English Grammar Secrets 1

Present Continuous

The present continuous is used to talk about present situations which we see as short-term or temporary. We use the present simple to talk about present situations which we see as long-term or permanent.

In these examples, the action is taking place at the time of speaking.

  • It’s raining.
  • Who is Kate talking to on the phone?
  • Look, somebody is trying to steal that man’s wallet.
  • I’m not looking. My eyes are closed tightly.

In these examples, the action is true at the present time but we don’t think it will be true in the long term.

  • I’m looking for a new apartment.
  • He’s thinking about leaving his job.
  • They’re considering making an appeal against the judgment.
  • Are you getting enough sleep?

In these examples, the action is at a definite point in the future and it has already been arranged.

  • I’m meeting her at 6.30.
  • They aren’t arriving until Tuesday.
  • We are having a special dinner at a top restaurant for all the senior managers.
  • Isn’t he coming to the dinner?
    Present Simple

    We use the present simple to talk about actions we see as long term or permanent. It is a very common and very important tense.

    Here, we are talking about regular actions or events.

    • They drive to the office every day.
    • She doesn’t come here very often.
    • The news usually starts at 6.00 every evening.
    • Do you usually have bacon and eggs for breakfast?

    Here, we are talking about facts.

    • We have two children.
    • Water freezes at 0° C or 32° F.
    • What does this expression mean?
    • The Thames flows through London.

    Here, we are talking about future facts, usually found in a timetable or a chart.

    • Christmas Day falls on a Monday this year.
    • The plane leaves at 5.00 tomorrow morning.
    • Ramadan doesn’t start for another 3 weeks.
    • Does the class begin at 10 or 11 this week?

    Here, we are talking about our thoughts and feelings at the time of speaking. Although these feelings can be short-term, we use the present simple and not the present continuous.

    • They don’t ever agree with us.
    • I think you are right.
    • She doesn’t want you to do it.
    • Do you understand what I am trying to say
Present Simple or Continuous

We use the Present Simple

      • for regular actions or events
        I watch TV most evenings.
      • facts
        The sun rises in the east
      • facts know about the future
        The plane leaves at 5.00 in the morning.
      • thoughts and feelings about the time of speaking
        I don’t understand.

We use the Present Continuous

      • at the time of speaking (‘now’)
        I’m watching a movie on TV.
      • things which are true at the moment but not always
        I’m looking for a new job.
      • present plans for the future
        I’m taking my husband to New York for his birthday.

Look at these sentences:

      • I usually don’t drink coffee but I’m having one this morning because there is nothing else.
      • I often drive to work but I’m taking the train this morning because my car is in for repair.
      • I’m thinking about dying my hair blonde but I don’t think my wife will be very happy about it.
      • My parents live in New York but I’m just visiting.

Notice how in all these examples we use the present continuous to talk about events which are temporary/limited in time and the present simple to talk about events which are habits/permanent.

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