Present Simple tense

This is the most used tense in English, but it’s not always present and it’s not always simple! Let’s investigate.

1 Form

S=subject, V=verb

  • a) Positive: S V(s)
  • b) Negative: S do(es) not V
  • c) Yes/No question: Do(es) S V ?
  • d) Wh question: Wh_ do(es) S V ?

‘s’ and ‘es’ are used if the subject is he, she or it.

2 Spelling

The base form of the verb is used, so no problem here, except for the ‘s’ form, which can be made in 3 ways.

  • a) Add ‘s’ to the base verb:

eat-eats, live-lives, play-plays, think-thinks.

Special case: have-has

  • b) Add ‘es’ to verbs ending in -ss, -sh, -ch, -x.

kiss-kisses, wash-washes, catch-catches, fix-fixes.

Special cases: do-does, go-goes.

  • c) Verbs ending in consonant + y, change y to i and add ‘es’.

carry-carries, study-studies, fly-flies.

3. Pronunciation

The ‘s’ form is pronounced in 3 ways:

  • a) /s/ eats, makes, gets
  • b) /z/ plays, sees, goes
  • c) /Iz/ washes, dances, fixes

4 Meaning

There is a long list of situations when present simple is used. Here are the main two, which cover about 90% of situations.

  • a) Long-term situations: situations that are (almost) always true, starting from the past and continuing into the future, for eample: facts, opinions, likes.

eg I like strawberries

Jim works in a bank

  • b) Regular actions: often repeated, for example: habit, routine, custom, lifestyle.

eg She plays tennis

Many people eat with chopsticks.

So you can see the present simple is used for normal situations, even though these things may not be happening in the present.

I am sure she doesn’t play tennis all the time, and I’m very sure that many people don’t eat with chopsticks 24 hours a day. And Jim doesn’t work in a bank at nights and weekends and, although I like like strawberries very much, I am not eating any now. I’m drinking a cup of tea, but this is Present Continuous, which we will look at next……


Unlucky dollar?

Would you feel lucky if someone gave you a US dollar? Although one dollar is only about 120yen it is still better than nothing. You could even buy a pair of glasses from the 100yen shop!

And it looks pretty good, doesn’t it? It’s not made of paper, it’s made from cotton and linen, with a little silk, so it’s actually material. A special ink is used and then it is starched and pressed, and on the front you can see a picture of the first president, George Washington.

But if you look closely at the back you can find a big relationship with the unlucky number 13. Let’s go through the list.

You can see a pyramid, which has 13 steps.

Above the pyramid is written (in Latin) ‘Annuit Coeptis’, which has 13 letters.

Above the eagle is more Latin, ‘E Pluribus Unum’, which also has 13 letters.

Also above the eagle are 13 stars.

There are 13 bars on the shield below the eagle.

In the eagle’s left claw is an olive branch with 13 leaves.

In the eagle’s right claw are 13 arrows.

In addition the original US flag had 13 stripes and 13 stars.

It seems strange that in the US, where 13 is often considered unlucky, that the famous dollar bill (and the flag!) has so many references to the number 13.

For anyone who finds the dollar bill unlucky there is the one dollar coin, the silver dollar, or the gold dollar. The only problem is that these aren’t easy to find, though you can buy them on the internet for about 4 dollars each!


Hallowe’en is a big festival in the United States, but its origin is from the ancient Celtic people of Britain and northern France.

If you are a football supporter you may know that the star Japanese footballer, Shunsuke Nakamura, plays for the champions of Scotland, Celtic.

More than 2,000 years ago the Celtic people celebrated Samhain on October 31st. At that time this was the last day of the year and the Celtic people believed that the spirits of the dead could visit their house on this day. But evil spirits, often appearing as animals (especially cats), could also visit. To frighten the evil spirits people dressed in scary costumes and carried lanterns made from turnips which were painted with scary faces.

Over the centuries the Christian religion spread through Europe and, in the year 835, November 1st was made an important Christian holy day (holiday) to honour all the Christian saints. This day was (and still is) called All Saints Day, or All Hallows (to hallow means to make holy).

On the day before All Hallows people continued to celebrate Samhain, which gradually changed its name to the ‘Evening before Hallows’ to ‘Hallows’ Eve’ to ‘Hallowe’en’.

In the United States the first big Hallowe’en festival was in 1921. The idea of Trick or Treat was started in the US, as did the use of pumpkins for lanterns instead of turnips.

