The present continuous tense is formed from the present tense of the verb be and the present participle (-ing form) of a verb:

Use

1. We use the present continuous tense to talk about the present:

  • for something that is happening at the moment of speaking:

I’m just leaving work. I’ll be home in an hour.
Please be quiet. The children are sleeping.

  • for something which is happening before and after a given time:

At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast.
When I get home the children are doing their homework.

 

  • for something which we think is temporary:

Michael is at university. He’s studying history.
I’m working in London for the next two weeks.

  • for something which is new and contrasts with a previous state:

These days most people are using email instead of writing letters.
What sort of clothes are teenagers wearing nowadays? What sort of music are they listening to?

  • to show that something is changing, growing or developing:

The children are growing quickly.
The climate is changing rapidly.
Your English is improving.

  • for something which happens again and again:

It’s always raining in London.
They are always arguing.
George is great. He’s always laughing.

Note: We normally use always with this use.

2. We use the present continuous tense to talk about the future:

  • for something which has been arranged or planned:

Mary is going to a new school next term.
What are you doing next week?

3. We can use the present continuous to talk about the past:

  • When we are telling a story
  • When we are summarising the story from a book, film or play etc.:

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Hello,
I don't understand the use of present continous in this case: 'I look aweful in the mornings, but I'm all nice and pretty when I AM GOING OUT. I would think about going out as about daily routine and I would use present simple (... 'when I GO OUT). Would this be my mistake?

Hello Yura_Tea,

In this example it would be fine to use 'when I go out' (describing a regular activity) or 'when I'm going out' (describing an action in progress. It's similar to examples such as:

I'm grumpy in the morning, but I'm in a good mood when I eat something nice.

I'm grumpy in the morning, but I'm in a good mood when I'm eating something nice.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you a lot for your answer. I'm glad to know that both tenses are correct and I won't make any mistakes in this case. I suppose I need more practice to feel the difference between the two, and the feeling will come with time, naturally. :)

Hello Sir,

I will be very glad to answer my questions please. We use both tenses present simple and present continuous to write about something, which happens again and again. What are the differences between the below examples? Suppose we can use both tense for something, which happens again and again in the present then how can i recognize what kind of tenses are used in these examples?

Examples:
Present continuous
It’s always raining in London.
They are always arguing.
George is great. He’s always laughing.

Present simple
I play football every weekend.
I sometimes go to the cinema.
She never plays football.

Hello Ramyar1234,

Generally, we reserve the present continuous with an adverb of frequency ('always', 'forever' or 'constantly') for irritating activities, while the present simple is more neutral. For example:

He sings in the shower. [a normal and frequent activity]

He's always singing in the shower. [a normal and frequent activity which the speaker finds irritating]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

These sentences are confused.

It is always raining in London ( Present Continuous) Happens in the past, up to now and continue...
It always rains in London ( Present simple) Just in general true.

But when we use in speaking, which way you all preferred?

Hello Tom,

The first sentence (and most sentences that use 'always' + present continuous) is making a comment – for example, maybe the speaker isn't happy about all the rain – whereas the sentence with the present simple is more matter-of-fact.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear The LearnEnglish Team,

I'm a bit confused which tense should be used in this sentence. Please help!

He usually goes to sleep if the radio___________.
plays or is playing would be better? Can you give me an explanation as well?

Thanks in advance.

Best,
Moon

Hello Moon,

'is playing' is better because it's talking about something happening before, during and after the time he falls asleep. Our continuous aspect page might be a good one for you to read to complement the explanation on this page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

Can you give me some examples about the present continuous to talk about the past?

Thanks...

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