy as Wolfgang. The fourth-place

winner wasn’thappy at all. The onlookers were not ready to leave after the contest ended.
The contestants weren’t ready to leave either.

How to Ask a Question

The formula for asking a question in the simple past tense is did + [subject] + [root form of

Did Wolfgang win the gold medal or the silver medal? Where did Wolfgang go to
celebrate? Did the judges decide fairly, in your opinion?

When asking a question with the verb to be, you don’t need the auxiliary did. The formula
is was/were + [subject].

Was Wolfgang in a good mood after the contest? Were people taking lots of pictures?

Common Regular Verbs in the Past Tense

Common Irregular Verbs in the Past Tense

Prepositions of Time - at, in, on
We use:



on for DAYS and DATES


at 3 o'clock in May on Sunday

at 10.30am in summer on Tuesdays

at noon in the summer on 6 March

at dinnertime in 1990 on 25 Dec. 2010

at bedtime in the 1990s on Christmas Day

at sunrise in the next century on Independence


at sunset in the Ice Age on my birthday

at the in the past/future on New Year's Eve


Notice the use of the preposition of time at in the following standard expressions:

Expression Example

at night The stars shine at night.

at the weekend* I don't usually work at the weekend.

at Christmas*/Easter I stay with my family at Christmas.

at the same time We finished the test at the same time.

at present He's not home at present. Try later.

*Note that in some varieties of English people say "on the weekend" and "on Christmas".

Notice the use of the prepositions of time in and on in these common expressions:

in on

in the morning on Tuesday morning

in the mornings on Saturday mornings

in the afternoon(s) on Sunday afternoon(s)

in the evening(s) on Monday evening(s)

When we say last, next, every, this we do not also use at, in, on.

I went to London last June. (not in last June)

He's coming back next Tuesday. (not on next Tuesday)

I go home every Easter. (not at every Easter)

We'll call you this evening. (not in this evening)

Past Continuous and Past Simple

1. The most common use of the past continuous tense is to talk about something that was
happening around a particular time in the past.

What were you doing at 8 o’clock last night? I was watching television.

I started watching television before 8 o’clock and I continued watching it after 8 o’clock.

In 1994 he was working in a small town in Poland.

At 6 o’clock on Saturday morning we were travelling to the airport.

2. We often use the past continuous and the past simple tense together. When this
happens, the past continuous describes a longer, ‘background’ action or situation and
the past simple describes the action or events.

When I woke up this morning it was raining and my father was singing in the kitchen.

I was walking home, whistling happily, when I saw two masked men run out of the bank.

Often, the ‘action’ described by the past simple tense interrupts the ‘situation’ described
by the past continuous tense.

I broke my leg when I was skiing.

I was playing a computer game when the doorbell rang.

Notice that the past continuous describes ‘situations’ that go on for some time – ‘skiing’
and ‘playing’ but the past simple describes ‘actions’ that happen quickly – ‘broke’ and

Notice too the important difference between these two sentences.

When they arrived, Jeff was cooking dinner. Jeff started cooking before they arrived.

When they arrived, Jeff cooked dinner. Jeff started cooking dinner after they arrived.

Present Perfect Tense

Affirmative Sentences

Subject Have Rest of the Sentence

I have studied for the exam.

You have bought a new computer.

He has eaten my chocolate.

She has written an e-mail.

It has been cold this month.

We have won the championship.

You have tried to learn a lot.

They have forgotten my birthday.


The contracted form of the perfect tense is quite common:

Have Contraction Examples

I have I've I've spent all my money.

You have You've You've worn that dress before.

He has He's He's slept all morning.

She has She's She's lost her purse.

It has It's It's fallen off the wall.

We have We've We've chosen you for the job.

You have You've You've begun to annoy me.

They have They've They've drunk too much.

We use contractions a lot when we are speaking.

Negative Sentences

The contraction of the perfect tense in negative form is:

Have not = Haven't
Has not = Hasn't
Subject Have Rest of the Sentence

I haven't studied for the exam.

You haven't bought a new computer.

He hasn't eaten my chocolate.

She hasn't written an e-mail.

It hasn't been cold this month.

We haven't won the championship.

You haven't tried to learn a lot.

They haven't forgotten my birthday.


Have Subject Rest of the Sentence

Have I been chosen for the team?

Have you bought a new car?

Has he eaten my sandwich?

Has she written the letter?

Has it started on time?

Have we won a trophy?

Have you kept my secret?

Have they driven there?

