I know we can use present simple when talking about the future, especially after subordinate clauses.

On the other hand, I also know that we can use present progressive to talk about future events, especially wen we want to describe what we plan to do in the future.

With this regard, would you tell me what's the difference between these two sentences?

  1. Ask Jim if he's staying tonight.
  2. Ask Jim if he stays tonight.
  • It might help you to consider the different syntactic forms in the context of a simple statement, rather than a question. In principle, Jim stays tonight is syntactically "valid", but it's effectively archaic (except in very unusual contexts where it could be a sort of imperative command, but even there it would be stilted/dated). For almost all normal situations today, the intended meaning would be conveyed by Jim is staying tonight. Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


The first sentence is idiomatic. The second is not.

The present progressive tense is typically used to describe a particular action - such as staying tonight.

Ask Jim if (whether) he's staying with his parents tonight.

Ask Jim if (whether) he's staying at the mountain lodge tonight.

The simple present is typically used to describe a habitual action:

Ask Jim if (whether) he stays in a hotel when he visits his elderly parents.

Ask Jim if (whether) he stays overnight when he goes skiing in the mountains.

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