We use Present Simple when the thing that will happen in the future time. But can we use Present Simple when no time is specified.

For example:

  1. What happens to him after that?

  2. Choose what happens to him.

  • This question would be better with added context, indication how the example sentences would or might be used, so it is clearer just what meaning is intended. Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 16:34

1 Answer 1



Present simple can be used when no time of action is explicitly specified.

In the example

What happens to him after that?

the speaker is apparently describing some sequence of events, perhaps a hypothetical sequence. In such a case attention is being directed to the time "after that" which is in the future compared to the apparent point-of-view at the time of "that". However, if the sequence of events is clearly in the past, a present simple tense should not be used:

I know he left for Ireland three years ago. What happened to him after that?

Here the events stated and asked about are all in the past, and a past tense is used.

If a person leaves school without completing courses, he does not graduate. What happens to him after that?

Here the sequence is hypothetical, and might occur, if it all, in the past or the future. A simple present may be used, although other options are possible (such as "would happen").

As the question mentions, the simple present tense is also used for actions specified to occur in the future. In particular things currently planned or scheduled for the future use the simple present tense. For example:

The train leaves in ten minutes.

Such events can also be described with an auxiliary verb plus a bare infinitive:

The train will leave in ten minutes.

The meaning is the same for the two forms, but the present simple perhaps emphasizes the schedule more.

  • @anouk added to answer now. Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 16:57
  • So can I use Present Simple even there is no "after that" as mentioned in my first example?
    – ikigai20
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 12:09

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