Simple Past – Present Perfect Simple


Simple Past Present Perfect Simple

irregular verbs: see 2nd column of irregular irregular verbs: form of 'have' + 3rd column of irregular
verbs verbs

Example: Example:

I spoke I / you / we / they have spoken

he / she / it has spoken

regular verbs: infinitive + ed regular verbs: form of 'have' + infinitive + ed

Example: Example:

I worked I / you / we / they have worked

he / she / it has worked


Exceptions when adding 'ed':

when the final letter is e, only add d


love - loved

after a short, stressed vowel, the final consonant is doubled


admit - admitted

final l is always doubled in British English (not in American English)


travel - travelled

after a consonant, final y becomes i (but: not after a vowel)


worry - worried

but: play - played

See also explanations on Simple Past and Present Perfect Simple


In British English, the use of Simple Past and Present Perfect is quite strict. As soon as a
time expression in the past is given, you have to use Simple Past. If there are no signal
words, you must decide if we just talk about an action in the past or if its consequence in
the present is important.

Note that the following explanations and exercises refer to British English only. In
American English, you can normally use Simple Past instead of Present Perfect. We cannot
accept this in our exercises, however, as this would lead to confusions amongst those who
have to learn the differences.

Certain time in the past or just / already / yet?

Do you want to express that an action happened at a certain time in the past (even if it
was just a few seconds ago) or that an action has just / already / not yet happened?

Simple Past Present Perfect Simple

certain time in the past just / already / not yet

Example: Example:

I phoned Mary 2 minutes ago. I have just phoned Mary.

Certain event in the past or how often so far?

Do you want to express when a certain action took place or whether / how often an action
has happened till now?

Simple Past Present Perfect Simple

certain event in the past whether / how often till now

Example: Example:

He went to Canada last summer. Have you ever been to Canada? / I have been to Canada

Emphasis on action or result?

Do you just want to express what happened in the past? Or do you want to emphasise the
result (a past action's consequence in the present)?

Simple Past Present Perfect Simple

Emphasis on action Emphasis on result

Example: Example:

I bought a new bike. (just telling I have bought a new bike. (With this sentence I actually want to
what I did in the past.) express that I have a new bike now.)

Signal Words

Simple Past Present Perfect Simple

yesterday just

... ago already

in 1990 up to now

the other day until now / till now

last ... ever

(not) yet
so far

lately / recently

Comparative is the name for the grammar used when comparing two things. The two
basic ways to compare are using as .. as or than. Examples of each are shown below:

She's twice as old as her sister.

He's not as stupid as he looks!

I'm almost as good in maths as in science.

This book is not as exciting as the last one.

The cafeteria is not as crowded as usual.

Russian is not quite as difficult as Chinese.

This computer is better than that one.

She's stronger at chess than I am.

It's much colder today than it was yesterday.

Our car is bigger than your car.

This grammar topic is easier than most others.

I find science more difficult than mathematics.

Today's ESL lesson was more interesting than usual.

Note: In each of the example sentences above, the comparative form of the adjective is
shown. See the foot of this page for information about the comparison of adverbs.

When comparing with as .. as, the adjective does not change. When comparing with than,
however, some changes are necessary, depending on the number of syllables the
adjective has:

1-syllable adjectives: add -er to the adjective

My sister is much taller than me.†

It's colder today than it was yesterday.

Note: If the word ends: consonant-vowel-consonant, then the last consonant is usually
doubled in the comparative. Examples: big-bigger, fat-fatter, hot-hotter.

2-syllable adjectives ending in -y: change the -y to -ier

She's looking happier today.

This grammar topic is easier than the last one.

Why is everyone else luckier than me? †

Beware: Do not confuse adjectives and adverbs. 2-syllable adverbs ending in -y must be
compared with the word more. Example: I drive more quickly (quicklier) than my brother.

Other 2-syllable adjectives: use more with the unchanged adjective

The shops are always more crowded just before Christmas.

Is there anything more boring than reading about grammar?

My sister is more careful with her writing than I am with mine.

Note: The comparative of some shorter 2-syllable adjectives can be formed with -er.
Examples: simple-simpler, clever-cleverer, narrow-narrower. To be sure which
comparative method to use, you will need to consult a good dictionary.

Adjectives with 3 or more syllables: use more with the unchanged adjective

Russian grammar is more difficult than English grammar.

My sister is much more intelligent than me.†

I find maths lessons more enjoyable than science lessons.

The older you get, the more irritating you become.

In the superlative you talk about one thing only and how it is the best, worst, etc. You do
not compare two things. The following guidelines apply to the superlative:

1-syllable adjectives: add -est to the adjective (plus the)

My sister is the tallest in our family.

