Present Tense vs Progressive Tense

English Grammar Rules


Simple Present Tense

We use the simple present tense:

1. For facts

2. For repeated or regular actions

3. For habits

4. For things that are generally true in the present time period:


Present Progressive Tense

We use the present progressive tense:

1. When somebody is doing something at this moment.

2. When something is happening at this moment. When the action has started but hasn't finished.

3. To talk about something that is happening around the time of speaking but not necessarily at that exact moment.


Present vs. Progressive Tense

A significant difference between these two tenses is we use the simple present tense for things that are permanent or are in general and the present progressive tense for things that may change or are temporary.

Compare:

Permanent Temporary
Simon lives in Birmingham. Simon is living with his friends for now.
James smokes. James is smoking in the kitchen.
We walk to work. We're walking in the park.
I speak English. I am speaking English right now.

Verbs that we don't use in the Progressive Tense

Another difference is that there are some verbs in English that we don't use in the progressive tense. These include:

Belong - Cost - Hate - Have (possession) - Hear - Know - Like - Love - Need - Own - Remember - Seem - Smell - Understand - Want


Different Meanings

In questions the same verb can change the meaning depending on if it is in the present or the present progressive tense.

Differences in meaning of verb
Statement Meaning
What do you do? What is your job?
What are you doing? What are you doing at the moment?
What do you read? What do you like to read?
What are you reading? What are you reading right now?



Next activities

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See our notes about the Present vs Progressive vs Past Tense.


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