Part 3: Simple or Continuous? Time markers can help.

Part 3: Simple or Continuous? Time markers can help you.

Should I say “I fly” or “I’m flying” when I want to say how frequently I do it ?

Should I say “I read” or “I’m reading” when I want to talk about that book I like so much?

Some words and expressions are also called markers and can help you choose the right tense.

Indeed, some of those markers are normally used with the Present Simple, while others can only be used with the Present Continuous as shown in the example situations below.

  • We fly in Normandy four times a year.
  • We are now flying over the Normandy coastline.

When we say “four times a year”, we say how frequently we fly, and we use the Present Simple form “we fly”.

When we use “now”, we refer to things in progress while we are talking and we use the Present Continuous form “We are flying”.

See below key time markers we typically use with each aspect (Simple or Continuous) of the Present tense.



You learned in Part 1 of this unit that we use the Present Simple to talk about habits and routines.

We often say how frequently those habits and routines happen.

To inform on the frequency of a habit or routine, we use frequency markers.

These frequency markers can be adverbs such as always, mostly, mainly, usually, traditionally, typically, normally, generally, often, sometimes, occasionally, seldom, hardly ever, rarely and never. 

Where do we commonly place frequency adverbs in the sentence?

See the possible positions below:

a. in mid position, i.e.

– before the main verb : subject + (do/don’t, does/ doesn’t) + adverb + main verb

Example situations:

    • Peter often flies to Corsica.
    • Does he often fly in Scotland?
    •  We don’t often fly in the north of France.

after I am, you are, he is, she is, it is (+ not) and Am I /Are you/Is he, is she, is it ?

Example situations:

  • Sarah is never late at work.
  • You’re not always punctual, are you ?
  • Is / isn’t she often stressed before flying ?

b. But we can also put some of these adverbs* in first position or in end position to make them stronger.

Example situations:

  • Sometimes, they meet at the flying club to talk about their students;
  • Occasionally, I go flying with my children.
  • We don’t speak English frequently.

*usually, often, frequently, sometimes and occasionally

We can also express definite frequency by using

  • adverbs such as hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly…Example situations
    • The flight instructors meet weekly.
    • She speaks English daily in her current job.
  • expressions such as
    • many times a day, four times a year (= many/ several / a number * + times + a + period of time), once a day, twice a week…
    • every day, every Monday afternoon, every week (= every + period of time)
    • every two weeks, every five years, every three days (= every + number + period of time)
    • on Wednesdays, at weekends (or on weekends in American English)
    • in the evening, at 7.30 am
    • once in a while, from time to time, every now and then… 

    Example situations :

    • He likes to fly in the morning.
    • The English course starts at 9.30 am.

See where we can place those definite frequency markers in the English sentence .

a. in end position

Example situations:

  • The flight attendants meet weekly.
  • The flight instructors meet twice a month.

b. in first position to make them stronger.

Example situations:

  • Twice a month, all flight instructors meet at the Flying Club to share experiences.
  • Daily, Peter contacts his students and answers their questions.

When we talk about an event set in a timetable, we use a time marker to indicate when it is scheduled.

Example situations:

  • The simulator session starts at 9.00.
  • The air show ends Sunday evening.



You learned in Part 1 of this unit about the different uses of the Present Continous

When we talk about things happening at or around the time of speaking, we use

time adverbs such as now, currently, presently, nowadays, still….

time expressions such as at the moment, these days, this year…

imperative verb forms such as Look ! Listen


Example situations

  • Peter is currently flying in the UK.
  • The ATC is giving instructions to the pilot of the A319 at the moment.
  • Look, the A380 is taking off.

When we talk about future planned events, we use time markers such as tonight, next weekend, tomorrow…

Example situations

  • Where are you flying next weekend ?
  • We’re moving to Glasgow next month.
  • They’re flying to Porto tomorrow.

When we talk about annoying habits, we use frequency markers such as always, constantly, forever

Example situations:

  • She is constantly asking for money.
  • I’m always forgetting my passwords.

See where we place those time markers in the English sentence

a. in end position

Example situations

  • We’re flying to London tomorrow.
  • I’m leaving later today.
  • I’m flying for a national airline at the moment.
  • I’m flying a lot these days.

b. in first position to give a different emphasis.

Example situations

  • At the moment, I’m flying for a national airline.
  • Tonight I’m flying in Lille.

c. in formal writing, before the main verb in the ING form.

Example situations

  • I am currently flying for a national airline.
  • I am now flying for a national airline.