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
In this part "for something which is new and contrasts with a previous state", can we use "present simple" in these two sentences with the same meaning?

Hello Zth,

Yes, you could use present simple in the example sentences there. They would have a similar meaning, but the present simple doesn't include the idea of a change or contrast in the same way that the present continuous does.

Other words in the sentence -- for example, in the first one, 'these days' -- can imply a change and so the sentence could still have the same meaning if you used the present simple. But it's more common for people to use the present continuous, as it reinforces the idea of change, and sometimes there are no other words or phrases that express this idea.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello!! I'd like to ask for temporary actions. Can I use present simple instead of present continuous to express temporary action or I should use only present continuous in this case? For example, "He is working as waiter until he finds another job" and "He works as waiter until he finds another job"

Hello Alex,

The present simple isn't used to speak about temporary actions in this way -- you should use the present continuous instead.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Kirk!!! Have temporary actions that I want to express with present continuous started in present yet? Or they will start in future? For example, "I'm staying in New York for 3 months"

Hello Alex H,

'I'm staying in New York for 3 months' could be used when you are already living there and explaining your situation, or also used to speak about the future, i.e. before you go there. See our talking about the future page for more on this last use of the present continuous.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

You mean function "temporary action" is used when action already started, i.e. I live in New York now and will live there for 3 months?

Hello Alex H,

Yes, it can be used in that situation (when you are already in New York), or in a situation when you haven't yet arrived there but you have plans to live in NY in the future.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

When do we use present simple or present continuous with the adverb"nowadays"?
e.g. What sort of clothes are teenagers wearing nowadays?
I forget things more often nowadays.

Many thanks.

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