Present continuous

Level: beginner

The present continuous is made from the present tense of the verb be and the –ing form of a verb:

I am working
You are playing
He is talking
She is living
It is eating
We are staying
They are sleeping

We use the present continuous to talk about:

  • activities at the moment of speaking:

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

Present continuous 1


Present continuous 2


  • future plans or arrangements:

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

Present continuous 3

Plans for next month

2nd (Sat.) – my birthday. Party!
4th – day off
10th (Sun.) – flight OS462 15.40
11th, 12th, 13th – conference, Vienna
15th – dentist 3 p.m.
22nd – Mum & Dad arrive, evening
23rd – Toni's Restaurant (make reservation!)
25th – Mum & Dad > home
29th – payday


Present continuous 4


Present continuous questions

We make questions by putting am, is or are in front of the subject:

Are you listening?
Are they coming to your party?
When is she going home?
What am I doing here?

Present continuous questions 1


Present continuous questions 2


Present continuous negatives

We make negatives by putting not (or n't) after am, is or are:

I'm not doing that.
You aren't listening.
(or You're not listening.)
They aren't coming to the party. (or They're not coming to the party.)
She isn't going home until Monday. (or She's not going home until Monday.)

Present continuous negatives 1


Present continuous negatives 2


Stative verbs

We do not normally use the continuous with stative verbs. Stative verbs include:

  • verbs of thinking and feeling:
(= believe)

  • verbs of the senses:
  • others:

We normally use the simple instead:

I understand you. (NOT I am understanding you.)
This cake tastes wonderful. (NOT This cake is tasting wonderful.)

Level: intermediate

We also use the present continuous to talk about:

  • something which is happening before and after a specific time:

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

  • something which we think is temporary:

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

  • 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?

  • something which is changing, growing or developing:

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

  • something which happens again and again:

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

Note that we normally use always with this use.

Present continuous 5


Level: advanced

We can use the present continuous to talk about the past when we are:

  • telling a story:

The other day I'm just walking down the street when suddenly this man comes up to me and asks me to lend him some money. Well, he's carrying a big stick and he looks a bit dangerous, so I'm wondering what to do …

  • summarising a book, film or play:

Harry Potter is a pupil at Hogwarts school. One day when he is playing Quidditch he sees a strange object in the sky. He wonders what is happening

Average: 4.2 (57 votes)
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Submitted by Devesh Raj on Fri, 28/12/2018 - 16:52

Why some sentences having 'has' are present continuous tense like - "She has a large house to live in.."

Hello Devesh Raj,

In that sentence, 'has' is in the present simple tense, not the present continuous. 

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivian888999 on Tue, 11/09/2018 - 12:22

What is different between those two sentences? I am always losing the phone. I always lose the phone. Thank you

Hello Vivian888999,

Both sentences describe things that happen frequently. The present continuous form (the first example) is generally used in such cases when we want to emphasise that the situation is irritating and that we wish it would stop.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Mon, 03/09/2018 - 13:04

Hello Sir Please help me to make this clear. I copied the verb' look' from your website and all the other verbs under'Stative' Verbs' 'look' comes under verbs of the senses' Is it wrong to say: 1. I was looking for you everywhere . 2. I looked for you everywhere. Is this correct? Can't I use past continuous Thank you. Regards Lal
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 03/09/2018 - 14:32

In reply to by Lal


Hello Lal,

'look' has many different uses. One is as a verb of perception, as in the two examples you have written here. In these cases, it's perfectly normal to use them in continuous tenses.

When 'look' is used as a stative verb, it's unusual (though not impossible) to use it in a continuous tense. For example, in 'She looks like her brother', 'look' is a stative verb and it would be wrong outside of a specific context to say 'She is looking like her brother'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Mon, 03/09/2018 - 12:23

Hello Sir Please tell me which sentence is correct? First or the second. I think the first Please let me know. The first consist of to plus verb (to phone and to write) 'To infinitives' but the second is verb plus ing. (writing) I think this is not correct. I want to make sure. The two sentences are: 1. It is easier to phone than to write letters. 2. It is easier to phone than writing letters. Both are correct or only one . Thank you. Regards Lal.
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Tue, 04/09/2018 - 09:13

In reply to by Lal


Hi Lal,

Yes, 1 is the correct one.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Thu, 26/07/2018 - 10:49

Hello Sir With reference to your answer to el-gr's question, the plane is landing in ten minutes.' This is something arranged but if I say 'the plane is going to land in ten minutes.' Is it all right to call it 'intention' or plan. and it may not happen or not sure or exact. I am I correct? Please let me know. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

You can find explanations of the difference between the present continuous and going to form for future reference on our page on the topic: Talking about the Future.

