Simple Present Tense in Esperanto

This time on the Learn Esperanto with Tomaso Blog, we revisit a post I made to the Duolingo Esperanto forum in November 2019 in response to one of the most common questions I see from new learners on Duolingo.

While this post is written from a Duolingo perspective, it’s important for anybody learning Esperanto by any method – and that common question is:

If mi kuras means “I run”, how do you say “I am running”?

It’s mi kuras too.

Picture of Owl explaining how this works

Well, if they’re the same, how do you tell them apart?

Context. If you are concerned that the context isn’t clear, add additional words to clarify. Note that many language are just like Esperanto in this regard and they get along just fine with a single present tense.

I was doing an exercise from Esperanto to English and got marked wrong because I used the wrong English present tense

Just report it using the “report a problem” button. Select “my answer should be accepted” and move on to the next exercise. There is no reason to comment in the forum about this sort of thing. If you’re ever marked wrong for saying “the dog plays” instead of “the dog is playing” – just report it.

Why wasn’t “He is living in a small house” accepted? It means the same as “He lives in a small house.

Personally, I’m not convinced it really does mean the same thing. Often there really is a better choice as to which English tense to use – and you may find some old comments from me taking sides here – but I’ve become persuaded that the course should accept both “lives” and “is living” (or whatever verb we’re talking about) in all sentences – so I would report these with confidence.

As for why wasn’t my answer accepted – though, to paraphrase forum participant Carbsrule, this always boils down to either:

  • Your answer really was wrong (in which case, seeing a screen shot or a copy-paste would really help people give you good feedback) – or
  • Your answer was right but it hasn’t been added as an alternative yet, quite possibly because nobody has reported it using the “report a problem” button.

Alternative answers need to be added manually, and reporting answers that should be accepted helps the course volunteers (of which, by the way, I am not one) find which sentences need attention.

Update: As of 5 April, 2021, the Duolingo course is no longer maintained by volunteers (or, as it seems, by anybody at all at this point – beyond some updates to the audio). The same principle applies. Report the problem and move on.

Additional info about “is not” and “does not”

Sometimes this question comes up in relationship to negative questions — isn’t / doesn’t – and so on. Yes, it’s the same thing.

Mi ne kuras can mean:

  • I don’t run.
  • I am not running.

Li ne manĝas ovojn can mean:

  • He doesn’t eat eggs.
  • He isn’t eating eggs.

Again, it depends on context. Adding words like “right now”, “usually”, “ever” – may constrain you to one choice or another.

Further learning

Sometimes the parts of Esperanto that are meant to make it easier to learn can be tricky — not because they’re tricky on their own, but because English (or some other language you know) is tricky — and I think some of the confusion about how to use verbs ending in -as fall into that category.

Esperanto has three basic tenses – present, past, and future (-as, -is, and -os — in alphabetical order.) If your native language has more tenses, you may hesitate here trying to figure out how to say it in Esperanto, even though Esperanto is less complicated than your native language.

Let me know if you have questions about tense in Esperanto. If I can’t answer briefly below, your question could be the topic for a future blog post. The best way to keep informed of when new blog posts are made up (and to get other updates related to learning Esperanto) is to join my mailing list at


  1. Hi, thank you for the article. Could you elaborate more on how you could distinguish the two possible meanings when context isn’t clear please? What would the idiomatic words/phrases to give additional clarity? Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi – Somehow I missed this message for almost exactly a year. Do you still have the same question at this point? If not, how would you answer it now?

      If so… let me say that I try to avoid answering questions like this in the abstract. Can you give examples of where this could happen or where you’ve misunderstood something as a result? Is there something specific you want to say that you don’t know how to say?

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