How to Choose between Present Simple and Present Continuous (Progressive)

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Gregg O’Connell

A quick overview of the differences between these two basic tenses.

Present Simple: Use this tense for habits and permanent things.

Habits = things that people do regularly.

Permanent things = things that are always the same.


Tom washes his hair twice a week.

I am a teacher.

Her parents live in Birmingham.

They love chocolate ice cream.

We feel great.

Why are love and feel in Present Simple? Because you always love something. And you can always feel.

For more basic instruction in Present Simple, have a look here.

For questions in Present Simple, take a look at this lesson here.

Present Continuous (Progressive): use this tense to talk about things that are happening now, or for a certain period.

Note: You can use Present Continuous for things that take place during a few months or even half a year, but not for things that last years. If they last very long, you would use Present Simple.


Livia is visiting Paris for the first time in her life.

You are talking nonsense.

Sh, I’m reading about the topic right now.

The customer department is handling the problem.

Jesse is working on a farm for the summer.

You can read more about the differences between Present Simple and Present Progressive here. This page also has a table that shows how to make questions and negatives.


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Choose between the two tenses.

1 Mark: Hello, I’m Mark Ferris. I __________ (work) for the Operations Department here at Stairwell Real Estate.

2 Betty: Nice to meet you, Mr Ferris. I’m Betty Morgan, from Birdflight Electronics. I __________ (visit) in London for the first time.

3 Mark: Welcome, and how ________ you ________ (like) London so far?

4 Betty: It’s great. I was in the London Eye yesterday, but today I ____________ (stay) in the office all day. I ___________ (have) one meeting after the other.

5 Mark: I see. I ____________ (get) us something to drink. Water, tea or coffee?

6 Betty: A glass of water would be lovely, thanks. ________ we ___________ (sit) here or in your room?

7 Mark: In my room. Just follow me. And which hotel __________ you ___________ (stay) at?

8 Betty: At the Regency Hotel. I _________ (like) it very much so far.

9 Mark: That’s good to hear. How ___________ things ____________ (go) in our Toronto office?

10 Betty: Very well. We ____________ (start) a new project in electronics for passenger airplanes.

11 Mark: That ____________ (sound) interesting. How ________ it __________ (go) so far?

12 Betty: Couldn’t be any better. Canadian Airlines ________ (want) to order already.

Would you like more exercises about grammar, vocabulary, expressions or Business English? First of all you’re welcome to check out the free quizzes on Enlgishwithasmile.net. Or you can become an exclusive member of English with a Smile and receive extra exercises here.

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