Part 1: Using the right tense

Part 1: Using the right tense

When do we use the Present Simple ? When do we use the Present Continuous ?

See below the different uses with example situations for each tense.

Remember:

  • Present Simple: I fly, she flies…
  • Present Continuous: I’m flying, she’s flying…

PRESENT SIMPLE

1. GENERAL TRUTHS, SCIENTIFIC FACTS…

Example situations

  • Pilots fly aircraft.
  • Vegetarians don’t eat meat.

PRESENT CONTINUOUS

1. UNFINISHED ACTIONS AT THE TIME OF SPEAKING

Example situations

  • Peter is now flying his aircraft.
  • What are you eating? It looks good.

Commonly used with time markers such as now, at the moment…

See part 3 of this unit for more information on time markers

2. UNCHANGING SITUATIONS

Example conversation

  • Sarah: What do you do (for a living), Peter?
  • Peter: I work as a first officer for a national airline. I’m German and I live in Berlin.

2. TEMPORARY SITUATIONS

Example conversation

  • Sarah: Are you working at the moment, Peter?
  • Peter: Yes, I’m currently working as a first officer for a low cost airline. I’m living in Germany until I find a job in the UK.

Commonly used with at the moment, these days …

3. HABITS, ROUTINES

Example situations

  • I usually fly in Europe.
  • I fly to Spain twice a week.

Commonly used with frequency markers such as sometimes, often, each weekend, twice a month

See part 3 of this unit for more information on frequency markers

Example situation

  • I always use both traditional charts and SAT NAV devices when flying.

3a. TEMPORARY HABITS

Example situations

  • I’m flying a lot to Germany these days, so I’m speaking German a lot
  • Sarah is exhausted. She’s studying a lot this month.

Commonly used with at the moment, these days…

3b. ANNOYING HABITS

Example situations

  • You’re always using my compass. Can’t you buy one ?
  • It’s constantly raining in this country ! We can never go flying !

commonly used with always, forever, constantly…

4. TALKING ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS IN A MOVIE, A BOOK, A PLAY

Example situation

  • Finally, the captain successfully ditches in the river.
  • During a flight from Orlando to Atlanta, something gos wrong and the plane starts to fly erratically.

4. TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE IN PICTURES AND PHOTOS

Example situation

  • The pilot is preparing the flight. He’s filling in the flight plan.
  • The aircraft is landing on a grass runway.

5. FUTURE EVENTS FROM TIMETABLES, SCHEDULES SET BY AN ORGANISATION (NOT BY US) FOR COURSES, MOVIES, EVENTS

Example situations

  • The English course starts at 9.00 am.
  • The air show ends tonight.

Commonly used with tomorrow, tonight, at 8.00 pm…

5. FUTURE PLANS (SET BY YOURSELF)

Example situations

  • I’m starting my English classes tomorrow morning.
  • We’re attending an air show in Marseille next weekend.

Commonly used with tomorrow, tonight, at 8.00 pm, next weekend

NOTE THESE TIPS ABOUT SPECIFIC USES OF PRESENT TENSES

1. We also use the Present Simple to express a future time in a time clause.

Example situation

  • I’ll be able to fly abroad when I have my FCL.055 certificate ( NOT “When I will have…)

 

This example sentence has 2 parts or clauses.

  • “I’ll be able to fly abroad” is the main part or main clause and has a future simple verb form.
  • “when I have my FCL.055 certificate” is the time clause (or when-part in this case) and has a Present Simple verb form.

2. Some verbs are not usually used in continuous tenses !

Firstly, remember that a continuous tense is formed with the auxiliary “be” in any tense (past, present, future) + the ING form of the verb.

Example situations

  • The passengers were getting on the plane. 
  • They are now flying to Scotland.
  • This afternoon, they will be driving to Edinburg.

 

Secondly, you need to know that verbs in English can be classified into two main categories:

    • – dynamic verbs, also called action verbs as we use them to describe actions
    • – stative verbs, which we use to describe states

 

States are normally permanent or long-lasting.

Consequently, we normally don’t use stative verbs in continuous tenses.

That’s why these verbs are also called non-continuous verbs.

Example situations

  • He’s a reliable person. I believe him     (and not “I am believing”)
  • He prefers Boeing to Airbus (and not “he is preferring”).

 

We use stative or non-continuous verbs to talk about

  • thoughts, with verbs such as know, understand, mean, believe, realize, regret, remember, suppose, think (have an opinion), recommend, suggest, promise, apologize
  • emotions with verbs such as like, dislike, love, hate, detest, prefer, want, need
  • possession with verbs such as have, own, include, contain, belong, consist
  • other states with verbs such as be, seem, sound, appear
  • senses* with verbs such as hear, smell, see, taste (and which are usually used with can, e.g. “Can you hear me ?”, “I can’t see you”).