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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

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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

Basic level

Comments

Hello Moon,

'is playing' is better because it's talking about something happening before, during and after the time he falls asleep. Our continuous aspect page might be a good one for you to read to complement the explanation on this page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

Can you give me some examples about the present continuous to talk about the past?

Thanks...

Hello cumatan,

The fourth sentence in the task shows an example of this. There is a good example from Dickens in the wikipedia article on the Historical present. But this is not used just in literature; people often use the present to talk about a past event in conversations, particularly when they're telling a story. Using the present in this way makes the story seem more alive.

For example, let's say I had an argument with a shop assistant yesterday and I'm still a bit angry about it when I tell the story to a friend. I might say something like: 'And then she tells me that I can't bring my backpack into the shop! I tell her I'm not going to leave my backpack unattended at the shop entrance, because my laptop is inside it. She says I have to so I tell her I'll just take my business elsewhere.' I could use the past simple to narrate this story, but by using the present it seems more real.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello ,
I am having confusion in making sentences for situations where something is happening in the present as a result of something that happened in the past.
For example,
Jan is doing this (now) because he was asked to do so (at some time earlier).
I am going to the party because I got myself registered there.
Are these sentences grammatically correct OR…. Please?

Hello JaneMe,

The verb forms in these sentences are correct, so good work there! There are two small improvements I'd suggest in other areas. First, in the first sentence, use 'it' instead of 'so'. This word is referring to 'this' in the first part of the sentence, and so 'it' makes more sense than 'so'. Second, in the second sentence, we'd probably just say 'I registered there' – the form you use could be possible in some contexts, but the active form is more common in general.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you once again.

Hello,
Which one is correct? "I'm going home". (or) "I'm going to home".
If "I'm going home" is right, why are we using "I'm going to college". Is this the proper English? If so, why? what is the reason behind this?
Thank You in advance.

Hello chandini,

'I'm going home' is correct. This is because we use 'home' here as an adverb, not a noun. It's similar to 'I'm going outside' or 'I'm going upstairs'. It is possible to use 'home' as a noun, but we use a possessive adjective ('to my home') when we do so.

We say 'I'm going to college' because 'college' is a noun, not an adverb.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear LearnEnglish Team,

First of all I'd like to thank you for everyday big help to us, students and non-native English teachers.

While preparing for the next lesson, I came across the following popular science abstract from the textbook:
"Wind is air moving over land or sea. Air is always moving. It is the sun that makes air move".

The second sentence confused me. I've always thought Present Simple is used for such general truths. But on this webpage I've also read

"for something which is happening before and after a given time:

At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast.
When I get home the children are doing their homework."

Now I'm in doubt. Could you explain me what the use of Present Continuous in my abstract means, please?

Thanks in advance

Hello Elka0507,

We use the present continuous in a number of ways. One way is to show something which is in progress at a certain time and is repeated or temporary. In this example I would say that if we said 'wind always moves' it might suggest a constant flow. If we say 'wind is always moving' it suggests a constantly changing activity - different directions, speeds and so on.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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