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

Would it be correct to say 'John is arriving late. He is stuck in traffic'.
If it is, do people usually say this type of sentence (a fact) using the present continuous or use 'will' or 'going to' instead? Thanks!

Can you tell me about state verb?
What 's about the verb "try"? Is it the state verb?
When do we use " I try" or " I'm trying"?
Thank The LearnEnglish Team a lot!

Hello BigN,
You can find out about stative verbs here:
http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/grammar-reference/stative-verbs
As far as 'try' goes, it is not a stative verb and so can be used in a continuous form ('I'm trying...').  However, that does not mean that it cannot be used in a simple form ('I try...').  
Both forms are possible and are used in accordance with normal usage.  Thus we use 'I try...' for general/permanent actions:
'I (always) try to be nice to people.'
We use 'I'm trying...' for temporary actions or action in progress at the time of speaking:
'I'm trying to fix the car, but it's not easy.'
 
You can find out more about continuous forms here.
I hope that helps to clarify it for you.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

We use present continuous tense for something which is happening before and after a given time I thought that would the same meaning to (something happens again and again) and if that is the case this would be in simple present form e.g 'At eight o'clock we are usually having a breakfast'.

Why is it? 'I'm just leaving work rather than I shall have leave work.what is the difference? I'm in comfussion about it.

Hello Abdorawa,
'I'm just leaving work' means the speaker is in the process of leaving - he or she might just be walking through the door, for example.  'I shall have left' would mean the speaker is still at work, but knows that he or she will leave before a certain time in the future ('...by five o'clock', for example).
I hope that clarifies it for you.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

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Please may I know why my question was not answered? Anything wrong?

Hello,
Nothing is wrong - we just don't have time to answer all the questions on LearnEnglish. We're a small team and there are millions of people using this site.
We'll try to get round to your question as soon as we can, but if you need a quick answer, you may have to pay a teacher to help you.
Best wishes,
Adam

Hello,
Please can you explain why it is said:
"When I get home the children are doing their homework" rather than "When I got home the children are doing their homework.
Is it because this is this is something happening again and again?
Many Thanks

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