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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

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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

Comments

Hello Team,

How would you classify the sentences from the article? For me these fit to something which happens again and again. Am I right?

When we are telling a story:
When we are summarising the story from a book, film or play etc.:

Hello Jarek_O,

The 'full' sentence here would be:

We can use the present continuous to talk about the past when we are telling a story.

We can use the present continuous to talk about the past when we are summarising the story from a book, film or play etc.

The present continuous is used here because it shows a time which is in process. We are in the middle of telling a story or summarising a story and while we are doing this we can use the present continuous.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I would be thankful if you answered this question
Why i the example above you used present continuous (At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast.) however;it is a habit?? and we are supposed to use present simple ?
Thank you
Best Regards....

Hello student2017,

As the explanation says, we use the present continuous for something which is in progress around (before and after) a given time. It's helpful to contrast the two forms:

At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast. [breakfast starts before 8.00 and finishes after it; at 8.00 the breakfast is in progress]

At eight o’clock we usually have breakfast. [breakfast starts at 8.00]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher .
I do not understand the last rule which say : we use present continuous for somethige happens again and again .. i know that we use present simple in this case ..

Hi lith,

You are correct that we use the present simple for actions which are typical or habitual. We use the present continuous when we want to emphasise that an action happens repeatedly, especially with a word like 'always' or 'constantly'. Most often this is when something is indicative of a person's character or nature, especially when it is irritating: Stephen is always borrowing my phone.

There is generally a choice between the present simple and continuous in these cases. Which one is used depends on the speaker and what they choose to emphasise.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! I am a little confused how to answer this sentence:

...... Esli .......(work) this week?

Do we consider it a present continuous or future? Thanks for your contribution.

Hi moe,

There are many ways in which this sentence could be completed. Without any context it is not possible to say which is the most appropriate.

Please note that we have a police on LearnEnglish of not providing answers for tasks which are not from our pages. We are a small team here and cannot act as a resource for help with homework or tests from elsewhere - if we tried then we would have no time for anything else!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Greetings,

I have doubt about present simple and present continuous tense. We use present simple tense for something that is fixed is the future. But later, in present countinuous section, these is an example:"At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast."
Question is: Isn't "At eight o'clock" something that is fixed in future and why we use present continuous tense here?
I apologize if this was answered earlier.

Thank You.

Hello marcusses,

Using the present simple or present continuous here shows how you (the person who speaks or writes the sentence) see the event. If you use the present simple tense, it can show that you are seeing breakfast at that time as a daily routine, i.e. as something that's always the same.

The present continuous would be better in other contexts when you aren't talking about breakfast as a routine but rather as an activity in progress. For example, if your friend in Hawai'i wants to Skype you at 21:00 his time and asks if that's OK, you could say, 'Yes, that's 8:00 in Serbia. We're usually having breakfast then.' In this context, his call at 8:00 is a point in a time and eating breakfast is an activity in progress at that time. The present continuous tense shows that you see it this way.

You could also say 'We eat at 8:00, so yes, that's OK' and it's correct - it just imagines the event from a different perspective.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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