Differences between present simple and present continuous

Verb tenses are the patterns into which the verb conjugation is divided in order to express time differences in different sentences and expressions. In the English language they express the moment in which an action is carried out, that is, the moment in which the verb was executed.

Therefore, verb tenses determine whether the action has already been done (past), is being done (present), or is going to be done (future). As for the present tense, in English there are different conjugations that have to do with the moment in which the action is performed. In this sense, an action can be performed in the present simple (present simple), present continuous (present continuous), present perfect (present perfect), present perfect continuous (present perfect continuous), present conditional simple (present conditional simple) or present conditional continuous (present conditional continuous).

In this article we will point out the differences between the present simple and present continuous verb tenses.

Simple Present

The present simple verb tense in the English language indicates that the action occurs in the present. In other words, the simple present tense is used to indicate that an action (verb) occurs in the present. It is also used to refer to actions, activities or habits that are usually done daily or permanently.

To conjugate the present simple, the infinitive is used for the subjects “I”, “you”, “we” and “they” and for the third persons “he”, “she” and “it” but adding an “s” to the end of the verb. The structure or formula for the construction of the present simple (Present Simple) is as follows: [SUBJECT] + [VERB] (in infinitive without to), taking into account what was previously mentioned (add an “s” if the subject is 3rd person of the singular).

In some cases, such as verbs that end in “o”, “es” must be added instead of the letter s. The negation with regular verbs (non-modal and non-auxiliary) in the present simple is: [SUBJECT] + do(es) + not + [VERB].

In interrogative sentences in the present perfect, the auxiliary verb “to do” is also used, putting it before the subject. In this aspect, the structure of the question is “Do (is) + [SUBJECT] + [VERB]?”. In addition, the present simple is used to refer to routines, permanent situations and to refer to natural or physical laws.


  • I Live in Spain (I live in Spain) present simple
  • She does not sing
  • Do you like cheese? (Do you like cheese?) interrogative sentence
  • I work in a drugstore expresses routine
  • Nick has a car (Nick has a car) expresses permanent situation
  • The Sun appears in the east (El sol sale por el este) indicates a natural law.

Present Continuous

The present continuous verb tense in English shows that the action is in progress in the present, that is, that the action is being carried out. The structure of the Present Continuous is as follows: [SUBJECT] + am/are/is (verb to be) + [VERB WITH -ING (gerund)]. It is noteworthy that, as a general rule to form the gerund in English, the ending “ing” is added to the verb.

On the other hand, the structure for negation in the present continuous is as follows: [SUBJECT] + am/are/is (verb «to be») + not + [VERB WITH -ING (gerund)].

Likewise, to construct the interrogation, you simply have to invert the order of the subject and the verb “to be”: am/are/is + [SUBJECT] + [VERB WITH «-ing»]?.

Finally, the present continuous is also used to indicate cyclical situations in a defined period of time.


  • The girl is singing (the girl is singing) expresses that the action is taking place
  • I am not dancing (I am not dancing) denial
  • Are you working? (Are you working?) question mark.
  • I am eating an Apple in breakfast for a week refers to cyclical situations in a defined period of time.

As can be seen from the above, the main difference between the present simple and present continuous tenses is the following:

  • The present simple tense is used to indicate that the action is taking place in the present while the present continuous tense is used to indicate that the action is taking place in the present.
  • The present simple also indicates habitual and permanent situations while the present continuous indicates cyclical or repetitive situations for a certain time.

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