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: 4.3 (208 votes)

Hello DaniWeebKage,

We appreciate your keenness to learn but this isn't the kind of question we can answer in the comments section, I'm afraid.

The comments section is primarily for providing explanations relating to the tasks on the page or the explanations/information on the page. As we're teachers and we want to help learners we try to answer other questions too, including more general questions about the language. However, here you've asked four different grammar questions which each require quite detailed explanations. To answer this properly we'd need to write a comment longer than the material on the page, I suspect!


I don't want to suggest that you shouldn't ask questions but do please try to keep them short and directly relevant to the material on the page. We're a small team here offering a free service and we have to deal with a lot of comments from users every day. Much as we'd like to, it's just not possible for us to provide what would really be individual lessons in the comments sections like this.



The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Wed, 23/06/2021 - 14:44

The pandemic is rebounding... :|

Submitted by knownman on Tue, 22/06/2021 - 18:09

Hi again guys, There is an issue with the exercise "Present Continues Negatives". When check your answers it shows wrong even though they are correct. Best wishes

Hello knownman,

I'm sorry for the confusion! I've just fixed the exercise.

Thanks very much for taking the time to tell us about this.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team


Submitted by knownman on Tue, 22/06/2021 - 17:45

Hi guys, You have been doing great job. I just wanted to say the exercise "present continues 3" is a little bit confusing, at least for me. I had difficulties to understand Steve's plan. I think it's difficult to understand. Best wishes
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 23/06/2021 - 07:45

In reply to by knownman


Hi knownman,

Thanks for the comment. It's always helpful to know if things are clear or not and we'll take a look at the formating to see if we can improve it.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Sat, 03/04/2021 - 14:12

Hi great team, I don't understand one thing and want to ask that. I learnt -We use while with present continuous like" While she was talking to him, the telephone rang." -And we use when with present simple like" I was preparing meal when my son knocked the door. However, I sometimes see 'while' used with present simple or 'when' used with present continuous. The sentences in the book 'When* the men were out working in the field, I helped with milking the cows. ' 'We spent long evenings talking in my sitting-room while* he played the music.' Could you clear my confused mind teacher? Best wishes to all 'British Council Team'.

Submitted by wasan0909 on Sun, 28/03/2021 - 18:45

the planet is round I dance every weekend I walk to the bus when did you get married I have learnt how to dance since i was 13 go and take the train then walk up straight in am speaking to the manager i am making breakfast i am taking the bus i have been learning Spanish she has been sick all day they have been laughing
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Submitted by Osama_Jason on Wed, 24/03/2021 - 12:53

Dear Team, I hope this comment finds you perfectly well, Kindly, I would like to know the differences between using the "present simple" and "present continuous" in the following: 1. Telling a story (as the both share this point) 2. summarizing a book, film, play, etc. (both tenses share this). Be safe, Thanks in advance,
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 26/03/2021 - 07:07

In reply to by Osama_Jason


Hello OsamaJason,

We use either the past simple or the present simple to narrate the events of a story. We can use continuous forms (past or present) in the normal way, which means to show events in progress around a time or anoter event, or to show background events, for example.

Most narratives are expressed with past tenses. Using the present tense is an authorial choice. It can make the story sound more immediate, as if someone is telling the reader an anecdote.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by PaoSande on Fri, 05/02/2021 - 01:30

Dear Team, Considering the verb smell, could you please tell me if the following sentence is correct? I consider also the word "when" Complete the sentence. Sandra was smelling (smell) the blossom on her cherry tree when she was stung by a bee. It has been explained to me that should be "Sandra smelled the blossom on her cherry tree when she was stung by a bee" because is a simultaneous action and because we cannot use smell in present continuous as it is explained in the information given above. Thank you.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Fri, 05/02/2021 - 02:43

In reply to by PaoSande


Hi PaoSande,

Your first sentence is correct :) Smell has several meanings:

  • The clothes smell of smoke. (meaning 'to have an odour')
  • I can smell smoke. (meaning 'to use your nose')

Can you catch the difference in meaning? Smell in the first example is stative (i.e. the state of having an odour), and stative verbs aren't usually used in continuous tenses. But in the second example, it's an action. It's an action in your example too. It's fine to use an active verb in a continuous tense. Was smelling is a background action, and she was stung by a bee happened in the middle of it.

Does that make sense?


The LearnEnglish Team

Good evening, Thank you very much for the explanation. and yes, yes it does. Could you please indicate me where I can find motre examples about this in the site? Best regards.

