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

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Thanks a lot for your detailed explanation. I knew about the use of the Past Continuous for an action in progress interrupted by another action. But I didn't even suspect it could be applied to the Present Continuous. Much of an eye-opener.

Submitted by Elena Albena on Sat, 05/03/2016 - 10:12

Hi everyone. I have a question. In movies I often come across phrases with present continuous negative like 'I am not doing that again' which means that the person will not definitely do that thing again in future. It doesn't look like a planned or arranged action in future. Why do they use the present continuos in these cases then? Thank you for your help.

Hi Elena,

This is a rather unusual use, isn't it? However, it is quite correct. As to why it is used, I would say it is really just a question of convention rather than rules. You could also use 'going to' here, with the same meaning.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Elena Albena on Tue, 08/03/2016 - 08:47

In reply to by Peter M.

Thank you for your answer. Do I get it right that we can use the present continuous this way in spoken English?

Hello Elena Albena,

Yes, that is correct. It is not common in more formal English, so we would use it in conversation and informal writing rather than in formal writing.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by nastya_lenckaia on Sun, 03/01/2016 - 13:43

Hello everyone! I'm still confused in using Present Simple and Present Progressive when talking "something happens again and again". For example, I have a situation like my friend (native german - speaker) uses English language to communicate with me when he wants to practice it, but usually we speak German. What variant would be correct if I say the phrase now, in the moment of speaking with my friend : "Most of the time we're speaking German" (I want to emphasize that we speak German almost always instead of practicing English) or "Most of the time we speak German"? Thanks

Hello nastya_lenckaia,

In this context both are possible. The simple form is probably the more common, suggesting a habit or typical behaviour, while the continuous suggests a repeated action and is also possible, though less common.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sonel on Fri, 01/01/2016 - 16:19

We use simple present for future fixed arrangements & present continuous for future planned situations. Both are same. So does it mean that we can use both forms when we talk about arrangements in future??? For eg- We fly to Paris next week. We are flying to Paris next week. Both mean same & are correct according to your context and egs given in ur lessons Please help, i am really confused.

Hello Sonel,

The present simple tends to be used more to refer to future events that are fixed due to being part of a timetable and the present continuous more for other arranged plans. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but tends to be true. Without context it's impossible to explain completely, but, for example, in the two sentences you mention, the first could focus more on the fact that it's part of a schedule, whereas the second could be focusing more on the plan to travel.

In general, the present continuous is used far more often to refer to the future than the present simple, so if you're in doubt, most of the time using the present continuous will be correct.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by phthao1904 on Tue, 15/12/2015 - 08:35

Hi everyone, I have a question 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.: Can you give me an example for this and what is the different between pre. cont. and past cont. ? Thank you very much indeed.

Hello phthao1904,

In general, I'd recommend you use the past continuous to speak about past events. It's true that the present tenses can be used as well – people typically use them because it makes the story seem more present – but this is not as common and could be perceived by others as a mistake on your part (even when it isn't).

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by georgia.gram on Wed, 18/11/2015 - 22:02

Hello, I have a question too. In the sentence "Do you always listen to the radio when you are driving?" why is it "you are driving" (present continuous) since it is talking about every time somebody drives?

Hello georgia.gram,

The question is asking about one action (listen to the radio) which takes place during another action (driving), and so the contrinuous form is used. It assumes that the driving goes on for some time and the listening is inside that time.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nguyen Dinh Mai on Sat, 24/10/2015 - 03:54

Hi all, The above questions and answers are very relevant and helpful. They make me feel more confident in using English and enyoy the subtlety of a language I'm trying hard to master.

Submitted by wengsun85 on Wed, 21/10/2015 - 16:19

I have a question: Present Simple: He always talks nonsense. Present Continuous: He is always talking nonsense. Both talk about something happens again and again. How to differentiate this? Thanks!

Hello wengsun85,

In general, the present simple is used to speak about repeated actions. But if this repeated action is also occurring around the time of speaking, the present continuous is also sometimes used. In your examples, the second sentence would imply that the person is talking nonsense in that moment or has done so recently.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lucifer7 on Thu, 24/09/2015 - 00:28

Hello! Can I use Present Simple when I telling a story or only Present Continuous?

Submitted by Lucifer7 on Fri, 25/09/2015 - 00:03

In reply to by Lucifer7

I find the answer in comments site. thx ...or should i say: ''I have find the answer in comments site''?

Hello Lucifer7,

I would say 'I have found the answer in the comments section'.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 25/09/2015 - 13:32

In reply to by Lucifer7


Hello Lucifer7,

Yes, this is quite common. In such cases, the present simple is usually used to describe events and the present continuous is used to supply background information. For example, 'So I'm walking down the street and this police officer comes up to me. 'Come with me', she says ...'

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by asdraditya on Fri, 18/09/2015 - 08:46

I like spending time and learning english here . I like spending time and learn english here . Which of these sentences is correct? Plz reply soon

Submitted by Tanya Leonova on Wed, 26/08/2015 - 07:09

Both Present simple and present continuous are used for future arranged event. How do we choose when to use either of them for future actions?

Hello Tanya,

The present simple is used for future events which are part of a regular or fixed schedule. Typically these are events or activities which are part of a timetable, such as class times, train times etc.

The present continuous is used for future events which have been arranged and agreed. Typically these are events or activities which two or more people have decided together.

