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

Helo, thanks alot for your great work. I'm a little bit confuse..........you said that the simple continous tense is to talk about something that is happening before and after a given time.........and you gave two examples "at 8 o'ckock we are usually having breakfast"
"When i get home the children are doing there home work" ....................please explain these examples better for me as it will help me greatly to construct more examples

Hello kingtam,

All continuous forms describe actions in progress around a particular time. The present continuous describes actions in progress around the moment of speaking. For example:

At 8 o'ckock we are usually having breakfast.

The meaning here is that at 8.00 we are in the process of having breakfast. The meal started some time before 8.00 (though it could be 7.59!) and has not finished at 8.00.

When I get home the children are doing their [not 'there'] home work.

The meaning here is similar: the children started their homework before the speaker arrived and are in the middle of it when he or she gets home.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir ,
Why are you cooking food today (I know this sentence is correct but can i say
Why do you cook today or Why have you been cooking food today )

Hello Tapan100,

We would generally use 'do' to talk about typical or habitual actions, not actions at the moment of speaking. The present perfect 'have you been cooking' would ask about the day up to the moment of speaking, so it is possible but has a slightly different meaning.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
Could i say that" when i got home, children are playing game" or the given time should be present time. Thanks

Hi yeshe,

The verb in the first part of the sentence sets a past time ('got') and so the verb in the second part should also be past time:

When I got home, the children were playing a game.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi
Would U be so kind to give an example of using the present continous tense when we talk about the past, please?

Hi lion921,

This is used only in the specific case of telling someone a story and trying to make it more immediate. For example, imagine I am telling you about what happened last night and I want to make the story vivid and exciting. I might say:

So I'm walking down the street and suddenly a man jumps out and starts shouting at me.

The story events happened in the past but by using present forms I can make it seem more immediate. We only use this form in informal anecdotes, stories and jokes, however.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi!
i would like to ask the difference between present continuous and present perfect when use in time which is not finished.
1. The company's profit is increasing this year.
2. The company's profit has increased this year.
3. Rob isn't doing well this term.
4. Rob hasn't done well this term.

Hi RTris,

Both forms can have different meanings depending on how they're used, but in basic, contextless sentences such as these, the difference is that the present continuous suggests the change is still in process, whereas the present perfect does not clearly indicate this. The present perfect doesn't deny that it will continue, but really only speaks about the period up until now.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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