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 Teacher,
Kindly help me to clarify the difference of sentences below:
+ He lives in London
+ He is living in London
+ He has lived in London
+ He lived in London
+ He has been living in London

Thanks so much

Hi Peter Nguyen01,

You have six different verb forms there, including different times (tenses) and different aspects (progressive and perfect). In order, the names of the forms are as follows:

present simple

present continuous (progressive)

present perfect

past simple

present perfect continuous (progressive)

Explanations of these are available in our grammar section on verbs - click here for this. When you've worked through the relevant pages if you have any specific questions then we'll be happy to help.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I would like to know what is the difference between "sth that is fixed" in present simple tense and "sth arranged or planned" in present continuous tense.

Also there are both "sth that happens again and again" in present simple and present continuous tense. How can i distinguish them?

Thank you.

Hello rubyho,

A fixed time is one which is set by a timetable or a schedule, not one decided by an individual. It often refers to events which repeat regularly such as train times.

Something arranged or planned is established by or between individuals or groups. It is often a one-time event.

Both forms can be used to describe repeating events but there is a slight difference. The present simple is usually used to describe actions which are normal or common, while the present continuous is used to describe behaviour or activities which are representative of a person or thing in some way. The difference is quite subtle and the best way to pick it up is by exposure: through reading and listening to English and seeing or hearing examples in a natural context.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi
I just want to understand this rule.please explain me,thank you.
for something which is happening before and after a given time:
At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast.
When I get home the children are doing their homework.

Hello archijais,

The present continuous is used here because the action is 'in progress'. For example:

At eight o’clock we usually have breakfast. - We start eating at 8.00.

At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast. - At 8.00 we are in the middle of eating.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi sir,
please give me example of where we use the present continuous to talk about the past.

Hello SHUBHAM KANT DUBEY,

As the explanation says, we can use present forms (including the present continuous) to tell a story, usually when the story is an anecdote or a joke. It helps to make the performance (the storytelling) more memorable. For example, I could start an anecdote like this:

So, there I was in the city late at night. I was walking home and suddenly I saw a police car...

Alternatively, I could tell the same story using present forms:

So, there I am in the city late at night. I'm walking home and suddenly I see a police car...

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi
please help what is the difference between, i always do, i am always doing.e.g I always lose my things and i am always losing my things,

Hi hornbyas,

The difference between verbal forms really depends a lot on context, so it's difficult to say more than what's explained on this page and our present simple and present tense pages regarding those tenses in general.

As for 'I always lose my things' vs. 'I am always losing my things', the first is a more general, neutral statement, whereas the latter implies some kind of emotion, e.g. frustration or annoyance. The present simple is commonly used to express annoyance in this way.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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