Overview of Simple Tenses

What is the Simple Aspect?

Simple tenses are used to express actions that are repeated, factual, normal, or always true.

In simple present tense, it often refers to a habitual, regular action or anything that is in occurrence but is not necessarily happening right now. These are usually timeless statements. It is used to express facts. The focus is on the occurrence, not the process or if the action is complete. For example,

Starbucks serves the best coffee in town.

This sentence clearly indicates that you can find the best coffee at Starbucks, but they might not be serving it right now. (They may be closed.)

Other examples:

She teaches English to elementary school kids.
The paper arrives at 7 am every day.
You need two tablespoon of sugar for this recipe.

Take a look at the Simple Tenses in the Verb Tenses Chart:

Simple Verb Tenses
The 12 English Verb Tenses

Verbs Usually Used in Simple Tenses (Non-continuous Verbs)

Some verbs that express states and not actions or processes are generally used in Simple Tenses. These can be called stative verbs or non-continuous verbs. The easiest way to identify such verbs is to examine if you can see someone performing the action. If you cannot see someone doing it, you should usually use Simple Tenses. The verbs usually express something abstract such as emotions, opinion or possession.

Senses / Perception: to feel, to hear, to see, to smell, to taste

Opinions / beliefs: to assume, to believe, to consider, to doubt, to feel (=to think), to find (=to consider), to suppose, to think*
* ‘To think’ cannot be used in a progressive tense if it expresses opinion. However, if it expresses the action of someone thinking about something without any result, it can be used in Progressive Tenses.

Mental states: to forget, to imagine, to know, to mean, to notice, to recognize, to remember, to understand

Emotions: to envy, to fear, to dislike, to hate, to hope, to like, to love, to mind, to prefer, to regret, to want, to wish

Measurement: to contain, to cost, to hold, to measure, to weigh

Others: to look (=to resemble), to seem, to be (in most cases), to have (=to own)

Exceptions

Some verbs have a different meaning in Progressive and Simple Tenses. Make sure to note these when forming sentences or translating them.

This massage feels nice. → perception of the massage’s quality

Franz is feeling sick from the salad. → his health is currently affected by the salad

My neighbor has 20 cats. → expressing ownership

I’m having a great time with you. → being entertained, feeling good

You can’t see the London Eye from here. → perception

I’m seeing my mom later during the week. → planning on meeting

How to Use the Simple Aspect

Once you have decided to use the simple aspect, verb formation is very easy. The simple aspect can be used in all three tenses: Simple Present, Simple Past and Simple Future. There is no auxiliary verb needed for affirmative sentences in simple present and simple past; we simply use the first form of the verb in the correct tense.

General Structure of Simple Tenses

subject

+

main verb

+

object / adverbs

I

 

live

 

in Bali.

Questions in Simple Tenses

To form questions or negative phrases, the auxiliary verb ‘to do’ is used in the correct form in present and past tenses. For example,

Do you know where my keys are? / Did you know where my keys are?
I don’t know. / I didn’t know.


For a detailed explanation and usage, check out the individual page of each Simple Tense here:

Simple Present Tense
Simple Past Tense
Simple Future Tense

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