Present Simple or Present Continuous

Whether to use the Present Simple or Present Continuous can be a tricky business. Here are some guidelines:

Present Simple

We use the Present Simple for

  • habits and regular events
  • thoughts, feelings and state of being. State verbs include: like, prefer, mean, need, remember, seem, know, love, hate, forget, understand, belong, believe, hope, own
Habit She runs the Berlin marathon every year.
He visit the dentist once a year.
I eat chocolate every day.
I get up late on weekends.
State They live in London.
I am tired.
He likes cake and coffee.
I hope it's sunny tomorrow.

Present Continuous

We use the Present Continuous for:

  • a temporary action happening now
  • a definite plan for the future
Temporary Action
It's snowing, and it's only November!
I'm writing an e-mail to my mother.
Can I come in 10 minutes? I'm eating lunch at the moment.
I'm cycling to work because my car has broken down.
Definite plan for
the future
I'm flying to Paris tomorrow.
He's celebrating his 30th birthday.
We are leaving at 5pm.
They're moving house on the weekend.


Exercise 1

Each student needs to explain their daily routine to the rest of the class, or alternatively they can make a list of things that they do weekly, or every year (and present them to the class in full sentences).

Exercise 2

All the students need to write a list of all the things they are doing right now. Who can come up with the longest list?

Exercise 3

Write the following words onto flashcards (or others of your choice):

run, leave, love, read, belong, write, understand, stand up, talk, swim, fix, feel, sit

Divide the flashcards equally between the students. They have to write sentences using the Present Simple or the Present Continuous with their words – where possible, they can write two sentences with the same word.

Once all the students are finished writing their sentences, they need to act out or draw the scenario for the rest of the class. The other students need to ask questions to work out what the sentence is e.g. Are you running? Do you run every day? Are you leaving? Do you leave work at 6 pm every day?

Exercise 4

Get the students to make sentences with the following words, and then ask each other the questions. The questions should be in either the Present Simple or Present Continuous.

e.g. music/listen (What music do you listen to? OR What music are you listening to at the moment?)

  1. get/annual leave
  2. read/book
  3. where/go/holiday
  4. own/rent/apartment
  5. museums/city
  6. time/get up/Monday
  7. how often/exercise
  8. work hard
  9. sit down
  10. what/wear

Free Downloadable Lesson Plan

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