Hi PaoSande,

We don't have a page specifically for smell and other verbs of perception, but have a look at our Stative verbs page for a few more examples of verbs with different meanings for actions and states. I hope it helps :)


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khanal saroj on Mon, 04/01/2021 - 15:48

Please write correct form of verb: I'm sorry, I ......(not understand) . Can you speak more slowly? progressive or present simple? Why?

Hello Khanal saroj,

The best form here is the present simple: 'I don't understand'. Although from one perspective it's true that you're not understanding something at the time of speaking, we almost always use a present simple form here.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by x100pre_noe on Sat, 05/12/2020 - 03:18

Excuse me, how did I should write "did" in this phrase: What time "did or does" the film is starting?

Hello x100pre_noe,

It depends whether you are asking about the past or not.

To ask about a film which has not started yet you can use either of these:

What time does the film start?

What time is the film starting?


To ask about a film which has already started (or has already finished) you can say this:

What time did the film start?




The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maya.micheal on Mon, 26/10/2020 - 00:28

Dear team, What (do you consider/are you considering) to be the lowest price they'll sell the house for? Do we use the present simple here or the present continuous? What is the difference,please? Thank you
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Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 26/10/2020 - 07:09

In reply to by Maya.micheal


Hello Maya.michael,

The correct form here is do you consider.


Consider has more than one use. It can be a dynamic verb with the meaning 'think about'. When it is used in this way, it can be used with the progressive aspect:

I'm considering selling the car. [=I'm thinking about it/trying to decide]


Consider can also be used as a stative verb meaning 'have an opinion'. When it is used in this way, it cannot be used with the progressive aspect:

I consider that to be a mistake. [=I think that is/was a mistake]


The verb think works in a similar way, with the same meanings (I'm thinking about vs I think).



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mnar zain on Thu, 04/03/2021 - 22:03

In reply to by Maya.micheal

Hello, I want to develop my English and grammar. Do you want us to communicate together to learn more from each other? I am a girl, but an occasion
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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Sun, 18/10/2020 - 13:17

I'm typing, I'm sleeping soon, and I'm falling asleep in an hour. ;) Are these sentences correct??

Hello Rafaela1,

The second two are a little odd.

If I understand what you mean, I'd suggest 'I'm going to sleep' or 'I'm going to bed' for the second form, and 'I'll be asleep in an hour' for the third one.

Does that make sense?

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MPhayTp on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 12:22

Could you plz tell me what these two sentences actually mean? At midnight, I am usually reading a book. At midnight, I usually read a book. Thanks a lot.

Hello DaniWeebKage,

The first sentence, with the continuous form (am reading), means that you are usually in the middle of reading at midnight. In other words, you start some time before midnight and are still reading when midnight comes.

The second sentence, with the simple form (read), means that you begin reading at midnight. In other words, midnight is your usual time for starting reading.



The LearnEnglish Team

Ok, Sir, Let's focus on the meaning of these sentences. Not the timeline. I am reading a book when the lights go out. I was reading a book when the lights went out. Do these sentences have the same meaning? And what if a question in my exam like I (read) a book when the lights (go) out. Can I use both? Thanks a lot, Sir Peter
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 18/10/2020 - 06:39

In reply to by MPhayTp


Hello again DaniWeebKage,

Both of your examples have a similar meaning:

I was reading a book when the lights went out

This describes an action (the lights going out) which interrupts another action in progress (reading a book) in the past.

I am reading a book when the lights go out.

This has the same meaning, but uses the present tense. Sometimes this is used in narrative fiction to create a sense of immediacy, or in anecdotes or jokes. It is a stylistic choice


Exam questions are designed to test your knowledge of standard forms, not forms used in very specific and limited contexts or genres. I would not suggest you use the present tense in an exam for that reason.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Fowler on Mon, 14/09/2020 - 09:36

Hi there, I have frequently heard the phrase 'I am working every afternoon' being used by native speakers. However, it seems not to be in keeping with the general rules. Is this an exception, or does it simply mean they want to stress the time adverbial 'every afternoon'?

Hi Fowler,

You're right that this is a common usage. The present continuous (I am working) can describe future arrangements – that is, future actions that are already confirmed and organised. This usage strongly implies that other people (e.g. coworkers or managers, in this case) are aware of the arrangements, and some kind of preparation was involved (e.g. drawing up a schedule). 

