Tenses are an incredibly important part of language. Without the knowledge about using them appropriately, we can’t possibly hope to be understood by others. Today we’ll cover the most basic tense: the present indefinite.
By the end of this article, you’ll understand exactly what this tense is, as well as when and how to use it.
But if you're looking for the most basic explanation of what the present indefinite is, here are a few things you need to know:
Are you ready for a little grammar lesson? We are going to explain the purpose of tenses in forming a sentence, and using the present indefinite tense specifically.
The word ‘tense’ has several meanings, depending on whether it’s used as a verb, an adjective, or a noun. As a noun, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:
“A distinction of form in a verb to express distinctions of time or duration of the action or state it denotes”.
In other words, tenses allow us to really show the reader or listener when in time the event or fact we are stating took place, and whether or not it’s still going, has ended, or is yet to begin.
Whether you’re a native English speaker or not, an error in the tense use can lead to confusion around the exact meaning of your message.
The present indefinite tense is also referred to as the Present Simple. These two terms are interchangeable. It’s a verb tense that expresses an action or event that is true now.
OK, so what does 'present indefinite' mean? Well, let's start with what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean that something is happening right now—like if you were looking at this article, and then I said "Hey! You're reading a grammar lesson!" That would be an example of using the present continuous tense instead.
The present simple refers to a state of something being true in the present.
The distinction is quite subtle, so let us explain it further. Say, for instance, you wanted to tell someone what kind of food your dog usually eats. For this, you would say:
My dog eats raw food.
This doesn’t mean your dog is eating raw food right now, it just means that’s what she eats on a daily basis.
There are three other forms of the present tense in the English language. These are:
The present continuous is used to refer to something that is happening currently, and in an ongoing way (or continuous way, as the name suggests). Some examples:
Unexpectedly, the present continuous can also be used to refer to an action that will take place in the future. For example:
It’s so hot, I’m definitely going to the beach this weekend.
The present perfect is used to describe something that started in the past and is still true in the present. For example:
The present perfect continuous is very similar to the present perfect in that it’s used to describe something that started in the past and is still true today. The only difference is in the ‘continuous’ part. Indeed, as we stated in an earlier section a continuous tense denotes the fact that the action is still actively taking place, so the action isn’t finished. For example:
Forming the present indefinite tense isn't difficult, when you know how. And this is exactly what you're about to learn, if you don't know already.
To form a verb in the present indefinite/simple tense is quite easy. That’s because it almost always takes on the form of the infinitive/root form of the verb.
The only exception is with the third person singular, where we simply add an ‘s’. For example, the verb ‘to eat’ in the present simple tense would be:
Note how we added an ‘s’ to the third person singular.
Of course, this rule applies to regular verbs. Irregular verbs are a whole different kettle of fish, which you might have been expecting, if you know just as well as I do that irregular verbs in the English language are most people’s least favorite part of learning or speaking the language.
Nonetheless, we must go over irregular verbs.
Firstly, if a verb ends in “-ch”, “-sh”, “-o”, “-z”, “-ss”, or “-x” then add “-es”. See the following example with the verb ‘to watch’:
Secondly, If a verb ends in “consonant + y” then change “y” to “-ies”. For example, with the verb ‘to cry’:
As well as the above, there are some verbs that simply don’t follow any rules, and you must retain them by heart. It’s the only way! Don’t worry, with a little practice, over time, you’ll memorize these.
Here’s an example of the irregular verb ‘to be’:
Here’s another example of the irregular verb ‘to have:
Note that the third person singular isn’t ‘haves’.
Now let’s talk about how to structure a sentence using the present indefinite tense.
An affirmative sentence can be used to make a statement about something that is. It does not contain an element of negation.
Following is the most basic structure for an affirmative sentence in the present indefinite tense:
[subject] + [verb] + [object]
Lucy drives a blue car.
A negative sentence in the present indefinite tense can also express a truth, but it will tell an interlocutor what something is not. Here is the basic structure:
[Subject] + do/does not + [root form of verb]
Barry does not dance.
Interrogative sentences in the present indefinite tense are used to ask questions in the present tense. The basic structure is as follows:
Do/does/are + [subject] + [root form of verb] + [object]
And here’s an example:
Now that you know how to structure a sentence in the various types of sentences of the present indefinite tense, let’s talk about when it’s appropriate to use this tense.
Want to describe something (almost) everyone recognizes as a universal truth? The present indefinite is perfect for that! Here are some examples:
If you want to talk about habits or repetitive actions or events, the present simple is great for that. For example:
Just like with the present continuous - as explained earlier - the present indefinite can be used to describe something taking place in the future. Seems odd, right? And yet, it’s true. See the examples below:
Finally, a great use for the present simple is to describe someone or even something. For example:
Note that these statements are true today, but they do not refer to an action that is currently happening - that’s the present continuous’s job.
We hope that you have enjoyed learning about the present indefinite tense. The main thing to remember is that there are three different forms of this tense, and each one can be used depending on the context of your sentence. If you want to practice using them in a sentence, try coming up with some examples yourself!