We all know that:

Present Simple - for facts and routine

Past Simple - Facts and things in the past

Present Progressive - For something that is happening now

But sometimes, it bugs me, because some sentences seems to have the same meaning if I either use simple present or present continuous.

For example:

"he's drinking his coffee" - he's still having it, but, If I say:

He drinks his coffee - it would be kinda strange, because he is not drinking a coffee anymore. So, would it be better if I use a past tense?

Like: He drank his coffee? Because he's not like drinking it anymore (it seems a complete action)

Can you guys explain me the differences among them? And how a narrative in the present Simple is possible?

Probably my interpretation is incorrect. And I do want to get rid of the problems I have with the present tenses... It's so confusing Can you guys help me?

  • 2
    If you say he drinks his coffee it does not mean it's a completed action. A completed action would be he drank his coffee. Aug 11, 2019 at 4:00
  • Note, it's Can you explain the difference(s) between these sentences to me?, or Can you explain to me the difference(s) between these sentences? (the second is more likely but both are acceptable; to me can be omitted).
    – user3395
    Aug 11, 2019 at 16:21
  • There is another usage as well: past simple for routine " he drinks coffee with his breakfast" versus temporary habit: "at the moment he is drinking tea with his breakfast, because his stomach is upset".
    – anouk
    Aug 11, 2019 at 17:00

1 Answer 1


Present simple is used for facts and routine: For example:

What does he do before work every day?
He drinks his coffee.

You are not talking about the past, you are making a general statement that is true at any time.

There is another use of the simple present: commentary. A sports commentator will tend to use simple present to describe events that start and finish as he is speaking

Messi passes the ball to Ronaldo, who dribbles past two defenders and scores.

In a narrative, using the simple present is used to give the effect of being in the narrators head as the events are happening. It is quite rare. Nearly all books are written in the past tense, and usually in the third person.

The car comes towards me and stops across the street. Two men get out, one is carrying a rifle. They walk towards me and say ...

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .