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Do you know how to make and use the present simple and present continuous? Come with us... we'll tell you all about these two tenses!

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6 Minute Grammar: Tenses

Present continuous and present simple

It's time for 6 Minute Grammar. This week Sophie and Neil explain the present simple and present continuous tenses. Don't forget that you can subscribe to the podcast version.

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Sophie
Hello. Welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Sophie.

Neil
And me, Neil. Hello.

Sophie
Today we’re talking about the present simple tense…

Neil
...and the present continuous tense. Coming up in today’s programme:

Sophie
We’ll take a look at positives, negatives, and question forms…

Neil
We’ll find out when to use each tense…

Sophie
We’ll hear some short forms…

Neil
And we’ll have a quiz to test what we’ve learnt.

Sophie
But first: the present simple tense. We use it to talk about things that happen regularly. Here’s Finn with an example:

Finn
John checks his email every morning.

Sophie
Thanks Finn. So the verb to check is in the present simple – John checks - because he checks his email regularly – every morning.

Neil
We make the present simple with a subject plus a base verb – I check, you go, we live, they wear.

Sophie
For he, she and it, add an s to the verb. Can you demonstrate please Finn?

Finn
I always we­ar a coat in the winter. My brother wears a jacket.

Neil
Now we also use the present simple to talk about facts and permanent situations. So we can say…

Finn
I work in the fashion industry. My sister lives in China.

Sophie
To make the present simple negative, use don’t or doesn’t. And there’s no s on the end of the verb. Finn?

Finn
I don’t work in the modelling industry. My brother doesn’t like fashion.

Neil
For questions, use do or does.

Finn
Do your friends live in London? Does John check his email in the morning?

STING

Neil
So that’s present simple. Now: let’s look at the present continuous tense. [SFX: phone rings] Ooh just a minute, let me get that… [to caller] Hello? Sorry, I’m working at the moment. Can I call you backSorry about that everyone…

Sophie
[bemused] No problem…

Neil
So: I just said I’m working at the moment.

Sophie
Aha! A clever demonstration!

Neil
That’s right – I said I’m working at the moment, because it’s an activity that’s happening now. I can say I work at the BBC in the present simple because my job is a permanent situation. But right now at this moment I’m doing the activity of working, so I use present continuous to say I’m working at the moment.

Sophie
Right. As well as activities, we use the present continuous tense for temporary situations like this:

Finn
My parents are staying with me this week. I’m sleeping on the sofa.

Sophie
Ok. To make the present continuous, use am, is or are plus an i-n-g verb.

Finn
I’m checking my email at the moment. Emily’s wearing a pink hat today. They’re eating dinner now.

Neil
And did you hear those short forms? The words I am are shortened to I’m

Sophie
Emily is
sounds like Emily’s.

Neil
And they are sounds like they’re. We’ll have short forms in just a moment.

IDENT
You’re listening to BBC Learning English.

Neil
And today we’re talking about the present simple tense…

Sophie
… and the present continuous.

Neil
Let’s look at present continuous negatives. We make them with the little word not.

Finn
I’m not wearing a raincoat because it isn’t raining.

Sophie
And here are those short forms again:

Neil
I am not
becomes…

Sophie
I’m not.

Neil
Is not

Sophie
isn’t

Neil
And for are not we get…

Sophie
aren’t.

Finn
I’m not wearing shoes. He isn’t working today. You aren’t watching television.

[SFX: someone tapping keys on keyboard]

Sophie
Umm Neil, are you sending an email?

Neil
Errr - yes… [slightly bewildered] What are we doing? Are we talking about questions?

Sophie
Yes, we are.

Neil
Ooh, sorry – Back to the programme!

Sophie
Aha! Another clever demonstration! I said: Are you sending an email?

Neil
And I said: Are we talking about questions?

Sophie
And of course, we both asked present continuous yes/no questions.

Neil
And to make them, you just change the word order. Instead of You are sending an email, it’s Are you sending an email?

Sophie
And change We are talking about questions to Are we talking about questions?

Neil
It’s fine to put question words like why or what at the start of the question.

Finn
What are we doing? Why are you sending an email?

Neil
So that’s present continuous questions.

Sophie
So that means: it’s time for a quiz. Join in if you like. I’m going to say a sentence and you need to make it negative. Neil will give the answer. Ready? Number 1. Paolo speaks Chinese.

Neil
Paolo doesn’t speak Chinese.

Sophie
Now make this sentence into a yes/no question: The children are playing a game.

Neil
Are the children playing a game?

Sophie
And one more: this time, make a present continuous question starting with why. Simon is learning Japanese.

Neil
Why is Simon learning Japanese?

Sophie
And that’s the end of the quiz – well done if you got them all right.

Neil
And that’s also the end of the programme – but there’s more about these tenses on our website at bbclearningenglish.com.

Sophie
Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.

All
Bye.

Download

You can download 6 Minute Grammar from our Unit 2 downloads page or from our 6 Minute Grammar podcast page. (size 9MB)

Choose the correct verb ending

6 Questions

Select the correct word to complete these questions. The questions are in either the present simple or present continuous tense.

Felicitaciones. Has completado el quiz.
Excellent! ¡Muy bien! Bad luck! Tu puntaje :
x / y

End of Session 2

That's all for this session. You can find more in our grammar reference.

Join us again in Session 3 where you'll practise using these tenses. You'll also hear an interview with fashion designer Tom Ford.

Sesión de gramática

  • Present Simple

    We use the present simple tense for: things that we do regularly, facts, habits, truths and permanent situations

    Example
    I check 
    my email every day. (regular activity)

    Present Continuous

    We use the present continuous tense for: things that are happening at the time we are speaking, temporary situations and activities that are in progress

    Example
    Just a minute. I'm checking my email. (now)

Sesión de vocabulario

  • scruffy
    not neat or clean

    casual
    informal and comfortable

    smart
    nice and stylish

    formal
    old-fashioned and serious

    fashionable
    new and popular