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What Is the Simple Present?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2016
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The simple present is a verb tense used in English that expresses the idea that a certain action is occurring in the present, often used with actions or states of being that are ongoing or reoccurring. This particular tense can also indicate that some action began in the past and continues into the present, unlike past tense verbs that indicate an action began and ended in the past. Some uses of the simple present can also indicate that an action is going to continue to happen into the future, but that it is also going on in the present as well.

In English, there are four different forms of the present tense, all of which are used in some way to indicate that an action is occurring in the present time. One of the most basic and simple forms of the present tense is the simple present, upon which the other three forms all expand. The simple present can be created by using a subject and then using an appropriate verb that is in the basic present tense form.

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For regular verbs in English, this is typically formed simply by using the verb itself for first, second, and third person plural, and adding an "-s" to the end of it for third person singular. Examples of the simple present in first person include "I run" and "I jump." In second person, or third person plural, this tense is formed in much the same way such as "You run" or "They jump," while in third person singular, an "-s" is typically added to the end: "He runs" or "She jumps."

The simple present is used to express an action that is ongoing or reoccurring, as it indicates that something is happening in the present though it is not necessarily happening in the immediate moment of the statement. "I run everyday" indicates an ongoing action extended into the present, though the speaker may not be running in that particular moment. "You jump every time I sneeze" indicates an action that is reoccurring, though it is not necessarily happening in that instant. "They dance together every Friday" indicates ongoing actions that continue into the present and implies that the action is likely to continue into the future as well.

This tense can also be used to indicate scheduled events in the near future, like the departure of a flight or the start of a party. In this case, the statement is phrased as "The plane leaves at 6 p.m. tonight," or, "The class starts at 8:00 tomorrow morning."

Other forms of the present tense often spring from the simple present, though they can express more complicated ideas. The present progressive, for example, indicates an action is happening in that moment, such as "I am jumping." Present perfect tense is used to indicate that something has happened in the present that is a change of condition when compared to the past, such as "I have learned about the present tense." The present perfect progressive, which is quite a bit more complicated than the simple present, indicates that something has been happening in the past and continues to happen, such as "I have been running for hours."

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