Level: intermediate

We use continuous aspect:

  • for something happening before and after a specific time:

He's getting on the train. (before and after the moment of speaking)
It was a quarter past ten. We were watching the news on television.

  • for something happening before and after another action:

Mother will be cooking the dinner when we get home.
We were waiting for the bus when it started to rain.

  • for something continuing for some time:

Everybody will be waiting for us.
They had been working hard all day.

  • for something happening again and again:

They've been doing that every day this week.
The children were always shouting.
He will be practising the piano every night.

  • for something temporary:

We are renting an apartment until our house is ready.
He was working in a garage during the vacation.

  • for something new:

We have moved from Birmingham. We're living in Manchester now.
He had left university and was working in his father's business.

  • to describe something changing or developing:

Everything has been getting more difficult.
He was growing more bad-tempered every day. 

Continuous aspect 1


Continuous aspect 2


We can use continuous aspect:

How long have you been sitting there?
I don't know how long she had been learning Spanish.

Your friends will be looking for you.
They might be playing tennis.

You should have been driving more carefully.
Soon we will have been living here for 25 years.

Continuous aspect 3


Continuous aspect 4


We do not normally use the continuous aspect with stative verbs. We use the simple instead:

I don't understand you. (NOT am not understanding)
When I got home, I really needed a shower. (NOT was needing)
I've always liked John. (NOT been liking)


Hello when you say continuous forms are used to talk about background info, I need to know what is meant by the term background information

Hello Lamastry,

When we say that the continuous aspect is used to talk about background information, we're referring to actions that are happening but which are not the most salient action mentioned in a sentence. For example, in 'I was having lunch when the postman knocked on the door', the most salient action is the postman knocking on the door. The background action is 'I was eating lunch'. The sentence is more about the postman than about my lunch – my lunch is in the background.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you sir

Hello, dear friends! Please, help me with choosing the right answer. I got/was getting up at six o'clock every morning last week. When we were on holiday, we went / were going to the cafe almost every day. Danise practised/were practising the song every day until she could sing it perfectly.I did/was doing my homework as soon as I got home from school. Thank you!

Hello Inna Klepinina,

I'm afraid we don't provide help with these kinds of test or homework exercises on LearnEnglish. These are for you to do! We will help you to understand the material on our site, or with more general questions about the language, however.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Why are the following sentences used with the present continous?
I have to be going now. Shouldn't this be "I have to go now"?
You don't need to be making yourself sick. Also, this should be "you don't need to make yourself sick".

Hello Dwishiren,

Both forms are correct here, and there is no difference in use. You could look at the continuous form as describing something which is in progress already and the simple as something which refers to a possible future action, but I think this is unnecessary; both are used interchangeably in modern English.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! Is it possible to use Continuous and Simple in the same sentence? As one of the verbs is a non-continuous verb.)))e.g. "What ecosystems of educational software exist and are successfully functioning at the present?"))) If there are any mistakes in the mentioned example, I`d be very pleased if you corrected them.

Hello Anna.Bu,

Yes, it's quite common to use both forms in the same sentence. Your sentence is grammatically correct, though what exactly 'ecosystems of software' means isn't clear to me - but that's probably down to my own ignorance!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I would like to know which sentences is correct,
1. Could the floods have been prevented in the first place?
2. Could the floods be prevented in the first place?
And please explain to me...I'm confusing about the "have been" things
Thx ...