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 (206 votes)

Hello Izabely Graebin,

Yes, that can be correct. If you regularly go running with a friend every morning, for example, then you could say this.

We very often use the present continuous to speak about future events that we've made some agreement or arrangement about. You can see more about this on our Talking about the future page, which explains the verb forms we use to speak about the future and their differences in meaning.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by KimKH on Wed, 01/02/2023 - 14:19


I was wondering if the sentence is right.
e.g., More roads are being built every year. (Is it possible to use this sentence to talk about a process of changing?)
Thank you for your precious time.
Best Wishes!

Submitted by leo15722 on Tue, 15/11/2022 - 19:37


Hi guys. I have heard that the Present Continuous tense has way more importance in its action than the Present Simple tense regarding the speaker. Do you know why?

Hello leo15722,

I'm afraid I don't really understand what that statement means. I'm not saying it's wrong, but without understanding it or seeing an example of it, I don't know what to say!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ismmohit on Sat, 12/11/2022 - 21:40


Hello sir,
I have found this lesson very interesting and useful one?

I have come across a sentence in this lesson, "When I get home the children are doing their homework". I I'm finding it a bit difficult to understand.

Please explain whether that sentence implies: -

a) Routine action: Every day I get home (say from work), I found the children to be engaged in their homework or
b) Regular action : On a particular day, whenever I get home (say I come to home multiple times may be from office, market etc), every time I found the children to be engaged in their homework.
b) One-time action: On a particular day, when I get home (from work), I found the children to be engaged in their homework.


Mohit Gupta

Hello ismmohit,

Without any other information I would say that the correct interpretation is (c): the sentence tells use what the situation is at the time I get home on a particular occasion. It could be (b) if there was some other indication in the context such as an adverb (always, generally, typically etc).



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot for your prompt response.
Now, the meaning is clear to me but I still wonder when to use this sentence. Like we can use this sentence while telling a story or summarizing a book etc but other than that I haven't been able to figure out its usage.

I feel we can use its past form: "When I got home the children were doing their homework" or future form "When I get home the children will be doing their homework" more frequently.

What's your opinion on its usage?


Mohit Gupta

Hello again,

It's very hard to say when the sentence is in isolation like this. It could be a present form used for a narrative, which is quite common in anecdotes and when relating stories informally, or it could be a typical action as I said. The verb forms have their normal meanings here, so the continuous aspect suggests something in progress etc.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by alma1 on Tue, 14/06/2022 - 22:31


That how I know if an action happens regulary, we use present simple, so in the following sentence given as an example:
At eight o'clock we are usually having breakfast.
Why is present continuous used?

Hello alma1,

When we use the present continuous to speak about a regular action, normally that action is happening at or near the time of speaking or we're imagining such a situation.

So in this case, it could be early in the morning and someone has asked the speaker if they can speak on the phone at 8. The speaker might respond with this sentence as a way of saying that she can't speak at 8 because she'll be having breakfast with her family.

Note that a sentence using the present simple like 'We usually have breakfast at 8 o'clock' is more general. It speaks merely about a habit. The sentence with the present continuous is responding to a more specific situation.

Hope this helps you make sense of it.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

could we say that the present simple is used to talk about subjet, and the present continuous is used to talk about actions

Hello Yasmine rhyme,

I understand where you're coming from with this question: the present simple tells us about a person's normal or typical behaviour so in that sense it is descriptive of the person, while the continuous form often tells us about an action at a particular moment which may not tell us anything of the person's character.

However, I would not go too far with this. There are plenty of contexts in which the present simple describes actions which may not be typical or even particularly long-term (e.g. John leads the project team right now but that might change tomorrow) and other where the continuous describes something typical or habitual (e.g. He's always arriving late for meetings!), and there are also plenty of cases where the distinction between the two is minimal (e.g. I hope to have a holiday this year vs I'm hoping to have a holiday this year).



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,
I have a question: can we take the present simple for an attributive mode? because I noticed that it is used to account for the description of people and things as well as to talk about true things in both people and things which are in our case the subject. the present continuous meanwhile is able to account for present actions in general. that is to say; the present simple is not a time, it is not anchored in time like its counterpart the continuous.

Hello again Yasmine rhyme,

Attributive is really a term we apply to nouns or adjectives rather than verbs but I understand what you mean, I think.

I think the answer I posted to your question above is also relevant here.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by foefum on Mon, 13/06/2022 - 20:45


Hi there!

