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.
1. GENERAL TRUTHS, SCIENTIFIC FACTS…
- Pilots fly aircraft.
- Vegetarians don’t eat meat.
1. UNFINISHED ACTIONS AT THE TIME OF SPEAKING
- Peter is now flying his aircraft.
- What are you eating? It looks good.
2. UNCHANGING SITUATIONS
- 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
- 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.
3. HABITS, ROUTINES
- I usually fly in Europe.
- I fly to Spain twice a week.
- I always use both traditional charts and SAT NAV devices when flying.
3a. TEMPORARY HABITS
- 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.
3b. ANNOYING HABITS
- You’re always using my compass. Can’t you buy one ?
- It’s constantly raining in this country ! We can never go flying !
4. TALKING ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS IN A MOVIE, A BOOK, A PLAY
- 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
- 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
- The English course starts at 9.00 am.
- The air show ends tonight.
5. FUTURE PLANS (SET BY YOURSELF)
- I’m starting my English classes tomorrow morning.
- We’re attending an air show in Marseille 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”).