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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


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


could you tell me if the part of my sentence is in present past or future after thus?
i found this sentence after a small paragraph. thanks
thus preventing relaxation.


The verb here is a participle, and these do not carry a time reference. Instead, they take their time reference from the main verb in the sentence. If the rest of the sentence is in the past, then the participle has a past time meaning; if the rest of the sentence is in the present, then it has a present time meaning and so on.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


Could you please give me more examples about the following:

For something which is happening before and after a given time


Hello lettoula,

The idea here is that there is an action which is in progress (which is why we use a continuous form) that is witnessed or is happening at a point in time. That is why the explanation talks about an action happening before and after a point in time, because that action was in progress before the point, is happening at that point and will continue to happen afterwards.

There are thousands of possible examples, but here are a couple more:

I'm still working when my children go to bed.
She's doing yoga when the rest of the family wake up.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Helo, thanks alot for your great work. I'm a little bit said that the simple continous tense is to talk about something that is happening before and after a given time.........and you gave two examples "at 8 o'ckock we are usually having breakfast"
"When i get home the children are doing there home work" ....................please explain these examples better for me as it will help me greatly to construct more examples

Hello kingtam,

All continuous forms describe actions in progress around a particular time. The present continuous describes actions in progress around the moment of speaking. For example:

At 8 o'ckock we are usually having breakfast.

The meaning here is that at 8.00 we are in the process of having breakfast. The meal started some time before 8.00 (though it could be 7.59!) and has not finished at 8.00.

When I get home the children are doing their [not 'there'] home work.

The meaning here is similar: the children started their homework before the speaker arrived and are in the middle of it when he or she gets home.

I hope that clarifies it for you.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir ,
Why are you cooking food today (I know this sentence is correct but can i say
Why do you cook today or Why have you been cooking food today )

Hello Tapan100,

We would generally use 'do' to talk about typical or habitual actions, not actions at the moment of speaking. The present perfect 'have you been cooking' would ask about the day up to the moment of speaking, so it is possible but has a slightly different meaning.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Could i say that" when i got home, children are playing game" or the given time should be present time. Thanks

Hi yeshe,

The verb in the first part of the sentence sets a past time ('got') and so the verb in the second part should also be past time:

When I got home, the children were playing a game.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team