Yesterday was the coldest day of the year so far.

Note: If the word ends: consonant-vowel-consonant, then the last consonant is usually
doubled in the superlative. Examples: big-biggest, fat-fattest, hot-hottest.

2-syllable adjectives ending in -y: change the -y to -iest (plus the)

The richest people are not always the happiest.

Which do you think is the easiest language to learn?

She's the luckiest person I know.

Beware: Do not confuse adjectives and adverbs. 2-syllable adverbs ending in -y form their
superlative with the words the most. Example: Of all the people I know my father drives
the most quickly (quickliest).

Other 2-syllable adjectives: use the most with the unchanged adjective

The most boring thing about ESL class is doing grammar exercises.

My sister is the most careful person I know.

Note: The superlative of some shorter 2-syllable adjectives can be formed with -er.
Examples: simple-simplest, clever-cleverest, narrow-narrowest. To be sure which
superlative method to use, you will need to consult a good dictionary.

Adjectives with 3 or more syllables: use the most with the unchanged adjective

Some people think that Russian is the most difficult language.

Albert Einstein was the most intelligent person in history.

My most enjoyable class is English.

You are the most irritating person I have ever met!

Following are two common irregular comaparative/superlative forms:

good-better-the best

bad-worse-the worst

The following guidelines apply to the comparative/superlative of most adverbs:

1-syllable adverbs: add -er/-est

I can run faster than you. / I can run the fastest in my class.

She works harder than me.† / She works the hardest of all students.

Other adverbs: use more / the most*

She ran more quickly than me.† / Of all the students she ran the most quickly.

* In informal English it is common to hear the adjectival comparative/superlative form of

two-syllable adverbs. For example: She ran quicker than me.† | She ran the quickest.

† Many educated English speakers prefer to use the nominative plus a verb rather than
the accusative in such comparative sentences, especially in formal situations. They say, for
example, My sister is taller than I am. or She ran more quickly than I did.
The alternative, omitting the verb as in the following examples, is considered to be even
more formal and is avoided by most British English speakers: My sister is taller than I.
or She ran more quickly than I.

from English Grammar Today

Will: form

Affirmative form

Will comes first in the verb phrase in a statement (after the subject and before another
verb). It is often contracted to ’ll in informal situations:

The next Olympic Games will be in London.

I’ll give you a call at about 6 o’clock.

Will cannot be used with another modal verb:

You will be obliged to sign a contract before starting employment.

Not: You will must sign a contract … or You must will sign a contract …

Will can be followed by have to or be able to:

You’ll have to let me know when it arrives.

She will be able to live nearer her parents if she gets the job.

See also:
 Must and have (got) to?
Negative form

The negative form of will is won’t. We don’t use don’t, doesn’t, didn’t with will:

They won’t tell us very much until January.

Not: They don’t will tell us very much until January.

We use the full form will not in formal contexts or when we want to emphasise

I’ll carry her but I will not push a pram.

See also:
 Modality: forms
Question form

The subject and will change position to form questions. We don’t use do, does, did:

Will you be home earlier tomorrow?

Will I be able to take this brochure home with me?

Will the number be in the phone book?

Not: Does the number will be in the phone book?

We can use will and won’t in question tags:

You won’t forget to take the cake out of the oven, will you?

It’ll take quite a long time to get there, won’t it?

Will or ’ll?

We commonly use ’ll as the short form of will and shall. In speaking, will and shall are
usually contracted to ’ll, especially after subject pronouns (I, we, you, they, he, she, it):
We’ll meet you outside the coffee shop. (more common in speaking than We will meet you

However, in some contexts ’ll is normally the only choice. In such cases, ’ll is best not seen
as a contraction of either will or shall, but as an independent form.

As an independent form, ’ll is often used to indicate a personal decision:

There’s the cinema. We’ll get out here and you can park the car over there.

Not: We shall/will get out …


Anyone want a drink?


I’ll have a tomato juice, please.

’ll is also used for indicating decisions or arrangements where will or shall would sound
too direct and too formal:

OK. My diary says I’m free on Wednesday. So we’ll meet next Wednesday.

We’ll get the train to Paris and then the Metro to the hotel. Naoe and Dave and the
boys’ll join us as soon as they’ve finished their meetings.


A noun phrase + ’ll is not normally acceptable in writing:

Jan’s father will fetch you from the station.

Not: Jan’s father’ll fetch you …

’ll is not used in a tag or a short answer:

[talking about the offer of a cheap hotel room]


But you’ll have to be quick. Everyone will be after it, won’t they?

Yeah, they will.

Not: Yeah, they’ll.

