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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

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

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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

Comments

Thanks Sir

Dear LearnEnglish team,
I have two confusions.
1) We use Present Simple and Present Continuous both to talk about something fixed or planned for future. Then what is the difference, if any, in their usage in this regard. For example:
a) We fly to Paris next week. OR We are flying for Paris next week.
b) The train leaves at 8a.m. tomorrow.
c) I am playing badminton with Matthew tomorrow.
Is it right if I use Present Continuous for (b) and Present Simple for (c)?

2) We usually use Present Simple for feelings and thoughts. So, are the following sentences wrong?
a) I am believing you. ( this time only)
I believe you. (always)
b) I am trusting you.
c) I am getting you.
d) I am understanding you.

Quick reply will be highly appreciated.
Regards.

Hello azaidi5,

While we're happy to answer specific questions as far as time allows - and please remember that we are a small team here at LearnEnglish - we cannot answer questions which contain multiple sentences for comment. This is a job for your teacher, I am afraid.

The present simple is used to describe fixed, regular or timetabled events such as the start time of a concert or the departure time of a train. The present continuous is used to describe an event which has been arranged between two or more actors. In other words, the choice of the most appropriate form depends upon the nature of the event and how it is perceived by the speaker.

All of the sentences you quote in the second question would generally be formed with simple verbs, not continuous. Only in particular contexts where a change or temporary state is emphasised might a continuous form be used, but this would be very unusual.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
I don't understand the use of present continous in this case: 'I look aweful in the mornings, but I'm all nice and pretty when I AM GOING OUT. I would think about going out as about daily routine and I would use present simple (... 'when I GO OUT). Would this be my mistake?

Hello Yura_Tea,

In this example it would be fine to use 'when I go out' (describing a regular activity) or 'when I'm going out' (describing an action in progress. It's similar to examples such as:

I'm grumpy in the morning, but I'm in a good mood when I eat something nice.

I'm grumpy in the morning, but I'm in a good mood when I'm eating something nice.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you a lot for your answer. I'm glad to know that both tenses are correct and I won't make any mistakes in this case. I suppose I need more practice to feel the difference between the two, and the feeling will come with time, naturally. :)

Hello Sir,

I will be very glad to answer my questions please. We use both tenses present simple and present continuous to write about something, which happens again and again. What are the differences between the below examples? Suppose we can use both tense for something, which happens again and again in the present then how can i recognize what kind of tenses are used in these examples?

Examples:
Present continuous
It’s always raining in London.
They are always arguing.
George is great. He’s always laughing.

Present simple
I play football every weekend.
I sometimes go to the cinema.
She never plays football.

Hello Ramyar1234,

Generally, we reserve the present continuous with an adverb of frequency ('always', 'forever' or 'constantly') for irritating activities, while the present simple is more neutral. For example:

He sings in the shower. [a normal and frequent activity]

He's always singing in the shower. [a normal and frequent activity which the speaker finds irritating]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

These sentences are confused.

It is always raining in London ( Present Continuous) Happens in the past, up to now and continue...
It always rains in London ( Present simple) Just in general true.

But when we use in speaking, which way you all preferred?

Hello Tom,

The first sentence (and most sentences that use 'always' + present continuous) is making a comment – for example, maybe the speaker isn't happy about all the rain – whereas the sentence with the present simple is more matter-of-fact.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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