The difference between the present continuous and the going to form is the speaker's perspective: how the speaker sees the action.

If you use is landing then you see the action as something previously arranged.

If you use going to then you have some reason to think this is going to happen. This may be something you see or hear, for example: the pilot makes an announcement, the plane starts to go down or the engines change tone.

If you use the present simple and say lands then you see the action as part of a regular timetable.

There is no difference in certainty or in reality; the difference is in the speaker's view of the action.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Thu, 26/07/2018 - 05:26

Hello Sir Could you explain this for me because I have doubts whether they are right to use.E.g. How long are you waiting for? How long were they waiting for? Were they waiting for a long time? Regarding time can one use the above tenses or should one use present perfect or past perfect? Please let me know. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

The first sentence describes a period of time continuing up to the present. it is an unfinished time period (it goes up to the moment of speaking and may continue) and so the present perfect is appropriate:

How long have you been waiting (for)? [we usually omit the 'for' but it can be included]


The other two sentences are dependent on context. Both describe past finished time and so use past forms, but you could use a range of alternatives, depending on the context. Past simple and continuous forms are both possible (simple views the wait as a single historical event; continuous as a process whose duration is emphasised) and past perfect forms (if the waiting was interrupted by another event in the past) are all possible. As I said, the context and speaker's intention will determine which of these forms is chosen.


The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Nefertiti on Mon, 07/05/2018 - 12:12

Hi! Could you explain me the difference between telling a joke using present simple and present continuous? I'd like to understand the nuance. Thank you very much in advance.

Hello Nefertiti,

As with any narrative, we generally use simple forms to describe the events unless we need to emphasise some particular aspect of the event (that it is interrupted or temporary, for example).


In most narratives we use the past simple to describe sequential events and the past continuous when we want to describe an event which is interrupted by another event. For example:

Tom was a policeman and he lived in London. One day, as he was walking to work, he saw a woman swimming in the river...

If we want to use present tenses to tell the same story then the simple and continuous forms remain:

Tom is a policeman and he lives in London. One day, as he is walking to work, he sees a woman swimming in the river...



The LearnEnglish Team


Submitted by abdulhaqcivil1 on Mon, 19/03/2018 - 08:45

1) Now a days, i'm getting headache often. 2) Now a days, I get headache often. which one is correct it confuse me on picking verb "get or getting"?

Hi abdulhaqcivil1,

Both the present simple and the present continuous are possible here, but in general I'd recommend the present continuous if you're emphasising something that is abnormal (i.e. new and different).

I'd probably rephrase it as 'These days I'm having a lot of headaches (or 'frequent headaches')'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by khado on Mon, 05/03/2018 - 05:01

Plz can you explain me i think the case bellow is for present simple not cont. for something which happens again and again: It’s always raining in London. They are always arguing. George is great. He’s always laughing.

Hello khado,

As the page says, we use the present continuous when something happens again and again. You could use the present simple here, but there is a slight difference in meaning. The present continuous suggests something happens again and again but is not part of a regular pattern, while the present simple suggests either something is permanent and unchanging or that it happens as part of a timetable or regular pattern of some kind.

Of course, language is always interpreted by the listener and we know how weather acts, so your meaning would be understood with either form.



The LearnEnglish Team 

Submitted by el_gr on Sun, 25/02/2018 - 01:41

Hi, It seems that both future continuous and present continuous can be used to talk about the future; how are they different? I think they are interchangeable in some (or maybe most) cases, but I believe there is a difference in nuance. Hope you could help. Thank you! Cf. 1) The plane will be landing in 10 minutes. 2) The plane is landing in 10 minutes. 3) I'll be meeting Peter for dinner tonight. 4) I'm meeting Peter for dinner tonight. 5) We'll be moving to Australia in November. 6) We're moving to Australia in November.
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sun, 25/02/2018 - 09:09

In reply to by el_gr


Hello el_gr,

Yes, both are used to speak about the future and both could be used in many contexts to say more or less the same thing, though usually there is a slight difference, often not so much in the action they are speaking about as about the speaker's perspective on the future action.

