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

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

"At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast."
Can you please explain more why we use simple continuous here instead of simple present (as a routine)?

Also, both simple present and present continuous are used for "something happening again and again". Could you please give me more information and example? I'd really appreciate it! :)

Hi nlvunguyen,

As is explained above, the sentence "At 8 we are usually having breakfast" is used to speak about what is happening around a given time - it is not really talking about a routine. The difference is subtle, and has to do with the context the sentence is used in. For example, if you are speaking about the series of activities you do every morning, then you would use the present simple. On the other hand, if someone tells you that you she wants to visit you at home at 8am tomorrow, the present continuous version of the sentence would be more appropriate. This is because you're not really discussing your routine in general - rather, you are discussing a specific time of day.

As for your question about the present simple and continuous to to talk about something that happens again and again, note that, as is explained, the present continuous is used with always. This use of the present continuous often indicates some kind of emotion on the speaker's part. For this reason, it is often used to express our annoyance or dissatisfaction with something (e.g. the first example about raining), but can be used in other ways too (e.g. the other sentences).

These are subtle points and can be difficult to master - I hope this helps you.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,
I have come to know that some verbs like love, hate will always take 1st form (what I mean is, we don't use *ing forms of those verbs in general).
please explain them and mention the remaining verbs of such kind.
Thanks and Regards
Krishna

Hello krishna0891,

Many of these verbs refer to mental or emotional states (e.g. believe, feel, hate, remember, want) and the senses (e.g. hear, see, taste), but there are others that don't fall into an easy-to-remember group (e.g. be, depend, fit, promise, weigh). Note that some of these verbs are used in the present continuous in certain contexts, but in general they are not used in continuous forms.

There are quite a few of these verbs. I would suggest that you learn them as you encounter them, but if you want a list, I'm sure you can find one by doing an internet search for "non-continuous verbs".

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Kirk.

Present continuous : talk about the future
I thought I could use present continuous when i wanted to imply some future meanings in the sentence 
e.g I am meeting some friends after work ( future) 
so I have used this grammar in my email 
e.g) we confirmed that the following figure are appearing soon in the report
but one of my native friends said " It is wrong " and explain like below
numbers/figures on the report will change in the near future implying that either a new report will be printed shortly or the report itself has the ability to change figures by itself. 
he said I should have used "will appear" instead of "are appearing".  he told me that " Are appearing" means that the figure has the ability to change by it self.
but I cannot understand it since the future concept is also included in the present continuous. so I thought "are appearing" was able to use this sentence. 
 
Could you tell me when present continuous future concept can be applied to the sentence? and please explain for me why i cannot use "are appearing" in this sentence 
 
 

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