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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


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


Hello everyone!

I'm still confused in using Present Simple and Present Progressive when talking "something happens again and again". For example, I have a situation like my friend (native german - speaker) uses English language to communicate with me when he wants to practice it, but usually we speak German. What variant would be correct if I say the phrase now, in the moment of speaking with my friend : "Most of the time we're speaking German" (I want to emphasize that we speak German almost always instead of practicing English) or "Most of the time we speak German"?


Hello nastya_lenckaia,

In this context both are possible. The simple form is probably the more common, suggesting a habit or typical behaviour, while the continuous suggests a repeated action and is also possible, though less common.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

We use simple present for future fixed arrangements & present continuous for future planned situations. Both are same. So does it mean that we can use both forms when we talk about arrangements in future??? For eg-
We fly to Paris next week.
We are flying to Paris next week.

Both mean same & are correct according to your context and egs given in ur lessons

Please help, i am really confused.

Hello Sonel,

The present simple tends to be used more to refer to future events that are fixed due to being part of a timetable and the present continuous more for other arranged plans. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but tends to be true. Without context it's impossible to explain completely, but, for example, in the two sentences you mention, the first could focus more on the fact that it's part of a schedule, whereas the second could be focusing more on the plan to travel.

In general, the present continuous is used far more often to refer to the future than the present simple, so if you're in doubt, most of the time using the present continuous will be correct.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everyone, I have a question
We can use the present continuous to talk about the past:

When we are telling a story:
When we are summarising the story from a book, film or play etc.:

Can you give me an example for this and what is the different between pre. cont. and past cont. ?
Thank you very much indeed.

Hello phthao1904,

In general, I'd recommend you use the past continuous to speak about past events. It's true that the present tenses can be used as well – people typically use them because it makes the story seem more present – but this is not as common and could be perceived by others as a mistake on your part (even when it isn't).

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

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,


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?