Present simple vs continuous – Grammar chart
We use the present simple for habits or permanent situations. You can revise the form of the present simple tense here.
Habits or actions that happen regularly
We use the present simple for habits or actions that we repeat regularly:
- I wash my hair every day.
- I never go to the library.
- I go to the library on Saturdays.
Permanent situations or things that are always or often true
- I don’t drink coffee.
- She’s very tall.
- I have two brothers.
- Water boils at 100 degrees.
- I like soup.
Adverbs and expressions of frequency
We use adverbs and expressions of frequency with the present simple to talk about how often something happens.
- We usually order a pizza on Fridays.
- I go running twice a week.
Stative or non-action verbs
Some verbs don’t describe actions. These verbs are called stative or non-action verbs, and we can use these verbs in present simple but NOT in present continuous. Some of these verbs are: be, have (=possess/own), like, love, hate, prefer, need, want, know, etc.
- They have a new car. (NOT
They are having a new car.)
- I like chocolate. (NOT
I’m liking chocolate.)
Present continuous use
We use the present continuous for things that are happening now (at the moment of speaking) or for temporary things that are happening around now (these days, or weeks, etc.). You can revise the form of the present continuous tense here.
Actions happening now
We use the present continuous for things happening now, at the moment of speaking.
- ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I‘m watching TV.’
Actions happening around now
We use the present continuous for temporary things that are happening around now (=not at the moment of speaking but these days, or weeks, etc.)
- I‘m reading a very good book at the moment. (=I’m not reading it at the moment I’m speaking, but I’m reading it these days.)
- What TV series are you watching these days? (=You are not watching it at the moment of speaking, but these days.)
now, these days, at the moment, etc.
We use the present continuous with time expressions that mean now or around now. Some of these expressions are: now, at the moment, at present, today, these days, this week, etc.
Present simple or continuous?
Usually or now?
We use the present simple for things that we usually do, and we use the present continuous for things that we are doing now.
- I listen to the radio. (=I usually listen to the radio; it’s a habit.)
- I‘m listening to the radio. (=I’m doing it now.)
- I don’t usually watch documentaries, but I’m watching a documentary now.
Temporary or permanent?
We use present simple when a situation is permanent or present continuous when a situation is temporary.
- I work in an office. (=Permanent situation.)
- I‘m working in an office. (=Temporary situation.)
- I live in Edinburgh. (=Permanent situation.)
- I‘m living in Edinburgh. (=Temporary situation.)
What do you do?/What are you doing?
- What does Erik do? (=What is his job?)
- What is Erik doing? (=What is he doing now, at the moment of speaking?)