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David D. Monk

Forming and Using the Simple Present Tense in English

Students who are learning English as a second language often encounter difficulty with conjugation and spelling when they use the simple present tense. Usually, they are searching for college essay help.

The biggest obstacle that many students face when they are learning to form the simple present tense in English is the uniqueness of the third person singular verb form. Consider the verb “to walk,” for example. The correct construction is:

  • I walk
  • You walk
  • He/she/it walks
  • We walk
  • They walk

It is clear in this construction that the third person singular (he/she/it) form varies from the others. We must add an "-s" to the end of the word. This is also true if the verb follows a singular noun (like "dog") or an indefinite pronoun, such as "anyone," "someone," "everyone," "anybody," "somebody," or "everybody."

My dog runs in the park. ("dog" is a singular noun - it could be substituted by "it")
Everyone gets older.
The necessity of adding an “-s” to the end of the verb when it is used in the third person singular can prove to be a real challenge for many ESL students, and it is something that requires a great deal of practice to get accustomed to. It can be particularly challenging when used with indefinite pronouns such as “everyone” that seems to imply that more than one person is present.

Basic Subject/Verb Agreement and Spelling (Adding –es and –ies)
Most often, the third person singular verb will simply end in “-s” as in the construction “He walks,” which was discussed at length above. However, if the verb ends with ss, zz, sh, ch, tch, or x, rather than simply adding “-s”, we must add “-es.” For example:

  • “kiss” becomes “kisses” in the third person singular form
  • "wash" becomes "washes"
  • "watch" becomes "watches"
  • "fix" becomes "fixes"

In addition, if the verb ends in a consonant followed by “-y,” the “-y” is dropped and “-ies” is added. For instance:

  • “carry” becomes “carries” in the third person singular form
  • "fly" becomes "flies"

However, if the verb ends in a vowel followed by “-y,” the “-y” remains and only an “-s” is added, as in the change demonstrated by the verb “say” which becomes “says” in the third person singular. Additional examples are:

  • "obey" which becomes "obeys"
  • "delay" which becomes "delays"

Irregular verbs
Another element that can prove tricky for ESL students is the fact there are four verbs which are irregular in the simple present tense form. These verbs are “go,” “do,” “have,” and “be.”

“Go,” “do,” and “have” are irregular only in the third person singular form and become “goes,” “does,” and “has.” Thus, the construction is: I go, you go, he/she goes, we go, they go. For "do," it is: I do, you do, he/she/it does, we do, they do. And, lastly, for "have" it is: I have, you have, he/she has, we have, they have.

  • He goes to the grocery store every Tuesday.
  • She does her homework before she goes to bed.
  • The dog has a large bone that he is eating.

The verb “be” is irregular is every simple present tense construction and is conjugated as follows: I am, you are, he/she/it is, we are, they are.

  • I am an English teacher.
  • You are a student.
  • She is a student.
  • We are students. (don't forget to use the plural noun because there is more than one!)
  • They are students. (don't forget to use the plural noun)

Although these rules can pose a challenge to ESL students, understanding how to follow them will increase a student’s understanding of the English language. The simple present tense is a crucial part of communication, and its correct use will lead to a higher level of comprehension in both writing and conversation.

For more practice with the simple present tense, try out our activities. Just write to us "help me write an essay". And, for more information regarding the purpose and usefulness of the tense, please see "The Simple Present and the Present Continuous Tenses in English." 

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