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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


'When I get home.the children are doing there homework' why not a simple present form since it describes the typical situation for the speaker?

Hello Abdorawa,
The present continuous form is used to describe situations which are in progress at the time of speaking or at the time of another event.  In your sentence above, the speaker is saying that the children are in the middle of doing their homework when he or she gets home each day.  If the speaker used a present simple form, it would suggest the children start their homework when he or she arrives home - a different meaning.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Please can any one answer my question...!
Many Thanks in Advance.

If you please, I need some help according to what's mentioned before that we use both the present simple and the continuous present to talk about sth is happening again and again, could please show me the difference clearly?
Also, we use both of them to talk about future so when can I use each?
Thanks in advance,

Hello again Nour3!
This is your third question about grammar! In my experience, learners often get confused when they concentrate only on grammar, and don't look at how we actually use English. Can I suggest you spend some time reading and listening to the materials on our site? That way, you will see lots of examples of the different tenses you ask about, and may be able to understand the differences and similarities better that way.
One useful tip is to use our search box - put, for example, present continuous into the search box, and explore some of the materials and exercises we have which deal with these topics. 
In answer to your questions, we use always with present continuous to emphasise that something happens a lot, as in It's always raining in London. Simple present is more neutral. As for using both present continuous and present simple to talk about the future, our page on talking about the future explains the difference clearly.
Hope that helps!
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Jeremy bee for your advice I do appreciate that, and please excuse my questions it's just my eager to learn more as I teach English and looking to have a career step forward which makes me keen on being more professional and up to date as possible as I can that's why I am focusing a bit on grammar as it has more details and tricks and definitely will help to be more accurate teaching English Language specifically  the grammatical aspects.

Hello Nour3!
Oh, I see! I can understand you wanting to know a bit more about the grammatical detail - but remember that our site (and grammar explanations) are aimed at learners. We are expanding the grammar section soon, but if you want to dig more deeply, you may find detailed grammar references helpful. There are several on the market, although I like Practical English Usage (Swan). As a general teaching tip, though, while you may want to understand grammar in detail, as I say, it can be confusing to overload learners with grammar!
Don't forget our sister site, TeachEnglish, has a lot of resources for teachers, including teacher development.
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

How can we use present continuous instead of past continuous?
I've never experienced it.
How about "when we were telling a story" instead ?

Hello Everyone,
I want to know whether this sentence " We're thinking of going to Croatia for two or three days next month", is "for something which we think is temporary".
Thanks for your help. 

Hello Zaarlev!
Here, 'We are thinking...' is for something you are doing right now, not something which is temporary. For example, people in a relationship might say 'We are thinking of getting married' - and no-one gets married thinking it will be temporary!
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team