Tim's Day: Using the Present Simple for ESL Students

A reading passage helps English learners use this tense

Businessman driving car
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The reading-comprehension passage below focuses on the present simple tense to describe habits and daily work routines. The present simple is typically one of the first verb tenses that new English students learn. It is used to describe action that takes place on a regular basis. The present simple also can be used to express feelings, facts, opinion, and time-based events.

The passage describes the daily routine and work habits of "Tim," a typical worker in a central California city. Use the passage to help students better understand what is the present simple tense and how to use it.

Before Reading the Passage

Prepare students before they read the passage by explaining when to use the present simple tense and how to conjugate verbs in this tense. Explain that in English, you use the present simple to describe what you (or others) do every day. You also use verbs of frequency (such as always, sometimes, and usually) to indicate a habit.

Ask students to tell you some things they do every day, such as setting the alarm before going to bed, waking up at a certain time each morning, eating breakfast, and traveling to work or school. Write their answers on the white board. Then explain that the present simple tense can be expressed in three ways: positive, negative, or as a question, for example:

  • I eat lunch at noon.
  • I never play tennis at noon.
  • Does he walk to school every day?

Tell students that they'll be reading a story about "Tim," a worker who does a number of things regularly in getting ready for work, traveling to work, and performing his duties. Then read the story as a class, having students each read a sentence or two.

Tim's Story

Tim works for a company in Sacramento. He's a customer service representative. He gets up at 6 o'clock a.m. each workday. He drives to work and begins his job at 8 o'clock each morning.

During the workday, Tim speaks to people on the telephone to help them with their banking problems. People telephone the bank to ask questions about their accounts. Tim doesn't give information about accounts until callers answer a few questions. Tim asks callers their birth date, the last four digits of their Social Security number, and their address. If a person gives incorrect information, Tim asks him to call back with the correct information.

Tim is polite and friendly to everyone. He has lunch in a park next to his office. He returns home at 5 o'clock in the evening. After work, he goes to the gym to work out. Tim has dinner at 7 o'clock. Tim likes watching TV after dinner. He goes to bed at 11 o'clock at night.

Follow-Up Questions and Answers

To extend the lesson, have students answer the following questions:

  • What time does Time get up each workday? (6 o'clock a.m.)
  • What time does he begin his day at work each day? (8 a.m.)
  • What are some of the duties Tim performs each day? (Tim verifies callers' personal information. He answers questions from callers about their accounts. He is polite with each caller.)
  • What time does Tim turn out the lights each night? (11 p.m.)

Have students tell you a few more things Tim does each day as you complete your lesson on the present simple tense.