These days Hallowe’en is a fun-day for many people, but there are some who still follow the traditions of Samhain.


Why a silent k? I don’t _now.

After class today a student politely asked me, “Could you tell me why the k in knife is silent?” I replied, “I don’t know.”

My reply wasn’t good, but it was the truth. There are a few words like this, for example: knee, knot, knock, knickers, knuckle and, of course, know (plus knew and known). So I decided to do some research and find the answer.

It was actually quite easy to find. I googled ‘Why a silent k’, and Google found 26,200,000 sites in 0.15 seconds. The third site had the answer.

In Old English the k was not silent. So the word ‘knife’ was pronounced in full. But this was a little difficult to pronounce. I guess that humans are always finding easier ways to do things, and sometime during the 16th and 17th centuries the difficult k was dropped.

The only mystery is why it remains in the spelling. Maybe it was in so many books that no-one felt like changing the spelling. And if the spelling of ‘know’ was changed to ‘now’ it would probably be a little confusing.

Some people believe that in Scotland the k is not completely silent and that they can hear a small sound before the n.

So the answer is that the k used to be pronounced, but it was a little too difficult so the k sound was dropped but the letter k wasn’t. Know I now!


Pizza isn’t very delicious


Pizza is tasty. Pizza is very tasty. Pizza is delicious. But pizza isn’t very delicious.

The problem is that the adverb ‘very’ and the adjective ‘delicious’ are not used together.

‘Very’ can be used in front of most adjectives, for example: ‘very hungry’, ‘very cold’, and ‘very nice’, and it is used to show a strong feeling. So ‘very tasty pizza’ is a very nice phrase.

However ‘very’ is not used before all adjectives. Some adjectives, for example ‘tasty’, are known as basic adjectives, and they have a strong adjective as a partner, for example ‘delicious’.

Please look at a short list:

basic adjective – strong adjective

tasty – delicious

tired – exhausted

cold – freezing

nice – wonderful

interesting – fascinating

scared – terrified

hungry – starving

‘Very’ can be used with a basic adjective but it is not used with a strong adjective. So ‘very cold’ is OK, but ‘very freezing’ is not OK. And ‘very tasty’ is OK, but ‘very delicious’ is not.

What can we do? The answer is simple: use ‘absolutely’.

The adverb ‘absolutely’ is used with strong adjectives so ‘absolutely delicious’ is what you can say. But, be careful, ‘absolutely’ is used mainly with strong adjectives, so don’t say ‘absolutely tasty’.

If this is very confusing don’t worry because there is an even more useful adverb: ‘really’. This can be used with both basic and strong adjectives, yippee! So ‘really tasty’ and ‘really delicious’ are both OK.

You may think that ‘really’ is not so easy to pronounce, but all you do is touch the top of your mouth with your tongue when you say ‘l’.

So pizza isn’t very delicious, it’s really delicious, especially with ham and pineapple!

What makes sport so good?

Why does sport cause so much emotion? Why does sport make us so happy, so sad, so excited and so angry?

My favourite sports are cricket and football. I used to play them both, but now I can only watch. I enjoy watching most sports. I even watched veteran table-tennis last week-end (see: Isn’t life wonderful, October 15th).

I’m not a big baseball fan, but since I’ve been in Japan I’ve always followed Yakult Swallows. Their strange coach was Mr Nomura and their energetic, young catcher was Atsuya Furuta. Yakult won the Japan Series four times and it was very exciting.

I once saw them play, against Yokohama Bay Stars at Kusanagi. Sasaki was the starting pitcher for the Bay Stars. Later he played for the Seattle Mariners with Ichiro. His nickname in Seattle was ‘Daimajin’ and he was a very successful closing pitcher, with many saves.

However when I saw him he wasn’t good. Yakult won 13-2 and Ikeyama, O’Malley and Furuta hit home-runs. I waved my turquoise umbrella with the other Yakult fans.

But my favourite baseball team is the Detroit Tigers. I even have a cap which I bought in Detroit. The Tigers are now in the World Series, and they lost the first game today. Please support them with me!

Last night was the start of the Japan Series between Chunichi Dragons and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Neither is ‘my’ team, and baseball isn’t ‘my’ sport, but I watched the game with interest.

At the top of the 9th inning my phone rang, but I didn’t answer it. I wanted to see the end of the game. What makes sport so good?