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, I have a question too. In the sentence "Do you always listen to the radio when you are driving?" why is it "you are driving" (present continuous) since it is talking about every time somebody drives?

Hello georgia.gram,

The question is asking about one action (listen to the radio) which takes place during another action (driving), and so the contrinuous form is used. It assumes that the driving goes on for some time and the listening is inside that time.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi all,
The above questions and answers are very relevant and helpful. They make me feel more confident in using English and enyoy the subtlety of a language I'm trying hard to master.

I have a question:

Present Simple: He always talks nonsense.

Present Continuous: He is always talking nonsense.

Both talk about something happens again and again. How to differentiate this?

Thanks!

Hello wengsun85,

In general, the present simple is used to speak about repeated actions. But if this repeated action is also occurring around the time of speaking, the present continuous is also sometimes used. In your examples, the second sentence would imply that the person is talking nonsense in that moment or has done so recently.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Kirk for your previous reply.

That makes me think of another question:

Present Continuous is used to talk about the future for something which has been planned. Same goes for Present Simple. So what's the difference?

For instance,
a) We fly to Paris next week.
b) We are flying to Paris next week.

Thanks!

Hello wengsun85,

Generally speaking, the present continuous is used for things which have been arranged and agreed between people, while the present simple is used to describe timetabled, fixed or regular events.

Best wishes,

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello!

Can I use Present Simple when I telling a story or only Present Continuous?

Hello Lucifer7,

Yes, this is quite common. In such cases, the present simple is usually used to describe events and the present continuous is used to supply background information. For example, 'So I'm walking down the street and this police officer comes up to me. 'Come with me', she says ...'

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I find the answer in comments site. thx
...or should i say: ''I have find the answer in comments site''?

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