Tenses (1) – the present

There are two present tenses in English: the simple present and the present continuous or progressive.

Present continuous

This uses the appropriate form of the verb ‘to be’ followed by the infinitive + –ing. This -ing form is called the present participle (sometimes also the active, imperfect or progressive participle). I am working you, we, they are working he, she, it is working

Negative form

The negative form is made by adding the word ‘not’ between the part of the verb ‘to be’ and the present participle: I am not working you, we they are not working he, she it, is not working

Interrogative (question) form

This is made by reversing the order of the personal pronoun and verb: It is raining? -> Is it raining? You are working -> Are you working?

Simple present

This is formed from the infinitive of the verb, with an ‘s’ added in the third person singular (he, she, it): I, you, we, they work he, she, it works The negative form is made by adding ‘do not’ between the person and the verb. I, you, we, they do not work (this can be shortened to don’t in informal or spoken English) In addition, in the third person singular, we need to modify the endings of the verbs. ‘Do’ is the main verb in this sentence and takes the third-person singular form, ‘does’. ‘Work’ is now an auxiliary verb and loses the ‘s’. he, she, it does not work The imperative (command) form uses the verb without a personal pronoun: Go to bed! Please take a seat. Negative commands are made by inserting ‘do not’ before the verb. (Please) do not walk on the grass. Do not worry! / Don’t worry! Note to Japanese readers in particular: in English, it’s usual to add ‘please’ only when asking people to do something that may be inconvenient to them, or in more official situations. (Note that the ‘please’ is sometimes left off for reasons of space on signs.) Please wait here. Please take a seat. (Please) do not walk on the grass./(Please) keep off the grass. If you are using the imperative form to tell people to do something that they are likely to enjoy or benefit from, particularly in an informal situation, it’s much less common to add the ‘please’: Have a nice time! Have fun! Enjoy yourself! Feel free to ask if you need anything. (Please) help yourself to drinks and cake.

Interrogative (question) form

This is formed by adding the correct form of the verb ‘to do’ before the verb. You like ice-cream. -> Do you like ice-cream? For the third-person singular, ‘to do’ takes the form ‘does’ and what becomes the auxiliary verb loses its ‘s’ or ‘es’: It works. -> Does it work?

What is the difference between the two forms?

The present continuous is used for short-term or temporary states and changing situations: 1. What are you doing? I’m writing a report. 2. My car is making a strange noise. 3. The weather is getting better. 4. The world’s population is increasing. 5. Prices are increasing. The simple present is used for permanent or long-term states and things which occur repeatedly or frequently. 1. The earth revolves around the sun. 2. The JR Tohoku Line runs through Sendai. 3. We are Japanese. 4. I come to work by bus / I usually come to work by bus. 5. I play tennis every Wednesday. 6. Do you smoke? Some verbs are only normally used in the simple present form. Many of these are verbs describing thoughts, memories or feelings (believe, forget, remember, understand, like, love, hate, need, prefer, suppose, want, realise), but there are several others, too: belong, contain, matter, own. 1. Don’t worry – it doesn’t matter. 2. Do you remember your first day at school? 3. Do you realise that it is three years since we came here last? 4. I need some help. 5. I like milk but I hate cheese. 6. This pen belongs to me.

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