There are 12 tenses in English. Do you know them all? Starting June 2013, CISL will post a blog entry each month featuring one of the 12 English language tenses. It is a great way to review the tenses you know (and learn the ones you don’t!). Each post will feature an explanation of the tense and some CISL teacher tips about how to avoid common mistakes ESL students make with each of the tenses.

We begin with the most simple tense in the English language: the Simple Present. If you can read and understand this post, then you probably know the basics of the Simple Present: the tense is used to talk about general truths, facts, and things that always happen. For example:

  • I always eat breakfast at the Mission Cafe on Sunday.
  • I never say bad words.
  • We go to Yosemite every summer for vacation.
  • She loves the color yellow.

But there are many, many more uses of the Simple Present that you may or may not know. The following are some lesser known uses of the Simple Present.

  • To quote something or someone. Even if the quote was said in the past, it is proper English to use a Simple Present verb to present the quote.

– The pamphlet says “San Diego’s Coronado Beach is the number one beach in the United States.”

– The San Francisco Giants claim they will win the World Series again this year.

  • To tell a story about something that happened in the past, you can use the Simple Present.

– In the documentary “Inocente,” the main character, Inocente, is a young girl from San Diego who struggles to become an artist even though she is homeless.

– The San Francisco 49ers get their name from the men who arrived in the area during the 1849 California Gold Rush.

  • The Simple Present is also common in newspaper and website news headlines:

– San Francisco Giants win the World Series

– San Diego weather heats up for summer

  • To talk about an event that is scheduled to happen in the future.

– Our plane for Vegas leaves at 10 am.

– The sun sets late tonight.

– CISL class begins at 9 am.

  • When narrating something as it happens.

– Kobe Bryant spins around the opponent, shoots, and scores!

  • Talking about planned events in the order they will occur.

– Let’s review the plan for CISL orientation tomorrow. Students come in, the front desk attendant greets them, gives them a packet, and leads them to the testing room. Students listen to the opening speech and take a test. Then, they have lunch. After that, they go on a tour. Right?

  • To discuss scientific facts. 

– Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 0 degrees Celsius.

– Animals attack when they feel threatened.

– Elephants weigh up to 15,000 pounds. The San Diego Zoo says so!


We hope that you learned something new about the many uses of the Simple Present. As you can see, it is used for a lot more than just explaining unchanging conditions! Next month? Lesson number 2 of 12. Stay tuned!