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Present Simple or Present Continuous?

Perfect English Grammar

What's the difference?

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Present Simple Present Continuous
Things which are always true:
  • Water boils at 100 degrees.
Things which are happening at the moment of speaking:
  • The water is boiling now, so you can put in the pasta.
Permanent situations (or nearly permanent; true for a few years at least):
  • Julie lives in London.
Temporary situations:
  • Julie is living in Paris for a few months (usually she lives in London).
Situations which are slowly changing:
  • I'm getting better and better at speaking English.
Habits or things we do regularly:
  • I drink coffee every morning.
Temporary or new habits:
  • I'm drinking too much coffee these days because I'm so busy at work.
Annoying habits (usually with 'always'):
  • My flatmate is always leaving the kitchen in a mess!
Future events which are part of a timetable:
  • My plane leaves at eight tonight.
To talk about the future after certain words ('when' 'until' 'after' 'before' 'as soon as'):
  • I'll call you when I get home.
Definite future plans:
  • I'm meeting John after class today.
To talk about what happens in books, plays and films:
  • At the end of the book, the detective catches the killer.
To talk about people in pictures and photos:
  • In this photo, my mother is walking beside a lake.


  • We use the present simple with stative verbs. We can't use any continuous tense (including the present continuous tense, of course) with stative verbs.

Click here for more information about the present simple tense
Click here for more information about the present continuous tense