I was wondering about an example and which use of the present continuous you think that would be:

When I'm not working, I like to go out for a drink.

What would you say that is - a temporary action at the moment of speaking, a background action of some sort? It sounds natural and intuitive but I'm not sure why we use it.
Thank you!

Hello foefum,

The basic idea here is that something happens (I go for a drink) in a situation (when I'm not working). In other words, the clause 'when I'm not working' describes a situation when the main action (going out for a drink) often happens.

A similar combination is common in past tenses, where we often use a past simple form and a past continuous form. For example, in 'When I was walking home, it started to rain', the situation was that I was walking home and then something happened.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for taking the time to reply.
Yes, that makes sense. I also thought of that but with the past tenses it's a real situation happening. In the example I gave it's a habit or more of a hypothetical one, I think
Like I guess we can say
When I'm not at work, I go for a drink
If I'm not at work, I go for a drink (that doesn't sound as natural, I suppose)

So, I was thinking it was probably static vs. dynamic verbs here.
Otherwise, we are talking about each time I work or don't work and it should be present simple if we look at it this way - habitual actions/a routine.
A background to the main action, as you said, makes a lot of sense...
but with the past tenses one action interrupts another real one.
The example with the present tenses is more like a conditional, I feel.
Then again, maybe we can have a background action as a condition too.
Does that make sense to you?

Hello foefum,

I can see what you mean when you say a background action is like a condition. I'm not sure I'd think of it that way, but I'm not sure I can really say it's wrong either. Re: your idea of static vs dynamic verbs, I assume you mean that 'I like to go out' is static and 'I'm not working' is dynamic. Perhaps I've not understood your point, but I don't think that's all that relevant here.

I think part of what makes this difficult is that we're talking about a sentence that has no context. If we knew what the situation was and what the speaker was thinking and intending to communicate when they said it, that would definitely help.

It sounds to me as if you understand this grammar, but if you have any more questions, please feel free to ask us.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mehla A on Wed, 01/06/2022 - 05:40


Hi there,
In the present continuous tense, we can say" Is he not coming now? " as a negative interrogative sentence.

I want to know about this sentence:
Isn't he coming now?
Is this belong to the same tense?
Thank you

Hi mehla A,

Yes, both of those questions are fine and they are examples of questions in the present continuous - this is the present tense with continuous aspect.

These questions ask about something which is happening right now (at the moment of speaking). The negative form shows the speaker is surprised:

  • Is he coming now? [a normal question]
  • Isn't he coming now? [I'm surprised - I expected him to come but something has changed]



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Widescreen on Tue, 31/05/2022 - 08:14



please can I ask which tense this sentence should be? " Thought/ Having thought/ To think/ Thinking the boy might be hungry, I offered him something to eat".

Hi Widescreen,

"Thinking" is the best option here. Using the -ing form shows that the action (thinking) happens simultaneously with the other action (offering), or as the reason of it. For more information about this, have a look at our Participle clauses page. I hope it's useful!


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Faii on Mon, 30/05/2022 - 06:56


Can we say " I'm working in a restaurant for two months " if I want to mean that it's temporary?

Another question-In my textbook,it says we can use Present continuous with words like "this year,this week"
"The company I work for isn't doing very well this year ".
They gave it as an example.
My question is can we can Present progressive continuous In the above sentence?

Hello Faii,

Yes, you can use the present continuous in that way for temporary situations. Both of your examples are correct.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Faii on Sun, 15/05/2022 - 06:06


What is the difference between "I'm reading a really good book at the moment" and "I have been reading a really good book at the moment" ?

Hello Faii,

The first sentence is correct; the second is not.

The reason for this is that 'at the moment' tells us that we are describing an action in progress currently and is not finished and to describe this we use the present continuous (I'm reading). The present perfect continuous tells us about an action which started in the past, continued up to the present and may or may not continue into the future. We do not use this form with the time marker 'at the moment'. You could use 'for a while', 'for a week', 'since last weekend' etc instead.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Faii on Fri, 13/05/2022 - 06:57


I have heard many native speakers use the verb "understand" in progressive form -like I'm not understanding it .Also ,they do the same thing with the verb "Want".Is it correct to use these verbs in progressive form ?

