In the example: "Esta tarde ayudo a mi madre en el jardín", the point in time when the statement is occurring seems important. Can it not be "esta tarde" at the time of the statement, which would make it the continuous present (even though that tense is not being used, just as the future tense is not being used)? Or is the present tense simply not used in this way?
Do you mean the sentence could be referring to a present event happening right at the moment of speaking? In order to express that you'd need the present continuous, not the present simple (ayudo):
This sentence in Spanish is not referring at all to a future event but to a present event. The helping is happening right at the moment of speaking.
It is one use of the present continuous that is different in English and Spanish. If you said this same sentence in English you could be referring to the future:
here, you will do the helping this evening, still to happen.
But in Spanish you would need either the present simple or any future tense:
I hope this clarified it.
Ok, that helps. Thanks Inma!
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