Verbs in Simple Present Tense

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Nordquist, Richard. "Verbs in Simple Present Tense." ThoughtCo, May. 8, 2017, thoughtco.com/simple-present-tense-verbs-1691960. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, May 8). Verbs in Simple Present Tense. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/simple-present-tense-verbs-1691960 Nordquist, Richard. "Verbs in Simple Present Tense." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/simple-present-tense-verbs-1691960 (accessed September 25, 2017).
simple present tense
Use the simple present tense to express general statements of fact or habitual activities or events. Despite its name, the simple present doesn't necessarily mean that the action is taking place now. (hh5800/Getty Images)

In English grammar, the simple present tense is a form of the verb that refers to an action or event that is ongoing or that regularly takes place in present time. For example, in the sentence "he cries easily," the verb "cries" is an ongoing action that he easily does. 

Except in the case of the word "be," the simple present is represented in English by either the base form of the verb like in "I sing" or the base form plus the third-person singular "-s" inflection as in "She sings." A verb in the simple present tense can appear alone as the main verb in a sentence; this finite verb form is called "simple" because it doesn't involve aspect.

In English grammar, there are seven accepted functions of the usage of the simple present for of verbs: to express permanent states, general truths, habitual actions, live commentary, performative actions, past time or historic present, and future time.

Basic Meanings of the Simple Present

There are a variety of uses for the simple present in verb conjugation, but mostly it serves to keep the sentence structure itself grounded in the events happening presently, or as they relate to the here and now.

Michael Pearce's "The Rutledge Dictionary of English Language Studies" expertly lays out the seven commonly accepted functions of the simple present form of verbs:

1) Permanent state: Jupiter is a very massive planet.
2) General truth: The earth is round.
3) Habitual action: Her daughter works in Rome.
4) 'Live' commentary: In each case I add the two numbers: three plus three gives six . . ..
5) Performative: pronounce you man and wife.
6) Past time (see historic present): He moves to the window alongside, and sees her inside the office moving away from the door. He shoots twice through the window and kills her.
7) Future time: My flight leaves at four thirty this afternoon."

In each of these cases, the simple present serves to keep the verb form in the here and now, even when referring to past or future actions, the sentence is grounded in the present by these verbs, but there are more ways than one to express the present.

Simple Present Versus Present Progressive

As far as English grammar goes, the simple present does not fully function in describing ongoing events and instead the present progressive form of a verb must be used, although the simple present may be accepted colloquially to entail an ongoing action.

Laura A. Michaelis describes this relationship through the example of the verb "falls" in "Aspectual Grammar and Past Time Reference," wherein she says "present-tense event predications, if intended as reports upon circumstances ongoing at present, must appear in the present progressive." In the instance of "he falls," then, the verb may be interpreted as habitual, but it would be better to use "he is falling" instead.

Using the present progressive, therefore, is more correct than using the simple progressive when stating something as ongoing rather than habitual.