Present Simple Tense & Present Continuous Tense

English students often get confused with these two tenses because they have only one present tense in their language.
Here is one way you can remember which one to use: If something is happening now and it’s temporary, we usually use Present Continuous Tense (also called Present Progressive). See my post 8 April, 2013, for a further explanation of Present Continuous.


The little girl is whispering to her friend. Photo by saeed karimi,

Present Simple Tense is not so simple because it doesn’t usually describe actions which are happening now, in the present!

We use Present Simple for:
things that happen once or sometimes, anytime or never: I usually write this blog in the evening or on the weekend. I don’t always have time to write about everything I’m teaching at school.

– facts: I have an English blog. Do you have a blog? I live in Australia. What does ‘We can work it out’ mean? The Sydney Opera House is in Australia. It isn’t in Melbourne.

– descriptions of many types of things: The Gold Coast has several excellent surf beaches. My daughter sings beautifully. My son is tall, clever, and fun to be with. ‘MovieWorld’on The Gold Coast is exciting for all the family. It has lots of amazing rides. Mr Bean is angry with the workers.

– schedules and timetables: Class starts at 9.00am and finishes at 11.15am. The train leaves at 6.00pm. It doesn’t leave late.

-routines and habits: I get up at 6.30am. We eat dinner at 7.30pm most nights. We don’t usually finish before 8.30pm.

Mr. Bean´s daily routine



Present Continuous with Mr Bean

Have you noticed that we often use the BE verb and the HAVE verb for Present Simple because they describe the state or condition of things?

We also often use CAN + Base Infinitive to describe possibilities or abilities and even though this is not Present Simple Tense, it is a very common way to talk about things that CAN happen or be true anytime: My daughter can sing. I can sleep late on Saturday mornings but I can’t sleep late on Sundays.

The Beatles have lots of songs which contain Present Simple and Present Continuous verbs. Songs are often short stories describing past feelings and events and hopes for the future,with strong emphasis on what is happening now. I have written the lyrics (words) for their song, We can work it out,  below and shown the Present Simple verbs in bold and Present Continuous verbs in RED  CAPITALS. Have a look at how CAN is used. Here is the link for a Youtube video.

Song: We Can Work It Out  by THE BEATLES

Verse #1
Try to see it my way.
Do I have to keep on talking till I can’t go on?
While you see it your way,
(You) Run the risk of knowing that our love may soon be gone.

We can work it out. We can work it out.

Verse #2
Think of what you’RE SAYING.
You can get it wrong and still you think that it’s all right.
Think of what I’M SAYING.
We can work it out and get it straight, or say good night.


Life is very short, and there’s no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend.
I have always thought that it’s a crime,
So I will ask you once again.

Verse #3
Try to see it my way.
Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong.
While you see it your way,
There’s a chance that we might fall apart before too long.



Repeat – Verse #3Chorus:

Here are links for other songs containing Present Simple and/or Present Continuous (and other tenses too):

Song: Eight Days a Week by The Beatles (* The phrase in the song: ‘I aint got nothing’ means ‘I don’t have anything’)

Song: Just the Way You are by Bruno Mars

Song: My Heart’s a Stereo by Gym Class Heroes & Adam Levine
I have included this song because the chorus (shown below) is almost completely Present Simple (shown in bold). The singer, Adam Levine, compares his love to music, his heart-beats to musical notes. However, the rap verses are much more difficult to understand so don’t try unless you are an advanced student as they contain a lot of slang and idioms. For advanced students, this whole song is a wonderful example of the use of metaphors.

CHORUS – My heart’s a stereo

My heart’s a stereo.
It beats for you so listen close.
Hear my thoughts in every note.
Make me your radio.
Turn me up when you feel low.
This melody was meant for you.
Just sing along to my stereo.

For more infomation on Present Simple Tense and Present Continuous Tense and practice exercises click here.

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This entry was posted in Elementary (Level 2), Grammar, Listening, Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Songs, Videos and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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