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Present Tense—General Truths

State facts versus observations

 

 

Fact vs. Observation

GENERAL TRUTH — FACT

The simple present tense is used to state fact, how things exist or behave (always/ permanently). Few if any adverbs are used.

earth

The earth turns 360º every day.   (fact)

The moon orbits the earth. (permanent)

ocean

The oceans are deep and cold.  

The oceans move in circular currents.

land

The land moves on plates.

Earthquakes occur often.

Poles

Antartica is covered with ice.

The South Pole has strong winds.

wind

Wind blows across the land.

Wind comes from differences in air pressure.

rain

Rain gives water to life.

Rain falls in the winter.

plants

Plants grow in soil.

Plants give us oxygen.

people

People depend on earth's resources.

People exercise for good health. (in general)

time

 Time passes quickly.

Daylight Savings time begins in spring.

AT THE MOMENT—OBSERVATION

The present progressive tense is used to state an observation such as an action happening at the moment or a temporary change from the usual.

observing earth turning

The earth is turning right now as we speak.  (observation)

The earth is changing due to global warming.   (a change from the usual)

polarbears

The oceans are warming(a change from the usual)

The currents are moving farther north.

land is moving

The plates are constantly moving. 

Earthquakes are occurring more frequently.

melting polar ice

The polar ice is melting fast.   

Polar bears are struggling to live.

blowing wind

The wind is blowing umbrellas backwards.

The wind is coming from the north. 

observing rain

This rain is giving us the water we need. 

Rain is falling on my head.   (observation)

growing plants

My plants are growing well.   (observation)

One plant is getting taller.

people running

These people are running for good health.  (observation)

Some people are wearing silly costumes. (temporarily)

time passing slowly

Time is passing slowly.

Daylight Savings Time is ending this weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

Present Adverbs (time expressions)

Specify the timing of an action or activity

walking
 

 

Present Time Expressions — definite vs. indefinite timing

DEFINITE TIMING  "HAPPENING AROUND NOW"

Adverbial expressions with definite timing are used when actions can be marked on a timeline (clock/calendar); they have endpoints/goals. Compare: I am walking to class today. (definite timing, it ends when I arrive at class) to I walk to class. (indefinite timing, "timeless", no endpoint, a routine).

WITH PROGRESSIVE VERBS WITH PROGRESSIVE VERBS

I am walking to class now

*I walk to class now

I am walking to class today

*I walk to class today.¹

NOW THIS ...

now (just now, right now)

currently (presently)

today / tonight (word origin – this day, this night) 

 

at the moment  (for now, for the time being, for now, at present)

this month  (time not passed: morning, evening, week, semester, this spring, year, decade, century)

as we speak (expression: now)

these moments  (time not passed: weeks, months, semesters, years)

still (with a negative verb: no longer)

Used with progressive.

this Tuesday (June 20, June 20, 2020) (in the current week)

 

 

INDEFINITE TIMING "HAPPENING SOMETIME"

Adverbial expressions with indefinite timing are used when activities or states happen "sometime", not related to a timeline. The precise time is not important. The focus is on the activity or state.  These adverbs express duration (a period of time) or repetition (the interval of occurrence).                        

BOTH PROGRESSIVE & NON BOTH PROGRESSIVE & NON

I am walking to class temporarily.

I walk to class during the week.

I am walking to class often.

I walk to class often.

DURATION  REPETITION

temporarily (continuously, briefly, momentarily) [imperfective, ongoing] ⇒ Mostly progressive.

repeatedly(constantly, continuously, again and again, perpetually, eternally)⇒ Switch to "keep" with progressive.³

for a moment (ten minutes, a week, a month, for a while², a little while, a day,  forever)  ⇒ Often present perfect.

always (routinely, customarily, usually, in general, normally, often, sometimes, hardly ever, never)

during the week (month, year, etc.) ⇒ Mostly nonprogressive.

at night (noon, midnight, sunset)

in spring (winter, summer, June, July)

from Monday to Tuesday(1 PM to 2 PM, morning to night)

⇒ Mostly nonprogressive.

on Mondays (Tuesday, Sundays, etc.)

most days (nights, weekends, etc.)

while it is warm(a relative time: when, if, whenever, before, after)  before lunch  (after)

every / each / every other day  (hour, day, night, week, month, year, May, spring)

 

¹ adverbs like today or this month can express (1) a timeframe that includes a time greater than just the present moment. I am vacationing this month. or (2) the interval for a routine or scheduled activity. I go on vacation this month. See Scheduled Events—Routine vs. Near Future.

