Present Simple vs. Continuous

Number 10 of 59 in A2 - ELEMENTARY

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Let’s look at the difference between the Present Simple and Present Continuous, and learn some adverbs of frequency. Even people who have a good level of English often make mistakes between Present Simple and Present Continuous!

Let´s start with this example:

  1. Where do you go at the weekend?
  2. Where are you going at the weekend?

We can immediately recognise the difference between the two sentences:

  • The first is Present Simple– No gerund (-ing) and using the auxiliary verb ‘do’ (or ‘does’) for questions and negative structures.

Where do you go?   /   Where does she go?

I go to the cinema   /   She goes to the cinema.

I don’t go to class.   /   She doesn’t go to class.

  • The second is Present Continuous– using ‘to be’ (am/is/are) and the gerund.

Where are you going?   /   Where is she going?

I‘m going to the cinema   /   She‘s going to the cinema.

I’m not going to class   /   She‘s not* going to class.

* She’s not = She isn’t..

The question is: If both are correct, what is the difference between them? How can you answer each question?

In the first question (Present Simple: ‘Where do you go at the weekend?’) ‘at the weekend’ means weekends IN GENERAL.

In the second question (Present Continuous: ‘Where are you going at the weekend?’) ‘at the weekend’ refers to this weekend (NOW OR SOON). So:

‘I usually go for a walk in the country’…..         ……is the answer to the first (PR. SIMPLE: IN GENERAL)

‘I´m going to my brother´s house this Saturday…… ……is the second (PR. CONTINUOUS: NOW OR SOON)

This is the basic difference between the two tenses. Most people understand that Present Simple is used IN GENERAL and Continuous for SOON. Most mistakes are made with SOON. Here is a common mistake. Look at and correct this conversation:

‘What does your sister do tonight?’
‘She usually goes to the cinema on Wednesday, but she doesn’t do anything this evening.’


IN GENERAL = PRES. SIMPLE (Every weekend, Usually, Never, Every day after work..)
NOW OR SOON = PRES. CONTINUOUS (This weekend, Tonight, Tomorrow, After work today….)

‘What is your sister doing tonight?’
‘She usually goes to the cinema on Wednesday, but she isn’t doing anything this evening.’

Let’s have a look at more examples:

  • Let’s look at more time expressions. Decide if you use this with Present Simple, Present Continuous, or with both:

I’ll give you the answers at the end. Meanwhile, one more thing:

There are verbs where the idea of IN GENERAL/NOW OR SOON does not work. Usually these verbs are the same as in Spanish or other languages:

Like                    (I’m not liking this soup   I don’t like this soup)

Understand      (I’m understanding you completely     I understand you)

For more examples of this, more explanation, and more practice (audio, speaking…) go to section 2.5 of the Course (menu above). Here are the answers to the question I asked you before.



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