"He is eating."
Reply to the question below from StefanoV1:
First things first: The words "jetzt" and "gerade" are used as adverbs in a sentence like "Er isst gerade." or "Er isst jetzt." (They describe the word "essen".)
The word "gerade" (adverb) has a few other meanings aside from being synonymous with "jetzt". This is the list of the Duden:
- right now, at the moment (Er telefoniert gerade. - He is on the phone right now.)
- [coll.] a bit (Kannst du mir gerade helfen? - Can you lend me a hand here?/ lit. = Can you help me a bit?)
- directly (Er wohnt gerade um die Ecke. - He lives just around the corner.)
- just barely (Er war kam gerade noch rechtzeitig. - He just barely arrived in time.)
But if you use it as an adjective it means things like straight (a straight line - eine gerade Linie) and even (an even number - eine gerade Zahl).
There are also a number of uses for gerade as a particle, but all of them are colloquial.
Normally, he = er and she = sie. In contrast to some other languages like Italian or Spanish, personal pronouns like "he", "she" or "I" can normally not be omitted, except in colloquial speech when the context is clear, e.g. "I had a long day. Got up, took a shower, spent 12 hours reading in the library, went home, fell asleep at once."
In colloquial speech, you can also sometimes use "der" instead of "er" and "die" instead of "sie": "Was macht Herr Meier? - Der liest." (What is Mr Meier doing? - He is reading.). However, this can sound a bit impolite.
Standard German doesn't distinguish between the simple and the progressive aspects - there is just one form for both. So depending on the context, "er isst" can be translated either as "he eats" or as "he is eating.
Which form of the verb you have to use depends on which person you're talking about.
essen (to eat)
ich esse (I eat; I am eating)
du isst (you [singular familiar] eat; you [singular familiar] are eating)
er/sie/es isst (he/she/it eats; he/she/it is eating)
wir essen (we eat; we are eating)
ihr esst (you [plural familiar] eat; you [plural familiar] are eating)
sie/Sie essen (they/you [singular and plural formal] eat; they/you [singular and plural formal] are eating]
Because the form of the verb depends on the person (I, you, he/she/it, etc.) who is doing something. It's ich esse (I eat/I am eating), but er isst (he eats/he is eating). See also my two posts immediately above yours.
PS: Having said that, the form "er esse" exists. It's the so-called subjunctive I (Konjunktiv I) used in reported speech in formal writing. "Peter sagt, er esse" (Peter says he eats/is eating). But I don't think you need to worry about the subjunctive at the moment.
It's a so-called strong verb, i.e. it's irregular. Strong verbs have a vowel shift in the past tense and sometimes also in the past participle. Strong verbs exist both in English and in German, e.g.
I eat - I ate - I have eaten (ich esse-ich aß-ich habe gegessen)
I sing - I sang - I have sung (ich singe-ich sang-ich habe gesungen)
In addition, in German some strong verbs such as "essen" also have a vowel shift in the present tense that affects the 2nd (du) and 3rd (er/sie/es) person singular: ich esse, du isst, er/sie/es isst, wir essen, ihr esst, sie/Sie essen. The vowel shifts of strong verbs unfortunately have to be learnt by heart. English and German verbs do not always have the same vowel shifts.
PS: The man who coined the term "strong verb" was one of the Grimm brothers, BTW. They are famous for their collection of fairy tales including such stories as "Little Red Riding Hood", "Rapunzel" or "Hänsel and Gretel".