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Continuous aspect

Level: intermediate

We use continuous aspect:

  • for something happening before and after a specific time:

He's getting on the train. (before and after the moment of speaking)
It was a quarter past ten. We were watching the news on television.

  • for something happening before and after another action:

Mother will be cooking the dinner when we get home.
We were waiting for the bus when it started to rain.

  • for something continuing for some time:

Everybody will be waiting for us.
They had been working hard all day.

  • for something happening again and again:

They've been doing that every day this week.
The children were always shouting.
He will be practising the piano every night.

  • for something temporary:

We are renting an apartment until our house is ready.
He was working in a garage during the vacation.

  • for something new:

We have moved from Birmingham. We're living in Manchester now.
He had left university and was working in his father's business.

  • to describe something changing or developing:

Everything has been getting more difficult.
He was growing more bad-tempered every day. 

Continuous aspect 1


Continuous aspect 2


We can use continuous aspect:

How long have you been sitting there?
I don't know how long she had been learning Spanish.

Your friends will be looking for you.
They might be playing tennis.

You should have been driving more carefully.
Soon we will have been living here for 25 years.

Continuous aspect 3


Continuous aspect 4


We do not normally use the continuous aspect with stative verbs. We use the simple instead:

I don't understand you. (NOT am not understanding)
When I got home, I really needed a shower. (NOT was needing)
I've always liked John. (NOT been liking)


Hello everyone,

Is this correct to say:
"While we were waiting we were doing crosswords"
"While we were waiting we did crosswords"

Thank you in advance!

Hello Natasa Tanasa,

Both forms are possible here; it's really a question of the broader context and the speaker's intention.

The simple form (did) would be used if you wanted to suggest that the crosswords were finished, while the continuous form does not imply this (but does not preclude it either). Other than that difference it depends what you want to emphasise: the activity (it was long and boring, for example) or the result (we finished four crosswords!).



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Team.
Could you tell me the difference between the past simple and the past continuous in the following sentence? I think "past simple" is wrong here.
1- I didn't believe that most famous people were doing hard jobs all their childhood.
2- I didn't believe that most famous people did hard jobs all their childhood.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I think both forms are possible here and there is very little difference in meaning. The continuous form emphasises that the state or situation is temporary and I think it sounds a little better, but the reference to childhood already makes this point clear so I think either form is possible.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear team,
the matter has already been brought to the attention of the parents.
Is the position of "already" right? Or should it go after been?
Thanks a lot

Hello Hosseinpour,

You've put the adverb in the correct place -- well done!

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you sir for the time and help, means a lot.

Hi great team,
I am confused about the'-ing clause'

For instance, when I say
1)''I see him sitting on the sofa.''

A website says (-sitting on the sofa) is 'a -ing clause'.
But I learnt that it is a participle clause.
Which one is true? ,teacher. Could you please explain difference to me?

After asking a question, I want to thank all our helpful teachers and our moderator for helping us to learn English.I am very grateful to have that opportunity.

Hi Nevı,

Both are true! There are two types of participle clauses:

  1. Present participle clauses (using the -ing verb form)
  2. Past participle clauses (using the -ed verb form).

Your example is the first type. You can read more about participle clauses on this page. I hope it helps!

We're happy to read your kind comments :) Thank you for visiting our site.


The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for page link teacher. So I understand that '-ing' clause involve gerund clauses and present participle clauses.
For example,
-I like walking my dog.
walking my dog is -ing (
gerund) clause.

-I see him sitting on the sofa.
sitting on the sofa is -ing(participle) clause.

Teacher,Do I understand correctly?
Thanks a lot.