Hello Faii,

I would not consider those forms standard or correct. They may occur in certain humorous contexts or as part of non-standard language use in some particular areas or groups, of course.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks.i got it.
I have another question .In my textbook it says the verb "feel" can't be used in continuous if it's a link verb and they gave the following sentence as an example.
"The water feels cold"
Can't we say "the water is feeling cold" ?

Hello again Faii,

No, we generally don't use 'feel' in this way and the standard form would be 'the water feels cold'.


It is possible to use 'feel' with continuous aspect when you are describing a mood or emotion and want to emphasise that it is a temporary state:

I'm feeling quite nervous about the exam tomorrow.




The LearnEnglish Team


Submitted by Plokonyo on Sat, 12/03/2022 - 12:06


Why do we use an -ing form in these sentences?

Wishing you a speedy recovery.
Wishing you a great day, etc.

Could I also say "wish you..."?

Hello Plokonyo,

This is a form which we use only when signing off from emails or letters. It has the same meaning as 'I am wishing...'.

There are a few similar forms such as: Hoping to see you soon / Looking forward to hearing from you.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by engtea87 on Wed, 16/02/2022 - 18:13


Hello sir ,
I need the answer of the following examples and under which rule they are classified .
1.There are some gardens, but it is winter so nothing ............... now.
a is growing b are growing c grow d is grown
2.I usually like parties but I ............... this one very much.
don't enjoy or am not enjoying

Thanks in advance

Hello engtea87,

I'm afraid we don't provide answers to tasks like this. We're here to help with explanations and examples, but we don't offer a correction service and we don't do our users' tasks for them – if we did this then we'd end up doing homework and tests for everyone!

I can tell you that both questions are asking about situations which are in progress at the moment, not general states. If you think about which very form describes an action or state in progress at the moment and not generally true then you'll have your answer :)



The LearnEnglish Team


Submitted by Alexandra1111 on Fri, 31/12/2021 - 01:21


Hello there,
I think this lesson is really good. But there's something I don't understand. I saw a rule in a grammar book. It said we cannot use short action verbs in the present continuous, because these actions cannot last. According to the book, we can say "he is eating."but we can't say "he is awaking". Is this rule correct? But if the rule is correct, why can we say" he is buying a pen" to express the action he is doing, not in the future?I mean buy is a short action verb and the action can't last.
Really look forward to your reply

Hi Alexandra1111,

We can say "he is buying a pen" because we can understand the verb "buy" as having a duration. For example, we can imagine "buy" as including looking at different pens, taking the pen to the cashier, making the payment, etc., and it therefore takes some time to do.

To be honest, I'm not very familiar with the rule you mentioned, but I guess in this understanding, the verb "awake" means an instantaneous action (not just a short action) of stopping sleeping. Being instantaneous, it cannot have a duration, and it cannot be divided into stages (unlike "buy"). I imagine this is why it recommends not using it in the present continuous.

However, I can't think of any other examples of verbs like this at the moment, except possibly "arise". I would also point out that the verb "awake" is a slightly unusual example. The Cambridge Dictionary notes that it is literary in style. In everyday usage, the verbs "wake up" and "awaken" are much more common, and they are used in the present continuous, especially with a non-literal meaning of realising or becoming aware of something. For example, the Cambridge Dictionary gives this example:

-- Governments are finally waking up to the fact that the environment should be cleaned up.

I hope that helps.

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan,
Thank you for your reply. Instataneous action is exactly what I want to say. Can instataneous action like break or drop be used in present continuous?

Hi Alexandra1111,

Yes, you can certainly use the continuous forms, including present continuous, with those verbs. I don't think either of those verbs are really instantaneous, in the sense that you can certainly see a process in each action. Of course, we are talking only about one use of the continuous aspect here; there are others such as temporary situations, repeated actions and so on.

The verbs which are rarely used in the continuous are verbs describing states (be, have for ownership etc.) and opinions (like, love, hate etc.) rather than actions.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by melvinthio on Thu, 23/12/2021 - 16:45


Hi Jonathan,
Thanks for your response.

[1] Can I use present continuous tense when talking about my personal plans I've arranged by myself without involving another person in the arrangements?
E.g.: I'm cleaning my room this afternoon and I'm decorating it tonight (= fixed plans and arrangements by myself).
Is this right?

[2] Can I use "to be going to" for future facts ? E.g.:
(a) My birthday is going to be next Sunday and I'm going to turn 50 then.
(b) Everybody is going to get old.

