Present tense Grammar Verb tenses

Using present continuous and present simple tenses is a grammar concept that people often struggle with.

Present continuous: I am walking.

Present simple: I walk.

The first key to using this correctly is to understand that in English we almost always use present simple for things that we do on a regular basis.

For example…

I run on this road daily.

I brush my teeth after lunch.

He walks past me every day.

All of these are using present simple because they are done regularly. 

We also use present simple for things that are always true, like “The sky is blue.” Or “Water boils at 100 degrees celsius.”

We use present continuous for things that are happening at the time of speaking or are incomplete.

For example…

The water is boiling. Can you turn it off?

Listen to those people. What language are they speaking?

Sometimes we will use it for something that isn’t necessarily happening at this second but isn’t finished yet. For example:

I’m reading the book War and Peace right now.

At this moment I’m not reading it, BUT it is the book that I have not finished and am reading in my free time right now. 

We also use present continuous for temporary situations. 

So generally we would say, “I live in London.” But if it’s temporary, “I’m living in London until the end of the term.” Using the present continuous emphasizes that it is not your permanent situation.


Some verbs, such as the words ‘mean’ and ‘understand,’ are not normally used in this way. 

For example you don’t say: 

-I am meaning…

-They are understanding…

We say: 

-I mean…

-They understand… 

The following verbs are NOT regularly used in the present continuous: like, want, need, prefer, know, realize, suppose, mean, understand, believe, remember, belong, fit, contain, consist, seem. 


-I am thirsty. I want something to drink. (Not I am wanting)

-Meltem doesn’t seem very excited about the new staff change. (Not doesn’t seeming) 

-The cake batter contains milk. (Not containing) 

Now we are going to move on to the word ‘think’… 

It means ‘believe’ or ‘have an opinion’ BUT it also can mean ‘consider.’ 

If you are talking about a belief or an opinion then you DO NOT use the present continuous. Let’s look at a couple of examples… 


-I think she is Turkish, but I am not completely sure. (Not I’m thinking) 

-What do you think of my idea? (Basically asking for your opinion)

If you mean to ‘consider,’ then the continuous is possible.


-I am thinking about what you said. I think about it often. 

-Duygu is thinking of visiting Malaysia. (she is considering it) 

Can you give an example of anything you are considering doing? (Maybe you want to go on vacation soon? Where do you want to go?)

Quiz – Simple Present vs. Present Continuous

Welcome to your Simple Present vs. Present Continuous

Ahmet is very good at languages. He _______________ (speaks/is speaking) 3 languages.

Please hurry. Everyone ____________ (waits/is waiting) for you.

We ______________ (grow/are growing) vegetables in our garden every year.

Normally it’s very cold in Istanbul in December, so we _______________ (enjoy/are enjoying) this warmer weather.

Next summer we’re planning to take a vacation. We _______________ (think/are thinking) about going to either Alanya or Fethiye.