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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


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

Would U be so kind to give an example of using the present continous tense when we talk about the past, please?

Hi lion921,

This is used only in the specific case of telling someone a story and trying to make it more immediate. For example, imagine I am telling you about what happened last night and I want to make the story vivid and exciting. I might say:

So I'm walking down the street and suddenly a man jumps out and starts shouting at me.

The story events happened in the past but by using present forms I can make it seem more immediate. We only use this form in informal anecdotes, stories and jokes, however.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

i would like to ask the difference between present continuous and present perfect when use in time which is not finished.
1. The company's profit is increasing this year.
2. The company's profit has increased this year.
3. Rob isn't doing well this term.
4. Rob hasn't done well this term.

Hi RTris,

Both forms can have different meanings depending on how they're used, but in basic, contextless sentences such as these, the difference is that the present continuous suggests the change is still in process, whereas the present perfect does not clearly indicate this. The present perfect doesn't deny that it will continue, but really only speaks about the period up until now.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

How to use present continous When we want to talk about the past ( as we are telling a story until that story has finished )
thank you

Hello Tamer Refat,

I'm not sure what you mean exactly. Could you provide a sentence or two illustrating what you have in mind, and then we'll comment on those?


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team