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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

Basic level


thank you

Hello Oscas,

Actually, neither is correct. The to + infinitive form of verbs is used after the verb start - therefore, the sentence should be:

3. The apple in the basket is starting to rot.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher!
I get confused in one the example of present continuos for something which is happening before and after a given time "At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast" as far as i got understand it, it is in form of present continous for something that happens again and again that is "we have a habit of having breakfast at eight o'clock every day" am I right or wrong please help me understand it.

Hi Oscas,

Both the present simple and present continuous can be used to speak about repeated actions, but the present simple is more generally used for this. When we use the present continuous to speak about repeated events, these events are somehow related to the time being discussed. So in this example, it could be that it is approximately 8 o'clock, or perhaps we are talking about some event at 8 o'clock.

I hope this helps clarify it for you!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi I want to know how do I use (being) in present continuous.

Hello Abdul Qadir,

Generally speaking, the verb 'be' is not used in continuous tenses as a main verb. It's most frequent use in present continuous forms is as an auxiliary verb in passive sentences:

I am being attacked.

We are being questioned by the police.

However, we do sometimes use 'be' to emphasise temporary behaviour which is different from that which is normal or expected:

She is being very rude today.

I am being a terrible bore about this, I know.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

why we dont use "past continuous " for the past, in the story or for summarising?
it seems apparently wrong?
thanks for your attention

Hello Mrs Vahedi,

Note that the explanation says that the present continuous can be used in these ways, but that does not mean that you can only use the present continuous to tell a story or to summarise. You can use the past continuous to do these things as long as it makes sense given the context.

If you have any doubts, please feel free to write a few sentences and we can check them for you.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

In the example cited "I’m just leaving work. I’ll be home in an hour." shouldnt the first sentence be "I'm just leaving for work?"

Hello ankita2219,

Both are correct grammatically but they have different - almost opposite - meanings.

'...leaving work' means the person is at work and is about to leave to go somewhere else, such as home.

'...leaving for work' means the person is somewhere else, such as at home, and is about to go to work.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team