Present Simple in Narrations

The Present Simple is used in instructions or recipes as an alternative to the imperative:

  • You go down this street to the bank, then you turn right.
  • Pour the olive oil into the roasting dish. Add the garlic, thyme and rosemary. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.Cut the tomatoes into halves, lengthwise. Add the tomato halves to the roasting dish; first toss in the oil mixture, then place flat side down. Keep to a single layer.Roast for two hours. The tomatoes are ready when they have shriveled at the edges and are softened all over. The cooking time will vary depending on the type of tomato used, so be sure to keep an eye on them.Serve warm. If using for a recipe, follow the instructions. If storing, keep covered in the refrigerator for two to five days.

You often see the present simple in news headlines to report past events: It emphasises the drama or immediacy of an event:

  • Man rescues children from fire
  • Great War Ends!


If somebody's telling a joke or story, he or she may use multiple tenses. It is, however, very common to use the Present Simple, if the joke tells a story that could happen at any time (as opposed to a joke about a specific event, e.g. about a celebrity saying something stupid).

Listen to this recording that I have found on YouTube. You'll hear a girl tell a joke about a man looking for a house.

Feel like another joke? Read this one (it's a little advanced).

An English teacher spent a lot of time marking grammatical errors in her students' written work. She wasn't sure how much impact she was having until one overly busy day when she sat at her desk rubbing her temples a student asked, "What's the matter, Mrs. Sheridan?" 

"Tense," she replied, describing her emotional state. 

After a slight pause the student tried again, "What was the matter? What will be the matter? What has been the matter? What might have been the matter... ?"

Sport commentary

If you've every listened to the commentary of a sport event, you certainly noticed a variety of tenses in use. When using the Present Simple, the speaker usually describes actions that are happening at the moment of speaking.

Nick Pike runs with the ball (sorry strolls with the ball) and gets the ball stolen off him by Chris Brown, he passes it to Bristol Rovers answer to Cliff Richard who passes it to Matt Dark. It gets intercepted by Lardy (Rich Massey), he gets a shout from Feet, but Chris read the game, ran into space and got the ball, he passes it to Jap but he loses it to Tony. Jap battles for the ball he lost and wins it back he then knocks the ball to me, I lose it to Feet. Feet has a shot which our keeper collected with ease. Ger throws the ball out to me, I get closed down by Foxy, he challenges for the ball, I knock it on to Martin Bryant, he has a little run switches the ball to other side to find Matt who crosses the ball to Pugsy, who is in the 18 yard box and Clemco (Martin Clemmence) puts a good foot in. Chris Brown tackles well, he turns with the ball, he has a shot but it never troubled the keeper.