Although every afternoon can potentially include a past timeframe, with this usage of the present continuous it refers to a future timeframe: every afternoon from now on.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sophia Johnson on Tue, 08/09/2020 - 09:13

Hello, The LearnEnglish Team, I have been studying Present Simple and Present Continuous lately, and I have learned that both of these tenses can be used to describe an action that happens repeatedly. This is quite confusing to me, because for instance, among the examples the team listed above, there are sentences like this: "It's always raining in Britain" and "George is great. He's always laughing". If I use Present Simple for these two examples ( It always rains in Britain", "He always laughs"), whether there are any differences in the meaning or is it correct? Or if I have wrongly understood the usage of these two tenses, could you please clarify for me. Thank the Team so much!

Hi Sophia,

It's a good question! These sentences are all grammatically correct, but there are slight differences in the meaning.

  • It always rains in London.
  • It's always raining in London.
  • He always laughs.
  • He's always laughing.

The present simple is used to express facts, so the present simple sentences sound like you are describing the repeated action factually or objectively.


The present continuous sentences don't have this factual meaning. Instead, they suggest more subjectivity in the description, giving more of a sense that this is how the speaker experiences or feels about the repeated action. The present continuous is often used with always, for example, to complain about things, e.g. He's always making noise when I'm trying to sleep. Saying He always makes noise ... (present simple) is also possible, but sounds more like a factual description and less like a complaint. 

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sophia Johnson on Fri, 25/09/2020 - 06:48

In reply to by Jonathan R

Yes, thank you so much for the answer and it does make sense. I have gained more understanding now. Hope you have a nice day!

Submitted by LilyLinSZ on Mon, 07/09/2020 - 16:05

Hello, The LearnEnglish Team, Jimmy was riding on a donkey with his father walking alongside. In the light of recent incidents, we are asking our customers to take particular care of their personal belongings. In each of these two sentences, why is the continuous tense used instead of the simple tense (in the 1st) and the present perfect (in the 2nd)? Appreciate your help.

Hello LilyLinSZ,

Remember that the choice of aspect (continuous or perfect) is often context dependent, so it can be hard to identify the reason with decontextualised examples.


In your first example, the two events happen simultaneously and provide a background for another (shorter) event. This could be something stated (when I arrive) or implied (when I looked at them / at that moment). I can't be sure without seeing the sentence in context.


In your second example, the sentence is aimed at customers. In other words, the sentence itself is the way in which the company (presumably) is asking its customers to take care. The continuous is used because it is an action in progress.

If the sentence were not aimed at customers, then the present perfect (...we have asked...) might be appropriate. For example, it could be director explaining company policy to his or her colleagues.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Aquibjamal on Fri, 04/09/2020 - 11:45

At eight o'clock we are usually having breakfast. When I get home the children are doing their homework. I'm unable to understand the above sentences so can you elaborate this in east language what does it mean 2) and I have also a question while telling story to my son can I say like that "once upon a time I am walking alone on the road" Examples two.

Hello Aquibjamal,

We're happy to help you with this, but please explain to us more specifically what it is that you do or don't understand. 'get home', for example, means 'arrive home'.

It's not correct to use the present continuous in a story that begins with 'once upon a time'. In such a context, we always use some kind of narrative past tense such as the past simple, past continuous or past perfect.

It is possible to use present tenses to speak about past events -- it's just unusual after the phrase 'once upon a time'. We don't usually use this phrase to speak about our personal lives -- instead it's typically used at the beginning of traditional stories.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LubNko525 on Fri, 21/08/2020 - 18:59

Hi, May I know why is the present continuous tense is used in the following sentences? Computer City has announced that it is opening four new shops next month. (How about simple future or future continuous?) The changes that have been introduced are being seen as a step backwards. (How about are seen or have been seen?) the team concluded that third parties receive information about the device people are using, their locations, and possibly even when they are interacting with it. (How about 'the device people use'; 'even when they interact with it'?) Keeping taxpayers in the dark about how their money is being spent is not how government should operate. (How about ' is spent...'?) Many thanks.

Hi LubNko525,

Interesting questions! Let me try to explain.


The first example (Computer City) uses present continuous (is opening four new shops) to show a planned future action. It's used when the action is already arranged, organised or scheduled. It gives a sense of this 'plannedness' of the action. Yes, future continuous is possible too: ... will be opening ... It also conveys this 'plannedness'. You could use will here too: ... will open four new shops. But the meaning's a bit different. This is a simple factual statement, and doesn't contain that 'plannedness' in its meaning.


In your other sentences, the using the present continuous gives a sense that the actions are ongoing. That is, they are not momentary actions or finished actions, but ones that are still continuing.


