Simple Tenses in English

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Simple tenses in English are used to make basic statements about habits, events that happened or will happen in the future. 

Present Simple

The present simple is used to express daily routines and habits. Adverbs of frequency such as 'usually', 'sometimes', 'rarely', etc. are often used with the present simple.

This tense is often used with the following time expressions including adverbs of frequency:

always, usually, sometimes, etc.
... every day
... on Sundays, Tuesdays, etc.

Positive

Subject + Present Tense + object(s) + time Expression

Frank usually takes a bus to work.
I cook dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.
They play golf on Weekends.

Negative

Subject + do / does + not (don't / doesn't) + verb + object(s) + time Expression

They don't often go to Chicago.
He doesn't drive to work.
You don't usually get up so early.

Question

(Question Word) + do / does + subject + verb + object(s) + time Expression

  • How often do you play golf?

When does she leave for work?
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The present simple is also used about facts that are always true.

The sun rises in the east.
Dinner costs $20.
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The present simple can also be used to speak about scheduled events even if those events are in the future:

The train leaves at six o'clock.
It doesn't begin until eight p.m. 
The plane lands at four thirty.

If you are a teacher, here is a guide on how to teach the present simple.

The present simple is also used in future time clauses to say when something will take place:

We will have lunch when they arrive next week.
What will you do after he makes his decision?
They won't know the answer before she comes next Tuesday.

Past Simple

The past simple is used to express something that happened a past point in time. Remember to always use a past time expression, or a clear contextual clue when using the past simple. If you do not indicate when something happened, use the present perfect for unspecified past.

This tense is often used with the following time expressions:

... ago
... in + year / month
...yesterday
...last week / month / year...
when ....

Positive

Subject + Past Tense + object(s) + time Expression

I went to the doctor's yesterday.
She bought a new car last week.
They played tennis when they were in high school.

Negative

Subject + did + not (didn't) + verb + object(s) + time Expression

They didn't join us for dinner last week.
He didn't attend the meeting.
I didn't finish the report two weeks ago.

Question

(Question Word) + did + subject + verb + object(s) + time Expression

When did you buy that pullover?
How often did you drive to Los Angeles?
Did they study for the test yesterday?

If you are a teacher, use this guide on how to teach the past simple tense for more help.

Future Simple

The future with 'will' is used to make future predictions and promises. Often the precise moment the action will occur is unknown or not defined.

The future simple is also used to react to situations that happen at the moment.

This tense is often used with the following time expressions:

... soon
... next month / year / week

Positive

Subject + will + verb + object(s) + time Expression

The government will increase taxes soon.
She will give a presentation next week.
They will pay for the course in three weeks. 

Negative

Subject + will not (won't) + verb + object(s) + time Expression

She won't help us much with the project.
I won't help him with that problem.
We won't buy that car.

Question

(Question Word) + will + subject + verb + object(s) + time Expression

Why will they reduce taxes?
When will this film end?
Where will he stay next week?

If you are a teacher, use this guide on how to teach future forms for more help.