In today’s article, we are going to have a very basic look at when to use the Spanish simple present tense (presente simple). In this previous entry you can read how to conjugate it. But now we’re going to learn to use it.
This explanation is intended for beginner’s (A1) and intermediate levels (B1). At the end of this article, you’ll find a video lesson so you can watch and listen to the explanation. Remember that subtitles are available in Spanish, English and German so you can follow this lesson if it’s difficult for you to understand.
When to use the Spanish simple present indicative (presente de indicativo)?
Of course, we use the present tense when we talk about an action that is happening in the present, i.e. when we talk about now or about a situation that is happening at this moment. However, we can also use it to talk about the past or the future. Did you already know that?
Using the Spanish simple present indicative to talk about the present
I’m going to explain three different forms of application. Let’s start with the first one.
- Talking about something that’s happening while talking about it. Let’s have a look at an example:
María meets Pedro in the park and asks him: ¡Hola! ¿Qué haces Pedro?
The action is taking place while talking and therefore we use the presente simple.
- Talking about actions we do normally, repeatedly or on a day-to-day basis. For example:
Mi hermana y yo salimos a correr todos los días.
It’s something we do every day (routine). When telling someone about it we use the present tense.
- Let’s continue with the third use. Talking about general, universal or constant facts. A very demonstrative example is:
La tierra gira alrededor del sol.
That’s a fact that doesn’t change and therefore we use the presente simple.
Using the Spanish simple present indicative to talk about the past
Today, I’m only going to cover one use. We can use the present tense when describing occurrences of the past and we want to give them more emphasis, so the story is more vivid and more attractive. You can find this in many accounts of important events of the past, especially in newspaper articles. For example:
En diciembre de 1978 se ratifica la constitución tras un referéndum y así es como termina la transición española.
Here, you could also use the past tense and it would be correct. However, it would transmit less intensity.
Using the Spanish simple present indicative to talk about the future
Now, I’m going to explain two uses of the presente simple to talk about the future. Let’s begin with the first one.
- Talking about an action that will definitely take place in the future, but we indicate exactly when. How to do that? By using a time marker. For example:
El jueves de la semana que viene tengo clase de español.
The class takes place in the future and the time marker indicates it. However, we use the presente simple because it’s an action that is definitely going to happen.
- The second application is when using the periphrasis: “ir a + a verb in infinitive form”. “ir a” is always in present tense. Let’s have a look at an example:
Voy a correr mañana con mis amigos.
When will I go running? Tomorrow, in the future. Nonetheless, we use the verb in present tense, but with a capacity of the future.
These are the uses of the Spanish presente simple de indicativo that are useful for beginner’s levels as well as intermediate levels. I hope this article could help you a bit to better understand this tense.
Below, you’ll find the video lesson with more examples as well as some interactive exercises for you to practice.