All the alternatives you suggested are grammatically correct, but they have slightly different meanings. They don't have the 'ongoing action' meaning. For example, in sentence 2:

  • If you use are seen, it presents the action ('be seen') as a general fact that is unlikely to change.
  • If you use have been seen, it presents the action as a completed one.

So, by using are being seen, the speaker presents the action as something going on now, which suggests that it that can end or change at some point.


Does that make sense?

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Sun, 09/08/2020 - 14:01

Hello admins, Sometimes I'm confused between future tense and present tense. For example, "For a while, I will work from home/ I work from home/ will be working from home". Which one is correct??

Hello Rafaela1,

There is no future tense in English. What you are using here is will, which is a modal verb like may or should. It often refers to the future, but can have other uses too.


In your example, will (a prediction or statement about the future) and will be working (an expectation) are possible. You could also use am working (a temporary state).

Work is not possible because it would describe a permananet or normal state, not something temporary.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter for the clear explanation. I go it! ;)

Submitted by AsahiYo20 on Sun, 09/08/2020 - 11:53

Hi teacher, 1. We now have a broader set of users who are utilising our product in various unexpected ways. - I would like to ask why the present continuous tense is used here. Would the simple present tense be equally acceptable? 2. The company has announced that it is cutting prices. - Why is the present continuous tense used here? I am confused about the use because I think the action of cutting prices is short. Could I say "it will cut prices" or "it has cut prices" instead?

Hello AsahiYo20,

1. The simple present is also correct here. I'm not familiar with the writer's reasons for using the present continuous, but I suppose it's to speak about something developing and changing.

2. Both of the alternatives you suggest are possible, though they all describe the action in different ways. I suppose the idea behind the present continuous is that it's something new (which you can also find on the page I previously linked to).

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Alibel on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 21:34

Hello, The LearnEnglish Team, I´m confused about something, can you help me? We use Presente simple with adverbs of frequency like always, never, etc. At the same time we use presente continuous when something happens again and again, normally with the adverb always. So what is the difference between those two? The same goes for the advanced level, telling a story or summerising a book. What is the difference in use of this two tences? Thank you! Kind regars

Hello Alibel,

Generally, when we use the present continuous with an adverb of frequency such as always, forever or continually, it suggests that we find the habit irritating. For example:

He always parks the car behind the house. [a habit or typical behaviour]

He's always parking the car behind the house. [this habit irritates me]


However, we can also use the present continuous with an adverb of frequency when we want to emphasise or make clear that the action is in progress:

He always has a shower when I get up. [his shower starts when or after I get up]

He's always having a shower when I get up. [his shower is in progress when I get up]



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by message100 on Thu, 16/07/2020 - 13:56

Hello, The LearnEnglish Team, If something happens regularly at a certain time (I leave the office at 6 p.m., We have breakfast at 7.30), Is it the only way to think and speak about it as ‘something is happening regularly at a certain time’, (I am leaving the office at 6 p.m. every workday., We are having breakfast at 7.30 every day)? Is present simple for regular actions totally impossible and unthinkable here? Thank you in advance!

Hello message100,

When something is a regular action then the present simple is appropriate. The continuous would suggest something that is not part of a regular pattern. For example:

I have my first meeting at 9.00 every morning, but this week I'm seeing my boss at 8.30 because she's got a lot of other meetings later on.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by cherly chia mei ying on Fri, 29/05/2020 - 04:27

Also, in the "future plans or arrangements": Mary is going to a new school next term. since it is future plans, why aren't the sentence is "Mary will be going to a new school next term."(future continuous tense) or What are you doing next week? what will you be doing next week? (future continuous tense)
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Fri, 29/05/2020 - 10:07

In reply to by cherly chia mei ying


Hello cherly chia mei ying

The two sentences in the future continuous that you propose could also be correct. It depends on how the speaker sees the future event. We often use the future continuous when we are imagining a particular point in time or a situation in the future, but we can also refer to that same time with a form like 'be going to'. 

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by cherly chia mei ying on Fri, 29/05/2020 - 04:19

Hi sir! I have two confusion here. Would like to seek for you opinions ^^ 1. The other day I'm just walking down the street when suddenly this man (came)comes up to me and (asked)asks me to lend him some money. Well, he's carrying a big stick and he looks a bit dangerous, so I'm(have been)wondering what to do … since it was saying about something in the past, why is the word i bracket is not past tense or the last one as present perfect continuous? 2. They are eating at Scott’s favorite restaurant today, Polly’s Pancake Diner. (some sentences i found online) - Why aren't "they are eating at.." is : "they have been eating at..." (as it sound like something already happened on today before this words spoken)