There are two things you must remember about the Present Simple. It is not about the present, and it is not "simple" with the meaning of "easy".
Here we are going to look at these aspects of the Present Simple -
1. With negatives and non-declaratory positives
2. In positive declarations
3. In other types of sentence.
1. In Stative and universal verbs.
2. In Past actions.
3. In Future actions.
4. To describe conditions.
5. With Requests and Instructions.
All verbs have a main part and an auxiliary which form their tense. With the Present Tense the auxiliary is "do" and the main part is in the infinitive. This combination of auxiliary and main part gives us the tense (in this case the present) and the voice which is the simple. The main part gives us the meaning of the verb, the auxiliary gives us the tense and the person. We usually describe verbs by their time and voice.
The past passive (e.g. He was eaten); the future continuous (e.g. He will be eating); the present perfect (e.g. He has eaten).
(Remember auxiliaries by themselves do not have any meaning as words. They just tell us the time and voice of the verb. There is an actual verb do, but gramatically it is different from the auxiliary do.)
Here, we look at verbs with the present time, and the simple voice. That is, the present simple.
(i) Fred speaks Albanian
(ii) I do not speak Albanian.
In all but positive declarations, the Present Simple is a regular (two-part) type of verb construction. There is an auxiliary and a main part. The auxiliary is do and the main part is the infinitive form of the verb e.g. speak. One of the rules that is (almost) unbroken in English is that with present tenses, the third person present singluar is indicated by the letter "s". This is usually attatched to the auxiliary -
(i) Fred does not speak Russian
(This is also true with the highly irregular verb "to be". Or, since we are discussing negatives, "not to be". Note the third person present singular "is ". The other aspects of the verb "to be" will be dealt with later.)
With a negative statement, the main part of the verb does not change at all. It is always in the base infinitive form.
TheSimple voice gets its name because in positive declarations, it - alone of all verb constructions - does not use an auxiliary. Actually, this makes it a bit more complicated than the other voices. (The voices are the Simple, Continuous, Passive and Perfect. With the Simple, because the auxiliary (which is usually used to tell you the time of the verb) is not there, the main part has to change. with all other verb types, the main part of the verb stays the same. Also, the auxiliary usually changes to tell us something about the person of the verb, but with positive statements the main part has to change, at least for the compulsory "third person s"
(i) Sally does not like cats.
(ii) Fred likes cats.
Only Present Simple positive declarations do not have an auxiliary. Other types of sentence in the Present Simple do use the auxiliary "do". This last sentence is an example. This type of sentence is called an "affirmation", and it is used with other voices as well as with the Present Simple. It is when you want to emphasise something is true. When you use it with the Present Simple, you use the auxiliary "do".
(i) I like ice cream. (Present simple statement)
(ii) I don't like cabbage but I do like ice-cream.(Present simple affirmative)
Affirmations are often used in response to questions.
(i) "Does Terri like cats?" "Yes, she does."
As you have seen with the example above, questions in the Present Simple also use the auxiliary.
(i) "What does Sally think of London?" (Present Simple question)
(ii) "Oh, she likes it."(Present simple statement)
Usually, verbs describe what something does. When we want to describe a condition (how it is), we use the special verb "to be". However, there are also a group of verbs, called statives that describe the state of something. Here is an English joke:
"My dog has not got a nose."
"Oh, how does he smell?"
"He smells terrible."
Since a dog smells with his nose, we assume that the verb is active. But the reply to the question takes the verb as stative and instead of telling is how the dog does something, it tells us something about the state of the dog (It needs a bath.)
Fred tastes the fish, he puts it in his mouth to check the flavour. If he tells me that the fish tastes bad, it means that he does not like the flavour; because the second time we were using tastes as a stative verb describing the condition of the fish.
A "universal" verb is a verb that is not related to time. If I tell you that "fish live in water"; you do not ask "when?". The statement applies to yesterday, today and tomorrow. It is always true. If I say "That car goes at 100mph", I am telling you that the car has the ability to do 100mph. If I want to tell you the present speed I use a Present Continuous (The car is not moving). That is I do not use the Present Simple voice to describe what is happening now.
We have seen that we tend to use only stative verbs to describe the present with the Present Simple. Other descriptions of the present are done with a different voice - the Present Continuous. However, the Present Simple is used to describe the past. This is usually done in two ways.
These usually use a Present Simple, mainly because the Simple is a compact form that allows more words per headline.
Prime Minister resigns.
Dog bites man.
Narratives about the past
Telling a part of a story in the present tense makes it seem more "real". A narrative can move from past to Present Simple quite easily, especially in spoken English.
"So I went to the pub on Thursday, and there I saw Fred Bloggs. 'Hey Fred' I said 'didn't I see you in here last night?' Well, Fred thinks about this for a minute, and then he says 'No, I didn't come here last night.' Then he said 'weren't you out of town last night?' I realise that he is right - I was out of town. So I told him 'You are right. It must have been two other people here in the pub."
We also use the Present Simple with the future, generally for actions which are fixed in the future. This use is usually with an indication of time (a temporal indicator).
(i) "My holiday starts next week.
(ii) Next weekend is the end of the month.
Because of this, the Present Simple expression of the future is well suited to timetables.
(i) The next train leaves at 7.54.
(ii) Hurry up! The bus arrives in ten minutes - at 7.30.
The verb "to be" is a highly irregular verb. It is the only verb that never uses an auxiliary (though it is sometimes itself an auxiliary). It is used only for identification and description. When you find the verb "to be" in association with a noun, it is usually used for identification.
(i) That man is a policeman.
(ii) You are my friend. He is not.
The verb "to be" is usually found in association with adjectives and adverbs.
(i) I am old.
(ii) It is usually found in association ....
These are another particular case - especially instructions, which have a different mood. Most of the time we use the Present Simple in the Indicative mood but requests are often in the Subjunctive mood.
So to finish let's look at some present simple verbs in a short paragraph. Look at how the present simple is used.
This is an example. It is unusually easy, so you can feel confident that you understand it. Students do exercises like this all the time. In a few seconds this exercise ends, and you will go on to the exercises. You want to do that, don't you? I know you do want to do some exercises.