See also:
 Future: will and shall

Will: uses

Certainty in the future

One of the main uses of will is to refer to things in the future that we think are certain:

The rooms will be redecorated but all the facilities will be the same.


He’s still there at the moment.


He’ll be there until the new guy starts.

[talking to a child]

Will you be 5 in September?

See also:
 Modal verbs in past, present and future time
Making predictions

Will is used to make predictions about the future:


Have you decided what you are going to do with the car?


No. Father thinks it’ll cost a lot of money to fix.

I think they’ll be off in January again. (they’ll be away, possibly on holiday)

Some predictions are about facts – things that we know always happen:

It’s all wool. It’ll shrink if you wash it in hot water.

Some predictions are about the present:

That’ll be Katie shouting. (The speaker is certain. He or she makes a deduction because of
what they know about the situation.)

Conditional sentences

We often use will (or the contracted form ’ll) in the main clause of a conditional sentence
when we talk about possible situations in the future:

If she gets the job, she will have to move to Germany.

I’ll take a day off if the weather’s fine next week.

See also:
 Conditionals
Intentions and decisions

We use will for immediate intentions and decisions. We usually use ’ll, not will, after I

When I go and see Marie, I think I’ll take her some flowers.

What will you do with that soup? Will you just put it in the fridge or will you freeze it?

I think I’ll have some orange juice, actually.

We use will and be going to for decisions, intentions and plans. We use will when the
decision is immediate and be going to when we have already made a plan:


It’s too expensive to fly on the Friday. Look it’s nearly £200. It’s only £25 to fly on Thursday.


We’ll fly on Thursday then.

Great. That’ll save us lots of money.

We’re going to drive to Birmingham on Friday, and Saturday morning we’re going todrive
to Edinburgh.

See also:
 Future
Willingness and offers

Will is often used to express someone’s willingness to do something or to make offers. It is

often used with I in this context:

I’ll show you where to go.


It’s just a leaflet that I’ve got.


Just the leaflet. Right, I’ll go and get you a brochure too.

I’ll give you a lift to the hotel.


We use will to make promises:

I’ll be there for you. Don’t worry.

We’ll always love you.

See also:
 Promise
Requests and invitations

We often make requests or invitations with will:

Will you pass me the salt?

This tastes good. Will you give me the recipe?

Will you come for dinner on Saturday?


We sometimes give commands or orders using will:

Will you be quiet, please!

Will you stop picking your nails!

It is also used to insist that someone does something:

But you will have to do it. You’ll have no choice.

[parent to child]

You will wear it whether you like it or not.

See also:
 Commands and instructions
General truths

Will is used to describe something the speaker thinks is generally true:

[talking about making complaints at hospitals]


Do you think they should try and make it easier for people to complain?


No, cos some people will always complain. (cos = because in informal speech)

Habitual events

We use will to refer to events that happen often:

[talking about a younger sister, Celia, who doesn’t eat properly; she refers to Celia]

Celia will start to get upset if she has to eat cabbage or meat like chicken breast. My
mum will say, ‘Just try it’. And she’ll start shaking her head and going, ‘No. I don’t want
to’. Mum will put it near her mouth and she’ll start to cough.

Will is also used to talk about repeated behaviour which the speaker does not like or
approve of. Will is normally stressed here:

He will leave his clothes all over the floor. It drives me mad. (stronger than He leaves his
clothes all over the floor.)

Inanimate objects (things)

Will may be used to refer to inanimate objects and how they respond to humans, most
typically in the negative form won’t:

The car won’t start.

The door won’t open. It’s stuck.

Will and shall

We use will for all persons, but we often use shall with I and we. Will (’ll) is generally less
formal than shall when used with I and we:

Simply complete the form and return it to me, and I shall personally reserve your hotel
room for you.

We shall look at a full report from the centre.

We’ll see you in the morning.

Shall also has a special legal use for talking about rules and laws. In these cases, we often
use it with third-person subjects:

According to the basic principle of human rights, people shall not be discriminated against
because of their nationality, race, age, sex, religion, occupation and social status.

Shall and will are both used to talk about intentions and decisions. Shall is more formal
than will.

I’ll see you later. I won’t be late. informal

I shall see you later. I shan’t be late. formal

Spoken English:

In speaking ’ll is much more common than will and shall.

Will is much more common than shall in both speaking and writing.

See also:
 Would or will?

Will: typical error

 We use will or ’ll to express intentions or decisions, or to make offers, not the present

I’ll never go to her house again.

Not: I never go to her house again.

I’ll help you with that suitcase.

Not: I help you with that suitcase.