Present Simple Usage 6: For past actions! (jokes, stories, books, etc.)

Yes, paradoxically, Present Simple can describe past actions. This happens when we want to describe actions happening in stories, jokes and anecdotes, books and films. Basically, jokes, books and films are the same as stories… This tense helps us imagine the situation and make it seem more immediate, instantaneous, or live, real, as if it’s happening now, or in front of our eyes.

He stops a plane with a mop and asks if they have an appointment with him!

Then why don’t we use Present Continuous when telling stories? Actually, we can. However, for immediate, instantaneous actions and situations, when telling a story, we’d better use Present Simple and not Present Continuous.

He clicks the “pay now” button and realizes he doesn’t have money on his account. Desperately, he crosses (a little less instantaneous action) the road and enters the bank building to withdraw some cash. The bank teller says they don’t have his records with them. He doesn’t know what to do next, but one thing he knows for a fact – his new “friends” are already coming for him!

This use of the present tense is sometimes called:

graphic present / fictional present / historic present

More on Present Simple:

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