² for a while (PP) – can be understood in two ways: (1) having some amount of duration, or (2) being very temporary

³ keep + verb+ing – Repetition can be expressed by using the "keep" (I keep walking.  He kept smiling.)  The progressive with "repeatedly" (*I am walking to class repeatedly. )sounds awkward.

Specific adverbial pages: Frequency Adverbs| Preps for Time—In v. On v. At | During v. In | For-Since

Related tense pages:   Past vs. Progressive | Present vs. Present Perfect Progressive | Future vs. Future Progressive (will)

 

 

 

 

Present Tense

Word Order

 

 

AUXILIARY VERB SUBJECT AUXILIARY VERB MAIN VERB ADVERB
STATEMENT        

 

He  (She)

 

plants

in the spring. 

 

They (I, We, You)

 

plant

in the spring. 
 

QUESTION        

Does

he  (she)

 

plant   

in the spring?

Do 

they (I, we, you)
 

 

plant   

in the spring?

NEGATIVE        

 

He  (She)

doesn't  

plant

in the spring.

 

They (I, We, You)
 

don't

plant

in the spring.

EMPHASIS        

 

He  (She)

does

plant

in the spring!

 

They (I, We, You)

do 

plant

in the spring!

Related page: 3rd Person Agreement 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors & Solutions

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

*The wind is blowing during the winter. 

*The earth is spinning faster than Mars.
 

SOLUTION

The wind blows during the winter.  
( The progressive verb is not used with during.)

The earth spins faster than Mars. 
(The progressive verb is not used for a permanent state.)

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

► Show Grammar Notes and Works Cited ▼ Hide Grammar Notes

Grammar Notes (Advanced)

Traditional and Linguistic Descriptions

 

 

Traditional Description and Linguistic

TRADITIONAL DESCRIPTION

Traditional grammar diagrams 'parse' or separate sentences into parts (e.g., subject, verb, object) into mostly linear components. A line's length, position or angle indicates the relative function of the word in the sentence.. 

REED-KELLOGG SYSTEM DIAGRAM

The wind blows

The wind blows leaves

The wind is strong

The wind blows in the winter

LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

Linguistic tree diagrams are composed of angled brackets which mark the subject and the predicate. The sub-parts are commonly, but not always, divided into two parts.

TREE DIAGRAM

The wind blows

My family plants tomatoes

The wind is strong

The wind blows in the winter

 

Categories "Parts of Speech": N – noun; NPnoun phrase; V – verb; Aux – auxiliary; VP – verb phrase; Adj – adjective; AdjP – adjective phrase; Adv – adverb; AdvP – adverb phrase; P – preposition; PP – prepositional phrase; Detdeterminer; DP – determinative phrase.

Other abbreviations: Ger – gerund; Inf – infinitive; PPart – past participle; NFnonfinite; F – finite; Cls – clause; Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator; DO – direct object; IO – indirect object.

Word Functions: Subj – Subject; Pred – Predicate/Predicator – Pred; Compcomplement:  elements required by an expression to complete its meaning ;  Adjunct: — adjunct: elements not required by an expression to complete its meaning; Suplsupplement: a clause or phrase added to a clause but not closely related to the central idea or structure of the main clause.

 

 

Works Cited

  • Azar, Betty Schrampfer, and Stacy A. Hagen. Understanding and Using English Grammar. 4th ed., Pearson Education, 2009.
  • Huddleston, Rodney D., and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • O'Brien, Elizabeth. "Diagramming Sentences Exercises: Chapter 1." English Grammar Revolution. 2016. english-grammar-revolution.com/english-grammar-exercise.html. Accessed on 10 Oct. 2016.
  • Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage. 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2005.
  • "Sentence diagram." Wikipedia. 28 Sep. 2016. Accessed on 10 Oct. 2016.

 

 

 

 

Practice

Fact vs. Observation

 

 

 

Is it a general truth (fact) or an observation (observation at the moment)?

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check" or the "Check 1-8" button.

 

1.
Moon

 

2.
watch


3.
watch


4.
kids


5.
kids


6.
kids


7.
kids

8.
kids