Present Simple vs Present Continuous

Present Simple

We use present simple for:

  • facts which are true all the time: The sun rises in the east. The bus doesn’t go past my house.
  • habits and routines: I study for about an hour a week. We never get much homework.
  • opinions and beliefs: Do you agree? I don’t know the answer.

Present Continuous

We use present continuous for:

  • actions which are in progress at the moment of speaking: Why are you carrying an umbrella? It’s not raining.
  • actions or situations around the moment of speaking: He‘s studying Russian at university.
  • future arrangements: I’m meeting Andrew tonight.

States and actions

The present continuous is not normally used to describe:

  • mental states: know, agree, understand, believe, etc.
  • likes and preferences: like, want, love, hate, need, need, prefer, etc.
  • other states: be, own, belong, forget, hear, seem, depend, etc.

Special cases

Some verbs (e.g. think, see, have) can be used as states or actions, with different meanings:

  • State: I think you’re wrong. (= my opinion )
  • Action: I’m thinking about my birthday. (= a mental process)
  • State: I see what you mean. (= I understand)
  • Action: I’m seeing the doctor tomorrow. (= I’m meeting him/her)
  • State: I have a car / a sister. (= possession, relationship, etc.)
  • Action: I’m having a party / a shower / dinner.
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