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Present Simple vs Present Continuous

BestWebIt English course

Cambridge. Advanced Grammar in Use.

present simple vs present continuous

Unit 1

1. A. We use the Present Simple to describe things that are always true, or situations that exist now and, as far as we know, will go on indefinitely:

It takes me five minutes to get to school.
Trees grow more quickly in summer than in winter.
Liz plays the violin brilliantly.

1. B. To talk about particular actions or events that have begun but have not ended at the time of speaking, we use the Present Continuous:

The car isn't starting again.
'Who are you phoning?' 'I'm trying to get through to Joan.'
The shop is so inefficient that many customers are taking their business elsewhere.

We often use time expressions such as at the moment, at present, currently, just, and still to emphasise that the action or event is happening now:

'Have you done the shopping?' I'm just going.'

Notice that the action or event may not be going on at the time of speaking:

The police are talking to a number of people about the robbery.

1. C. We use the Present Simple to talk about habits or things that happen on a regular basis:

I leave work at 5.30 most days.
Each July we go to Turkey for a holiday.

However, when we describe repeated actions or events that are happening at or around the time of speaking, we use the present continuous:

Why are you jumping up and down?
I'm hearing a lot of good reports about your work these days.

We can use the present continuous or the present simple to describe something that we regularly do at a particular time. Compare:

We usually watch the news on TV at 9.00. (= we start watching at 9.00)
We're usually watching the news on TV at 9.00. (= we're already watching at 9.00)

1. D. We use the Present Continuous to imply that a situation is or may be temporary. Compare:

Banks lend money to make a profit, (this is what usually happens)
Banks are lending more money (these days) to encourage businesses to expand, (implies a temporary arrangement)
She teaches Maths in a school in Bonn, (a permanent arrangement)
She's teaching Maths in a school in Bonn, (implies that this is not, or may not be, permanent)

1. E. We often use the Present Simple with verbs that perform the action they describe:

I admit I can't see as well as I used to. (= an admission)
I refuse to believe that he didn't know the car was stolen. (= a refusal)

Other verbs like this (sometimes called performative verbs) include accept, acknowledge, advise, apologise, assume, deny, guarantee, hope, inform, predict, promise, recommend, suggest, suppose, warn.

We can use modals with performative verbs to make what we say more tentative or polite:

I would advise you to arrive two hours before the flight leaves.
I'm afraid I have to inform you that your application for funding has been turned down.

Unit 2

2. A. We often prefer to use the present simple rather than the present continuous with verbs describing states:

I really enjoy travelling.
The group currently consists of five people, but we hope to get more members soon.

Other common state verbs include agree, assume, believe, belong to, contain, cost, disagree, feel, hate, have, hope, know, like, look, love, own, prefer, realise, regret, resemble, smell, taste.

However, we can use the present continuous with some state verbs when we want to emphasise that a situation is temporary, for a period of time around the present. Compare:

I consider him to be extremely fortunate. (This is my view) and
I'm considering taking early retirement. (This is something I'm thinking about now)

The children love having Jean stay with us. (They love it when Jean stays) and
The children are loving having Jean stay with us. (Jean is staying with us now)

With some verbs used to describe a temporary state (e.g. ache, feel, hurt, look (= seem)), there is little difference in meaning when we use the present simple and present continuous:

What's the matter with Bill? He looks / is looking awful.

When have has a non-state meaning - for example when it means 'eat', 'undergo', 'take' or 'hold' - we can use the present continuous:

'What's that terrible noise?' 'The neighbours are having a party.

We use the present continuous when we talk about changes, developments, and trends:

The growing number of visitors is damaging the footpaths.
I'm beginning to realise how difficult it is to be a teacher.

2. B. When we tell a story or joke we often describe the main events using the present (or past) simple and longer, background events using the present (or past) continuous:

She goes (or went) up to this man and looks (or looked) straight into his eyes. She's carrying (or was carrying) a bag full of shopping...

We can also use the present simple and present continuous like this in commentaries (for example, on sports events) and in giving instructions:

King serves to the left hand court and Adams makes a wonderful return. She's playing magnificent tennis in this match...

You hold the can in one hand. Right, you're holding it in one hand; now you take off the lid with the other.

2. C. When we want to emphasise that something is done repeatedly, we can use the present continuous with words like always, constantly, continually, or forever. Often we do this when we want to show that we are unhappy about it, including our own behaviour:

They're constantly having parties until the early hours of the morning.

We use the past continuous in the same way:

He was forever including me in his crazy schemes.

2. D. The present simple is used to report what we have heard or what we have read:

• This newspaper article explains why unemployment has been rising so quickly.

We also use the present simple in spoken English in phrases such as I gather, I hear, I see, and I understand to introduce news that we have heard, read or seen (e.g. on television):

• I gather you're worried about the new job? • The Prince is coming to visit, and I hear he's very rich.


resourse list:

English Grammar Online. Exercises.