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English grammar explanations (present simple).

Understanding present simple.

The basics - structure:

The structure of the verb in presente simple is usually the same as the form of the infinitive in all persons except for the third person singular (he/she/it). In third person singular we add an "s" or "es":

I work, you work, she/he/it/ works, we work, they work.
I go, you go, she/he/it goes, we go, they go.

With verbs that end in a consonant + "y", we change the "y" for "i" and add "es" in the 3rd person singular:

she/he/it cries (from the verb: "cry")

See how forming plurals in English follow similar rules...

The verb "to be" has its own rules:

I am, you are, she/he/it is, we are, they are.

And so does the verb "to have":

I have, you have, she/he/it has, we have, they have.


Question forms in present simple:

Questions in the present simple usually require an auxiliary. The auxiliary we use is "do". The auxiliary comes before the subject of the verb. The main verb is always in the infinitive form without to:

Do you like pizza?
Do John and Mary go to the cinema often?
Why do you want to sell your house?

Auxiliary "do" changes to "does" in the third person singular:

Does she cry a lot?
Does the sun shine a lot in Spain?
Does studying English make you tired?
Where does she come from?

In questions with "do", the person used is seen in the auxiliary, not in the verb:

Does Steve go shopping on Thursdays?
and not: Do Steve goes shopping on Thursdays?      top arrow

Verb "to be".

The verb "to be" does not use auxiliary "do" or "does" to make questions in English. There is just inversion between "be" and the subject:

Are you from the UK?
Is there a chemist near here?
Are John and Mary at home?
When are the shops open?      top arrow

Verb "to have"

The verb "to have" is peculiar. When it refers to possession, it can make questions with or without the auxiliary "do":

Have you a pen I can borrow for a moment?+ (Or, "Have you got a pen...?" - spoken English)
Do you have a pen I can borrow for a moment?

+"Have you?" is quite formal and more common in written English. "Have you got?" is used in colloquial English, especially British English. "Do you have?" can be heard and seen in spoken and written English; it is used more or less depending on the speaker's origin.

But if the meaning is not "possession", then "to have" must use the auxiliary "do" or "does" in questions:

Do you have a shower every morning?* (not, Have you a shower...)
Does John have lunch in the cafeteria?** (not, Has John lunch...)
Do you have a holiday at Christmas?*** (not, Have you a holiday...)

*"Have" = to shower.
**"Have" = to eat.
***"Have" = to take.

"Have" as an auxiliary verb always takes inversion:

Have you had enough to eat? (as auxiliary verb)
Has John had a haircut recently?

Omission of auxiliary "do" / "does".

Sometimes a verb that normally takes the auxiliaries "do" o "does" for questions is used without the auxiliary. See examples of the omission of the auxiliary in questions...      top arrow

Negative forms:

The negative of the verb in present simple uses "do + not" (do not = "don't" in informal and spoken English) or "does + not" (doesn't) (in third person singular) with most verbs. Again, the infinitive follows the auxiliary do:

We don't often go on holiday; we don't like going abroad.
It doesn't rain much in Seville in summer.
John and Mary don't drive.
Don't you want any more cake? No, thank you, I don't.
Doesn't Steve study English? No, he doesn't.

As with the question forms, there are structure differences with the verbs "to be" and "to have". The verb "to be" does not use the auxiliary ever; it combines with "not" only:

I'm not Spanish, I'm English.
You aren't a very happy person, are you?
We aren't a member of that club. Are you? No, I'm not either.
Mary and John aren't in the Yellow Pages.      top arrow

Verb "to be" negative.

In fact, there are usually two ways to form the negative in the contracted form of the verb "to be" - either with the subject or with "not", with no difference in meaning:

I am not = I'm not (but not "I amn't")
you are not = you're not OR you aren't
he/she/it is not = he's/she's/it's not OR he/she/it isn't
we are not = we're not OR we aren't
they are not = they're not OR they aren't
Mary is not = Mary's not OR Mary isn't.

As with the question forms, the verb "to have" possesses two negative forms; with or without the auxiliary:

I haven't (got) any food in the house OR I don't have any food in the house.
The English don't have a shower in the mornings, they have a bath.

In the first sentence, "have" has a possessive meaning (so it can use both forms) and in the second sentence, the meaning of "have" is not possessive (so it can only take the auxiliary to make a negative).


Present simple - use in real life:

Habitual actions.

Present simple is used to talk about generalities or habitual actions that mention how often they happen or don't happen:

We sometimes have a glass of beer together.
Paco often travels to London on business.
I go to the library on Mondays and Wednesdays.
I never watch football on television. 


Present simple also talks about facts: things that are always true:

The Earth goes round the sun.
Bicycles are used a lot in Amsterdam.
Dogs like chasing cats and cats eat mice.
Carmen is always a very good little girl.


Present simple structure can also be used to talk about the future but usually only in the context of itineraries for travel, for example:

John's flight leaves at 16.00 tomorrow. He returns the next day at 9.00.
The King of Spain is on tour next week. First, he visits London and then he flies to Paris.

Compare with present continuous...

- Exercises on the present simple...
- Using frequency adverbs with the present simple...

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