Present Simple Vs Present Continuous: The Difference Explained With Examples

Present Simple vs Present Continuous! What’s the difference? A commonly asked question, right? Well, out of the four types of the present tense in English grammar, these two tenses are commonly confused. They are the Present Simple Tense and the Present Continuous Tense.

Present Simple Vs Present Continuous: Explanation

In English grammar, present simple tense is used to express:

  • habits and routines
  • general truths
  • situations that are always true

For example, I go to school every day.

On the other hand, the present continuous tense expresses:

  • actions in progress
  • ongoing situations
  • unfinished events

For example, She is reading a book.

To make things more confusing certain verbs are used in both present simple and continuous tenses like to be or to have.

For example, I am at home.
I’m at home right now.

Here is a graphic to help you remember the two tenses:

The Present Simple With Examples

Here are some examples of the present simple tense:

  • I live here.
  • He lives here.
  • We live here.
  • They live here.
  • There are 20 students in our class and they all live here in London with their families because they don’t want to move somewhere else when they finish high school.
  • John drives a black car.
  • Catherine sings very well.
  • We eat hot dogs every day at lunchtime.

The Present Continuous With Examples

Here are some examples of the present continuous tense:

  • She’s writing a novel.
  • I am reading a book now.
  • It is raining outside.
  • Are you eating your vegetables?
  • John is driving his new black car.

Pro Tip: We use the present continuous to talk about things happening now, especially those that are ongoing (e.g. I’m studying English grammar right now).

Examples Of Present Simple And Present Continuous Tenses In Action

Present Simple – She walks to work.
Present Continuous – She is walking to work.

In English, we often make a distinction between the present simple tense and present continuous tense in conversation.
To further explain, present simple tense describes something that happens in a general sense while the present continuous tense describes something that is happening right now.

For example, if you said, John walks home, you are indicating that generally speaking, he does walk home. Hence, the present simple tense.
The present tense verb forms walk, drives, etc. are normally used as verbs of motion, as in:

  • I drive to my brother’s house every morning.
  • He walks to school every day.

Present continuous (or progressive), on the other hand, always deals with an action happening at that time. This includes things like:

  • I am eating lunch = The action of eating lunch is being carried out at that moment by me.
  • I am having breakfast = The action of having breakfast is being carried out by me.
  • They are watching TV = The action of watching TV is being carried out by them.

If you said, John is walking home, you are indicating that John started walking home at some point and he might be doing it right now. Hence, the present continuous tense.

When To Use Either Tense

Use the present simple tense, also called simple present or basic present tense when you want to refer to an action that always or usually happens.
Let’s look at this example:

Jackie sleeps in his dorm room.

Use the present continuous tense when you want to refer to an action that is happening at one moment in time.
Let’s take this example:

Jackie is sleeping.

This sentence indicates that Jackie is sleeping right now.

Present Simple Vs Present Continuous Exercises

Present Simple Exercise

We use the present simple to talk about facts and things that are always true. Select the correct present tense below:

  • The earth _________ around the sun. (goes/ is going)
  • Cows _________ us milk. (give/ are giving)

The present simple is also used for general truths. For further practice, select the correct present tense below:

  • It _________ cold outside today. (is/ was)
  • Planes _________ because of air pressure. (flying/ fly)
  • I _________ in London. (living/ live)
  • You _________ a car. (having/ have)
  • They _________ at Disneyland. (work/ working)

Making Questions And Negative Statements In The Simple Present

We can make questions and negative statements using ‘do’ or ‘does/don’t/don’t do something/anything’ + verb or noun (e.g.: ‘you play football? / you don’t go out on Saturdays? ’)
With verbs like ‘have’, ‘can’ and ‘will’, we normally put another helping verb between ‘do’ and what follows it:

  • She does have / doesn’t have much free time.
  • He doesn’t want another pair of sunglasses.
  • He will try not to be late.
  • Will he reach on time?
  • Do you have any other ideas?

We often omit pronouns when they’re obvious from what has been said before (for example, she doesn’t like him = she doesn’t like him).

  • I can speak Japanese but he can’t.
  • Let’s eat pizza!
Present Continuous Exercise
  • I _________ a new book. (am writing/ write)
  • They _________ to visit family today. (go/ are going)
  • She _________ on her cell phone as we speak. (is talking/ talks)
  • You _________ attention, aren’t you? (pay/ are paying)

For more practice, download this FREE present simple vs present continuous exercise pdf. These present simple vs present continuous worksheets are easy to download, high quality, and perfect to use at home or school.

Present Simple Vs Present Continuous Quiz

Here is a quick FREE practice quiz for you to check your knowledge of Present Simple and Present Continuous tenses.

Books To Learn Tenses


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