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.
 

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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

Isn't the present tense used to talk about something that happen again and again .
and here the present continuous also used to the *same purpose .
so, what's the difference ??

Hello Samah10,

You are correct that the present simple can be used for habitual actions.  Generally, we use the present simple when the action is normal - it happens all the time and is standard.  For example:

He gets up at 6.00.

They eat lunch together.

He works at the bank.

All of these suggest that this behaviour is understood as normal, typical and not particularly noteworthy.

We use the present continuous, especially with 'always' or 'forever' when something is not so much normal but rather a frequent event or activity.  For example:

He's always getting up at that time. [it's something that happens frequently, but not necessarily all the time]

They're forever eating lunch together. [it happens more often than would be expected, and is therefore something noteworthy - i.e. it is seen as not normal or expected]

He's always working late. [again, the fact he works late is seen as worthy of comment, therefore something not part of the normal way of things]

It is a small difference in some ways but I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,
what is the difference between following words if i add word 'always ':

He always gets up at 6:00 A.M.
He is always getting up at 6:00 A.M.

Thanking you in an advance!

Hello rishi,

'always' is often used with the present continuous to indicate actions that we think are done too often. In this case, the sentence doesn't just report this man's routine - it also includes the idea that the speaker or writer disapproves of the action in some way. It could be that 6:00 is too early or too late, for example.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

thanks, that's much clear with the examples.

If you may, I have another question .
both present tense and continuous used for something that fixed or arranged in the future.
so again, what's the difference ?

Hello Samah10,

When the explanation says "something fixed in the future", it is referring to events that occur regularly on a timetable, e.g. train or flight departures, film showing times in a cinema, classes at a school, etc. For these, the present simple is used.

The present continuous is often used for something planned or arranged. These are generally not regular events. For example, if you and I agreed to meet in a café tomorrow at 8am, I could say "Samah10 and I are meeting tomorrow at 8". If that was something we did every day, I'd use the present simple (for a habitual or regular event).

Note that the difference is sometimes a matter of perspective. If I am to catch a flight tomorrow at 10:30 and someone asked me about it, I could say both:

The flight leaves at 10:30.
I'm leaving tomorrow at 10.30.

In the first sentence, I'm talking more about the flight than my plan, and in the second I'm talking more about my planned trip.

I hope this helps!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

yes, thank you very much, I understand it now.

Hi,

I am American and am helping a friend with his English, although he's learning the British variety. He often writes sentences such as "Today I have been to the store and then I have been to the gym". Because he specifies the order in which the events have taken place, this sounds wrong to me, although he's talking about things he has done today. Can you shed any light on the subject? Thanks much.

Hi Stivencin,

In general, we use the present perfect for events which do not have a concrete time reference and are relevant at the moment of speaking, but use past tenses for events which are finished and sequential.  

You could see the actions in your sentence as fitting into either of these categories - 'today' is unfinished time, which suits the present perfect, and the events are 'news' to the listener, to which again the present perfect lends itself; you could also argue that the events have present consequences (I don't need to go shopping and I feel good/fit/healthy).  On the other hand, you could see the actions are being completed and sequential, without any direct relevance to the moment of speaking.  In other words both of these variations are possible:

Today I have been to the store and then I have been to the gym.

Today I went to the store and then I went to the gym.

The choice depends upon how the speaker views the actions; there is no right or wrong alternative and I have certainly heard people using both.  I know, though, that in American English the past tense is preferred in sentences such as this.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Peter!

All the best,

Stivencin

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