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Present continuous

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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

Hello ismail,

Yes, the first sentence indicates a definite plan - for example, perhaps she's already requested the shop to have the laptop ready. And yes, the second sentence could be used to make a prediction, offer or promise, among other possibilities.

Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear BC team,

this web site shows us why is the internet most valuable thing these days. It is really, really helpful to me. Anyway as I ask questions often I do not know if I bother your team. If do, please let me know. I have some quetions, if you can answer it would be great.

1.What sort of music are they listening to? Why TO at the end of the sentence? Is it possible to omit it?
2. What about the patternt "how to something" when we speak in general? Is it grammatical and formal? For example, if I am wondering "how to fix my car", or it is better to say "How can I fix my car? Do you have any suggestion on this kind of patterns? Other examples are: how to make a dessert, how to play the gituar, etc.
Best wishes

Hello swxswx,

We try to answer the questions out users have, but sometimes it is not possible or it takes some time as it is not our primary role here. We're happy for you to ask, however, and answer when we are able.

The 'to' in these questions is different. In your first question 'to' is a preposition and it is necessary as 'listen' has an object in the sentence: 'what kind of music'. You can use 'listen' as an intransitive verb (without an object), but if there is an object then the preposition is necessary.

Are you listening? [no object]

You're not very good at listening. [no object]

Are you listening to me? ['me' is the object]

You're not very good at listening to what I'm saying. ['what I'm saying' is the object]

In your second question the 'to' is part of the verb form - the infinitive. For indirect questions you can use both alternatives:

'I am wondering how to fix my car.'

'I am wondering how I can fix my car.'

For direct questions we tend not to use the alternative with 'to':

'How can I fix my car?'

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Dear sir :
what is difference between
something that happens again and again in the present
and something which happens again and again
can i say
They always argue
They are always arguing
is these same meaning?

Hi nkmg,

'always' is commonly used with the present continuous to express the idea that something happens too often or more often than normal. So 'they're always arguing' implies that the speaker thinks they argue too much or more than normal. 'They always argue' is more a simple statement of fact, with no commentary.

Note that this is similar to your other question about present continuous and present simple. The use of the continuous aspect implies a perspective on the action.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I'll be home in a one hour or in an one hour?

Hello Ujma,

Neither is correct. The correct version is: 'I'll be home in an hour.'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

Can you please explain point no 3 we can use the present continues to talk about the past i didn't understand it

Hi Rasha2,

Usually we use past forms for telling stories:

I woke up and got out of bed. Then had a wash, got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast.

However, it is also quite common to use present forms (simple and continuous, as appropriate) in order to make the story sound more immediate and bring it to life, especially if the story is an anecdote or a joke:

So anyway, listen to this. I wake up and get out of bed. Then have a wash, get dressed and go downstairs for breakfast, and you'll never guess what happens next...

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks alot

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