Present continuous

Learn about the present continuous and do the exercises to practise using it.

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

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Present continuous 2

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  • 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

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Present continuous 4

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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

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Present continuous questions 2

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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

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Present continuous negatives 2

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Stative verbs

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

  • verbs of thinking and feeling:
believe
dislike
know
like
love
hate
prefer
realise
recognise
remember
suppose
think
(= believe)
understand
want
wish

 
  • verbs of the senses:
appear
feel
look
seem
smell
sound
taste
 
  • others:
agree
be
belong
disagree
need
owe
own
possess

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

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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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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Wed, 11/03/2020 - 09:33

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The other day I'm just walking up the tropical forest when slowly this sloth comes up to me and asks me to give some fruits. Well, he's having big claws and he looks a bit like a mascot, so I'm wondering what to do …

Submitted by Ridg Wick on Mon, 09/03/2020 - 08:14

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" Hot water makes me to feel tired " is it correct or wrong ? Let me know, you explain all the grammer about this sentence,please.

Hello Ridg Wick

I'm afraid that is not correct. When we use 'make' in this way, it is followed by an infinitive without 'to': 'Hot water makes me feel tired'.

You can read more about how to use 'make' this way on our Verbs followed by the infinitive page (see the section called make and let).

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Risa warysha on Mon, 20/01/2020 - 08:02

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Hi Sir, Would you please help me. I'm confused with stative verbs. Are we not allowed to use stative verbs with 'ing' form, like in an example 'we are loving this moment'? Or can we still use it for spoken words? Thank you,Sir
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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 20/01/2020 - 14:26

In reply to by Risa warysha

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Hello Risa warysha

Most of the time, we don't use stative verbs in a continuous form, but it is possible to do this. It usually depends on the specific context and meaning. For example, when we use a continuous form to talk about a temporary situation, it's OK to do this with a stative verb: 'I'm being stubborn because I really don't want to go'.

There's a fuller explanation in the State and action verbs section of this page ('state verb' is another way of saying 'stative verb'). Please have a look and then if you have any questions about a specific sentence or two, please feel free to ask us.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by vinod sahu on Sun, 11/08/2019 - 14:27

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Hi, i from india. this post is really helpful...thank you so much

Submitted by Ivn on Mon, 29/07/2019 - 16:44

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Hi Sir I understand the form of continuous tenses is be-verb and V-ing. But I'm wondering that why is it form like this? Why do we use "Ving" to describe a progressive action? Is there any explanation? Or is it just been formulated like this and no reason? Regards Ivan
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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 29/07/2019 - 16:51

In reply to by Ivn

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Hello Ivan

Natural languages develop from the way people use them over time and I'm sure that is also the case with the continuous forms in English. You could read a little more about this in the Wikipedia or consult an expert in historical linguistics to find out more.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Montri on Sun, 26/05/2019 - 06:56

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What is the diferrent the following sentenes? My son is going to ten next month. My son will be ten next month. Thx!
Hello Montri, The first sentence has a small error: it should be '...is going to be ten...' (you omitted the 'be'). ~ Generally, we use 'going to' to describe things we have reason to expect to be true, and we use 'will' to describe things that we believe will happen. In this case, both forms work perfectly well and there is no real difference between them. ~ You can read more about these forms on this page: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/talking-about-future ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sam61 on Tue, 30/04/2019 - 11:04

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Hi, I have to be in the same room as my router to get a faster speed. I am having to be in the same room as my router to get faster speed. are there any cases where the above sentences can be used interchangeably?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 01/05/2019 - 07:26

In reply to by sam61

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Hello sam61, The continuous form ('am having to') is quite rare. We use it when it is important to emphasise that a certain obligation or requirement is temporary. For example: I have to travel 10 km to get to work. [this is necessary] I'm having to travel 10 km to get to work. [this is necessary at the moment but is not a normal state of affairs] ~ The simple form ('have to') can be used instead of the continuous form, though unless it has a time expression such as 'at the moment' it will not carry quite the same meaning. Of course, the context may make the temporary or permanent nature of the obligation clear. ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Marua on Thu, 21/03/2019 - 20:35

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Hi. I was wondering whether I could use present simple or continuous interchangeably in the next dialogue: "Which band is playing at the club tonight?" 'The X.' "What time does the concert start/is the concert starting?" In my opinion, they are both correct because they are part of an arrangement, but I need a second opinion. Thx.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 22/03/2019 - 07:11

In reply to by Marua

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Hello Marua, Yes, both 'What time does the concert start?' and 'What time is the concert starting?' are possible here. The concert can be seen as a scheduled event or as a particular arrangement. Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Fri, 18/01/2019 - 10:46

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Hi Sir Please let me know which is correct ? 'A' is meeting 'B' after a long time after greeting or saying how are you ? Which is correct way of asking? What do you do?/ What are you doing? Regards Lal
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 20/01/2019 - 07:35

In reply to by Lal

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Hi Lal,

'What do you do?' is a question about a person's occupation which we generally use when meeting them for the first time.

 

If we are meeting someone we know or once knew then we would say one of these:

Are you still working as a journalist?

Are you still a journalist?

 

If we could not remember what they used to do then we could say:

What are you up to now?

What are you doing at the moment?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Maimaitiyiming on Sun, 13/01/2019 - 03:26

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To describe an action or event in the future, which has already been planned or prepared, can we use both case, i.e. Simple present tense and present continuous tense. For example, I will meet my boyfriend tonight. I am meeting my boyfriend tonight. I thought they are the same meaning in English, but in different tense. Can you tell me do we make sentences in English at same meaning but different tense? thanks a lot.

Hello Maimaitiyiming,

English has many ways to talk about the future and all of the following are possible:

 

  • I meet my boyfriend tonight.
  • I'm meeting my boyfriend tonight.
  • I will (might/may/should etc) meet my boyfriend tonight.
  • I'm going to meet my boyfriend tonight.
  • I'll be meeting my boyfriend tonight.

 

Which you use depends upon the context and the speaker's intention. We have several pages which explain the various forms and when they can be used:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar/talking-about-future

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/intermediate-grammar/future-plans

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Mr. Peter! First thanks for your in time reply. Second, can I conclude one rule that is to same situation we can make sentence in different tense depend on your examples and explanation ?

Hello Maimaitiyiming,

I'm afraid I don't understand what rule you are suggesting here. If you want to post another example we'll be happy to comment on it for you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Devesh Raj on Fri, 28/12/2018 - 16:52

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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

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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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.

Hi Lal,

Yes, 1 is the correct one.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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.


Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

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

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team 

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

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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 on Sun, 25/02/2018 - 09:09

In reply to by el_gr

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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

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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,

Peter

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.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team