In Japanese, the non-past
form of verbs is identical to the dictionary form/casual form. Unlike English, this form of verbs is able to be used in several cases where conjugation/different constructions would be required in English.
My wife watches a movie every night.
I will eat pizza tomorrow during lunch.
In these examples, we can see the three forms of English verbs that are covered by the single non-past
form of Japanese verbs. These are verbs ending with -s (sees, hears, goes), verbs requiring will (will see, will hear, will go), and verbs that do not require conjugation (see, hear, go).
Due to this one form of verbs covering several different nuances, it is often important to use expressions of time in the sentence, so that the meaning becomes clear.
If there is no word distinguishing ‘time’ in the sentence, the nuance will be that of stating a general fact about something that is true at any time.
From all of these examples, we can see that the non-past form can be thought of as expressing one of three basic ideas. General facts, habits, or future events.
Caution: In books, the non-past form will regularly be used for events that are happening ‘in the moment’, but without any time word being used. In these cases it is usually obvious from context that it is happening then and there.