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


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.:




I don't understand the difference between 'going to' and 'present continuous ' ,can you bring more examples?

Hello Ran ous,

You can find more examples and explanations on our page titled Talking about the future. You can find it here. Please take a look at those examples and let us know if you are still unsure.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

So the first one is related to "intentions" and the second one with "plans or arrangements", if yes then it's quite confusing to understand difference between plans and intentions, I'll be grateful if you clarify it .

Hello Ram ous,

The difference is really a question of how we see the action, not a clear-cut factual difference. If we see the action as being already set and certain then we tend to use the present continuous; if we think the action might change or not happen then going to is more likely. Plans are less fixed than arrangements. Plans may exist only in our head for the moment; arrangements tend to have gone further.


I hope that helps to clarify it for you.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Yes ,thank you for your support.

Hello Sir Kirk,
this sentence it's very hard to understand as compared to me :
and he's wondering what to do next when a man…

Best Wishes.

Hello medmomo,

This sounds like it's from a story or a joke. It's difficult to explain without more context, but essentially it's describing a person who is thinking about what to do. While he is thinking, a man comes and does something. Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


I undestand the difference between 'going to' and 'present continuous ' for the future is that 'present continuous' should be used for fixed plans. However, when you pay attention to conversations in movies, it seems (to me) that this is not always the case. I have the impression 'present continuous' is becoming even more usual than 'going to'. I'd appreciate some clarification or opinions about it.

Hello Rosanna-br,

That's very observant of you! In many situations, the line between an intention and a fixed plan isn't very important to speakers, so they may use these two forms interchangeably. Another thing to consider is that what exactly a fixed plan is may be different from one person to the next. In other words, I might consider a flight booked only once I've got a ticket in my hand, whereas for my brother just having the flight date in his mind might be enough for him to consider the plan as fixed.

In the end, the grammar rules that are presented here and in most other grammars are attempts to describe how native speakers use the language. And of course how people use the language varies quite a bit and changes over time. Perhaps you've caught on to a change that will become more and more common with time.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk

Thank you for your interesting comments. I was thinking about the way English is so dynamic and changes over time. And of course it's hard for books to keep up and explain all the aspects of a tense. Besides, I imagine it would be overwhelming for learners to understand everything at once.

What you said about 'fixed plans' meaning different things to different people was really interesting. I hadn't thought about it - and now that you mentioned, it does make a lot of sense!

Your explanations are really (really!) helpful. Thank you very much.