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

Hi Experts,
It would be great help to eliminate the big confusion on following sentences:

Following 2 sentences are present continuous, then what is the difference between them and why both are correct:

Is your great-grandmother still alive?
&
Is your great-grandmother still living?

thanks in advance...!!

Manoj

Hi manojparmar,

Both of those are fine and describe a current situation. The difference is grammatical: one uses a to be + adjective (is alive) whereas the other uses a present continuous form of the verb 'live' (is living).

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

May I have a question regarding the use of present continuous?

Suppose an Englishman saw a thief when he stole a purse from a lady. He is now describing the thief to a policeman (in the present tense): “The thief is young – about twenty. He is very thin and tall, his shoes are dirty with mud. He is wearing black jeans and has a dog with him.”

Could the Englishman use present continuous that way (e.g. “he is wearing black jeans”)?

Thanks.

Hello OldaB,

If the speaker thinks that the thief is still wearing the jeans now (i.e. has not changed his clothes) then the present continuous would be possible. Otherwise the past continuous would be used.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Peter.

The speaker thought that the thief was still wearing the jeans. And he was right: when the police caught the thief, he had the same jeans on. :-)

OldaB

Sir,I have a question regarding the statement:"At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast."
Why can't we write the statement like this:"At eight o’clock we usually have our breakfast."

Hello souravsaha1605,

The present simple is the more commonly used tense here, as it is used to talk about repeated or habitual actions. Talking about a repeated action (as in your sentence) using the present continuous gives an additional layer of meaning, as if we were viewing the action happening right now. It is therefore often used to contrast with the present time, e.g. today we are having lunch at 8 (presumably because we woke up at 2am) whereas usually we are having breakfast at 8.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you.

Hi, is there anyway the sentence, "I am walking to school every morning," is correct or should we only use Present Simple for that?

Thank you in advance.

hello
thank you for this tutorial
I get confused a little bit, you said that we use present continuous to talk about past with story and when summarizing the story from a book, film or play other site states that we use present simple when talking about story and play for example " the hero dies at the end of the story"
can you please tell me which is the true ?
and please tell me if I made a grammatical mistakes in this comment :)
many thanks and best regards

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