Simple States or Passive Voice?

simple passive verb formsI recently had a question through this website but the return email didn’t work, so I’ve posted my answer in the hope that the reader sees it! It relates to spotting the difference between the past simple and the passive voice – specifically, how we can use different verb forms to follow the verb to be. Here we go: Continue reading

When can we use the past simple for timeless rules?

past simple timeless rules

When we write a rule in a past tense narrative, should it still be in the present simple tense? This was an excellent question raised by a reader, from a fairly unexpected source – this Christmas reading exercise. It contains the phrase “everyone knew how magical Santa was”. The issue is that saying “was” in the past tense suggests Santa is either no longer magical (or perhaps has died?!). So, how can past simple still be correct here? Like much in English, it depends on our context. Continue reading

Why “keep doing” is present simple and not continuous

keep doing continuous tenseI’ve been asked about the tense of “keep writing” – and how it relates to the rules and patterns we use for the present continuous form of “to be writing”. Many verbs can be followed by other verbs in an –ing form, such as “keep doing”, “enjoy doing”, “avoid doing” – but they are not the same as the continuous tense “to be doing”, and are actually used in the present simple tense. A verb like “keep” may be particularly confusing, as it suggests a continuing action. So why is “keep doing” not the same as the present continuous? Continue reading

Forming Negative Simple Tenses – Exercises

negative simple tenses exercisesNegative simple tenses are formed using either do, does, did, will or the verb to be and not, followed by the bare infinitive. Below is a group of exercises to test this understanding – using the information provides, form complete negative simple sentences. The answers are given at the bottom. Continue reading

The complete guide to present continuous uses

present continuous usesAs the present simple has complex uses, often relating to timeless facts, the present continuous is the main tense we use for talking about what is happening now. It can describe temporary actions that are happening (ongoing) now, processes of change, habits, and, informally, to express some temporary states. Below is a quick guide to these different uses: Continue reading

How the present simple can show repeated activities

present simple repeated activityThough the present simple is mostly used to show timeless actions or events, it does have different, less general uses. It can, for instance, show temporary states or be used in storytelling. As such, it is sometimes misunderstood to say it describes the time of hobbies through a repeated activity. It can be used for repeated activities, but it is important to recognise that this is an extension of its main use – for timeless actions or events. How, then, can something that is timeless also be used to show something that is repeated? Continue reading

Present simple vs Present Continuous Exercise

present simple vs continuous with exerciseContinuing our look at the tenses, here’s a practice exercise to compare uses of the present simple and the present continuous tenses. These uses are covered in full detail in The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide, but this brief summary should help. Let’s start with a quick recap of what each tense is used for: Continue reading

Choosing the correct future tense

Choosing the correct future tenses

One of the things that makes English a rich language is the variety and flexibility of the tenses. This is covered in huge detail in my book, The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide, but this post will give you a quick introduction! The future tense is possibly the most dynamic of the tenses, as it can be formed from other tenses, as well as use its own form. Some constructions of the future tense include:

  • Present tense + future time
  • Present continuous + future time
  • Will or shall + simple present
  • Will + present perfect
  • Will + present perfect continous

Continue reading