Compare the present form and the past form

We use the present form for descriptions in the present-future.

We use the past form for descriptions in the past.

present simple tense timeline - describing the present

Tokyo is the capital of Japan. (true in the present)
I‘m not hungry.
Are they delicious?

past simple tense timeline - describing something at a time in the past

Nara was the capital of Japan. (true in the past)
I wasn’t hungry after work. So I didn’t eat.
Were they delicious? There are none left.

We use  the present form for fixed events in the future (these things can’t be changed). We say or know when they happen.

We use the past form for events in the past (the past can’t be changed). We say or know when they happened.

present simple tense timeline - schedule - fixed future

The meeting starts at 10:30.
The game isn’t on Sunday.
When does the bus leave?

past simple tense timeline - completed action in the past

The meeting started at 10:30.
The game wasn’t on Sunday.
When did the bus leave?

We use the present form for actions that happen in the present, as the speaker speaks. (These things finish in the present; they finish before we finish speaking.)

We use the past form for actions that happened in the past. (These things finished in the past.)

present simple tense timeline - commentary - narration - events as they happen

She doesn’t pass the ball.
She shoots.
Does it have the distance?

past simple tense timeline - completed action in the past

I went shopping.
He didn’t lock the door.
Did you play golf?

When we use the present form and don’t know exactly when an action happens, we understand that the speaker is speaking generally and it happens many times. (This is the most common.)

present simple tense timeline - in general - many times

I go shopping.
He doesn’t lock the door.
Do you play golf?

Exercises

present or past

Grammar explanations