For more information on talking about the future in English see here.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by manthan228 on Sat, 01/08/2015 - 21:44

What is the correct answer below question. Q. I am starting to __ my mind. a. lost b. loose c. lose d. loss e. losing

Hello manthan228,

I'm afraid we don't answer questions like this from tests of homework outside of the site. Perhaps one of our other users will help you, however.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by EtWsth8790 on Sun, 26/07/2015 - 02:36

Hi Gentlemen, thank you so much for this brief guide, it has been very helpful to me , I would like to clarify a doubt that arose me, are both correct "he is always laughing" and "he laughs all the time", do they mean the same? Thank you in advance, cheers :)

Hi EtWsth8790.

Both mean that laughing is a common action for the person, but the first one may indicate that the speaker finds it irritating, while the second is more neutral. It's hard to say without knowing the context, however.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglsh Team

Submitted by manojparmar on Fri, 03/07/2015 - 12:29

Hi Experts, It would be great help to eliminate the big confusion on following sentences: Following 2 sentences are present continuous, then what is the difference between them and why both are correct: Is your great-grandmother still alive? & Is your great-grandmother still living? thanks in advance...!! Manoj

Hi manojparmar,

Both of those are fine and describe a current situation. The difference is grammatical: one uses a to be + adjective (is alive) whereas the other uses a present continuous form of the verb 'live' (is living).

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by OldaB on Fri, 03/07/2015 - 10:29

May I have a question regarding the use of present continuous? Suppose an Englishman saw a thief when he stole a purse from a lady. He is now describing the thief to a policeman (in the present tense): “The thief is young – about twenty. He is very thin and tall, his shoes are dirty with mud. He is wearing black jeans and has a dog with him.” Could the Englishman use present continuous that way (e.g. “he is wearing black jeans”)? Thanks.

Hello OldaB,

If the speaker thinks that the thief is still wearing the jeans now (i.e. has not changed his clothes) then the present continuous would be possible. Otherwise the past continuous would be used.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Peter. The speaker thought that the thief was still wearing the jeans. And he was right: when the police caught the thief, he had the same jeans on. :-) OldaB

Submitted by Sourav Saha on Tue, 30/06/2015 - 03:35

Sir,I have a question regarding the statement:"At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast." Why can't we write the statement like this:"At eight o’clock we usually have our breakfast."

Hello souravsaha1605,

The present simple is the more commonly used tense here, as it is used to talk about repeated or habitual actions. Talking about a repeated action (as in your sentence) using the present continuous gives an additional layer of meaning, as if we were viewing the action happening right now. It is therefore often used to contrast with the present time, e.g. today we are having lunch at 8 (presumably because we woke up at 2am) whereas usually we are having breakfast at 8.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by demienalmos on Tue, 23/06/2015 - 01:36

Hi, is there anyway the sentence, "I am walking to school every morning," is correct or should we only use Present Simple for that? Thank you in advance.

Submitted by MadSyria on Sun, 21/06/2015 - 21:18

hello thank you for this tutorial I get confused a little bit, you said that we use present continuous to talk about past with story and when summarizing the story from a book, film or play other site states that we use present simple when talking about story and play for example " the hero dies at the end of the story" can you please tell me which is the true ? and please tell me if I made a grammatical mistakes in this comment :) many thanks and best regards

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 22/06/2015 - 07:56

In reply to by MadSyria


Hello MadSyria,

You can see a few examples of these uses of the present simple and present continuous in the exercises. Both present simple and present continuous can be used to tell a story in the past. By using a present tense to talk about the past, the story often feels more real – it's as if we are witnessing the story in that past time. We use the present simple to talk about something that is always true or habits and the present continuous to talk about things that are developing, etc. 

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by wahyueko on Tue, 16/06/2015 - 10:32

please explain to me aboout these sentence, where is the right sentence ? i see john playing football. (this pettern in some article) i see john is playing football.

Hello wahyueko,

Both sentences are correct but are used for different purposes. In the first you are simply describing an action that you see in progress. In the second you are describing something that you see in progress, but also calling attention to it. The second sentence would make more sense, for example, if you didn't expect to see John playing, or if you wanted someone else to see that John is back on the pitch.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sarah e on Mon, 08/06/2015 - 14:08

Hi, I don't think this sentence can be used, but my colleague thinks otherwise. Please could you help me explain? 'We are continuing to have a fabulous reaction to our shabby chic home and giftware since we met you at the show with exciting new pieces being added all the time.'

Hi sarah e,

This is not really the kind of query we deal with here on LearnEnglish - we are really here to help users with the materials on the site rather than offer a consulting service! However, I can tell you that the sentence is not entirely grammatical because the tense use (present continuous) and time reference (unfinished past with 'since') do not match.

The fabulous reaction to our shabby chic home and giftware that we we have had since we met you at the show continues, with exciting new pieces being added all the time.

However, I would say that the sentence as a whole is clumsy to my ear and some of the vocabulary seems rather odd as well ('shabby chic home'). However, these are more questions of style.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by soon_hl on Sat, 30/05/2015 - 14:53

Dear sir, Could you advise present continuous tense as following. Eg: He is going for tuition on Monday. Can I use on Monday? Thanks.

Hello soon_hl,

That is perfectly fine. The 'going to' form here has a future meaning, so it is quite correct to use 'on Monday' here.

You can learn more about how to talk about the future here.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you sir. I've another question for instance, He is eating on Monday. Can I use 'on Monday ' in this case?

Hello soon_hi,

This is grammatically possibly but unlikely. We use the present continuous for future meaning only when the future event is arranged or already organised in some way. Thus we would only say this if the 'eating' is something that has been specially arranged, such as a special dinner event or similar.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by misam on Thu, 28/05/2015 - 13:42

hello dear Peter and Kirk i wonder if you could please explain the last use more. i am not able to grasp it. thank you.