In general, the present continuous speaks about a future arranged action. The future continuous also speaks about a future arranged action with the additional focus on the duration of the event in some way, e.g. perhaps the speaker imagines herself being 'inside' the event. This can help understand sentences 3 vs 4 and 5 vs 6, for example. In 3, it's as if you're imagining your time in the restaurant together as a discrete event, whereas 4 is more a statement of fact. The same is true for 5 (I can see all the boxes around the house and it's going to be a difficult time) and 6.

This is quite a subtle distinction and so it can be difficult to see. I'd encourage you to look out for future continuous forms as you read and listen to English -- look at the context carefully, which should help you gain some insight into what the speaker or writer is trying to show with the future continuous form.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by omar123 on Tue, 20/02/2018 - 18:30

for something which is happening before and after a given time: At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast. means that they are usually beginnig their breakfast before 8 o'clock ?

Hello omar123,

That is correct. When we say 'at eight o'clock we are usually having breakfast' we mean that the breakfast is generally in progress at that time. In other words, if you arrive at eight o'clock then we will be sitting down at the table and eating. Breakfast may start any time before that and finish any time after that.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sheikh Salauddin on Fri, 26/01/2018 - 14:14

Is the sentence'he is reading for two hours' correct?

Hello Sheikh Salauddin,

When we describe an event which is unfinished and talk about the duration (up to now) we use the present perfect. The normal was to say this woud be:

He has been reading for two hours.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by abdulhaqcivil1 on Wed, 03/01/2018 - 17:28

Sir, I confused here on the usage between present simple and continuous. point of my confusion is "At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast." it seems like routine habitual action ,why we have used present continuous rather a present simple?. light something on it sir. Thanks in advance, Abdul haq.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 04/01/2018 - 08:29

In reply to by abdulhaqcivil1


Hello abdulhaqcivil1,

The description on the page explains this. We use the present continuous for something which is happening before and after a given time.


Compare the following:

At eight o’clock we usually have breakfast.

At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast.

In the first sentence breakfast starts at eight o'clock - this is our normal time to have the meal.

In the second sentence we learn that at eight o'clock we are usually in the middle of breakfast. Perhaps it starts at 7.45, for example - we do not know.

The continuous aspect here is used to show things are in progress and incomplete at a certain time.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

THANKS A Lot and if you don't mind to answer another question of mine i can't find the perfect continuous tenses on your website does that mean that the perfect and the perfect continuous are the same ?

Hello omar123,

'Perfect' and 'continuous' are aspects rather than separate tenses. Each adds another layer of meaning to the verb and a verb form can have neither, one or both of these aspects. For example, all of the forms below are present forms:

[no aspect]  I live in Rome. [present simple]

[continuous aspect]  I am living in Rome. [present continuous]

[perfective aspect]  I have lived in Rome for five years. [present perfect simple]

[perfective and continuous aspect]  I have been living in Rome for five years. [present perfect continuous]

You can find information on the perfective aspect here and the continuous aspect here.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Asarhaddon on Mon, 01/01/2018 - 11:58

There is a specific usage of present continuous, where it follows a simple present verb, e.g. "I can't remember doing this", "I love doing that", "She hates working" etc. Is there a rule behind this that could explain how to follow it? Does that rule apply to "I look forward to seeing you" (or its mutations)?

Hello Asarhaddon,

'doing' and 'working' in your three example sentences are -ing forms (which are not the same as the present continuous). When we use a verb after another verb, the first verb often determines what form the second verb goes in. In the case of 'remember', 'love' and 'hate', the second verb often goes in the -ing form. Other verbs require a bare infinitive (e.g. 'let' or 'make') and others require a to + infinitive (e.g. 'want'). If you follow the links you can read more about this.

'look forward to' is a little bit different. In this case, 'to' is a preposition (not part of an infinitive). Verbs that come after prepositions always go in the -ing form, which is why we say 'look forward to doing' and not 'look forward to do'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team