[3] If I use "will" for the two sentences in [2], is there any difference in the emphasis ?

I would highly appreciate your detailed explanation.
Best regards,

Hello melvinthio,

Re: 1, yes that is correct -- you can use the present continuous in this way. Teachers often refer to plans involving another person as a way of showing there's some kind of commitment, but as you've guessed, it's not absolutely necessary. If you use the present continuous here, it suggests a firm plan.

Re: 2, it sounds a little odd to me to use 'be going to' in a), but I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say it's wrong. I'd probably use present simple for the first verb and present continuous for the following; the first talks about a calendar event and the continuous form speaks about a development I suppose. 'be going to' sounds very odd in b) to me; again, I'd probably use present continuous here, to express developing changes.

Re: 3, it would sound odd to use 'will' in these sentences, though 'will be turning' in a) would work if you're thinking about what the experience of having a birthday that day might be like.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bo Bo Kyaw on Tue, 09/11/2021 - 15:10


Hello sir,
I would like to ask two questions sir.
1) May I know what is the difference between these two sentences " Mary is going to a new school next term. " and " Mary will go to a new school next term. " ?
2) In this sentence " George is great. He is always laughing. " , I don't understand the second part. What I have learnt is that when we use " always + -ing form " , we want to mean that something is irritating or we are complaining about something. I can't think clearly the sense which it is written. Could you please kindly explain? sir

Hello Bo Bo Kyaw,

Regarding your first question, the form with 'going to' indicates a plan. The second sentence with 'will' is also possible, but it could indicate different meanings depending on the context, so it's difficult for me to say more without knowing more. I'd suggest you have a look at our Talking about the future page (…) to see an overview of the most common verb forms we use to talk about the future. I think that should help you make sense of this.

As for your second question, it's possible to use the present continuous to talk about repeated actions if the action is somehow connected to the present moment. In this case, for example, it sounds as if people are talking about George's qualities and so he is present in their discussion at the time of speaking.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by minhoang on Fri, 15/10/2021 - 03:11


Hi guys. Can you explain for me about the difference between something happens again & again and something happens before & after a specific time? For example, in a sentence: At midnight I'm usually reading in bed.
I think this describe about happening again & again, because they use "usually" - this describe that we repeat an activity approximately 70% every time. However, I'm wrong. Thanks for your explanation. Have a nice day.

Hi minhoang,

I think both explanation fit perfectly well here: this is an example of both something which happens repeatedly and something which happens before and after a specific time. In the exercise, however, there is a sentence which fits only the first of these, so when you solve the whole exercise I think only the second option is available.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mo on Fri, 01/10/2021 - 06:06


Hi guys ,
"Playing " is a verb or noun ?
If it's a verb , how did we put a verb after am or is or are !
The same question for the name
If we translate it , we will not understand it !

Hello Mo,

Yes, 'playing' can be used as a verb and also as a noun. In the case of 'am playing', it's most likely a present continuous form. But, for example, in 'Playing the piano is fun', 'playing' is a noun.

Most words can be used in more than one way and/or have more than one meaning.

If there's a specific example you'd like to ask us about, please include the whole sentence.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MPhayTp on Tue, 07/09/2021 - 07:24

Dear Team, Is there any situation we can use either the 'present continuous" or "present perfect continuous"? If yes, please give an example. He is staying with us for 2 days. He's been staying with us for 2 days. Which is the correct one? If both are correct, why?

Hello DaniWeebKage,

We use the present continuous + for to talk about time periods stretching into the future, while we use the present perfect to describe time periods stretching back into the past.

There can be some overlap in the the present continuous can describe a time which is just beginning or one which is already in progress, but the present perfect with for does not go refer to future time, even if the action is unfinished and will continue into the future.



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir Peter, He is staying with us for 2 days. He will be staying with us for 2 says. He will stay with us for 2 days. 1)What's the difference between these? I'm reading a good book. I've been reading a good book. 2)What is the different? When I phoned, she was having a piano lesson.(I phoned during the lesson) When I phoned, she had been having a piano lesson.( I phoned after the lesson) 3)Is that correct? Her eyes are red.I think She's been crying. (You've explained me once) In this sentence, it doesnt matter whether the crying action is finished or not but what it implies all about is the crying action. Then, 4)why the use of Past perfect continuous implies that the piano lesson is finished? Thanks a million, I'd appreciate if you answered all my questions.