The Simple Present Tense: Actually nothing simple about it at all!

I have a wonderful private student who has mastered all kinds of tricky English tenses like my favorite, the Present Perfect. But the tense that is causing her the most angst is the inaptly labelled Simple Present. It is neither simple nor present. Well the latter is a bit of an exaggeration but only a little. We don't use the Simple Present to describe things happening in the present. We use the Present Progressive for that.

For example: Bridget is eating a huge ice cream cone. If this is something Bridget does everyday we would use the Simple Present: Bridget eats a huge ice cream cone every day and she is getting very fat! Notice I have used both Simple Present and Progressive.

So when exactly do we use the Simple Present? We use it for describing things we do regularly. Nora gets up at 6:30 am. Nancy teaches every Tuesday and Thursday. Amy often goes to car shows at the weekend. We also use it to describe things that are true all the time--or at least most of the time.  Chez Panisse is one of the best restaurants in Berkeley CA. Full moons sometimes cause people to do crazy things. And for personal attributes. Patti has long silky hair. Nick thinks a lot about grammar issues.

And if this weren't tricky enough we also use it for fixed appointments in the future. The future. Yes. You read it correctly. Class starts at 6:30 p.m. The meeting begins at 4:00

Not to mention the 3rd personal singular S. Poor English learners have to remember to add that. No wonder they are confused! I hope you now have lots of sympathy for your non native English speaking friends

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