You are here

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

Matching_MTYyNzM=

Present continuous 2

GapFillTyping_MTYyNzQ=

  • future plans or arrangements:

Mary is going to a new school next term.
What are you doing next week?

Present continuous 3

TrueOrFalse_MTYyNzU=

Present continuous 4

GapFillTyping_MTYyNzY=

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

ReorderingHorizontal_MTYyNzg=

Present continuous questions 2

GapFillTyping_MTYyNzk=

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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTYyODA=

Present continuous negatives 2

GapFillTyping_MTYyODE=

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

Matching_MTYyNzc=

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

Comments

Hi, May I know why is the present continuous tense is used in the following sentences?

Computer City has announced that it is opening four new shops next month. (How about simple future or future continuous?)

The changes that have been introduced are being seen as a step backwards. (How about are seen or have been seen?)

the team concluded that third parties receive information about the device people are using, their locations, and possibly even when they are interacting with it. (How about 'the device people use'; 'even when they interact with it'?)

Keeping taxpayers in the dark about how their money is being spent is not how government should operate. (How about '...money is spent...'?)

Many thanks.

Hi LubNko525,

Interesting questions! Let me try to explain.

 

The first example (Computer City) uses present continuous (is opening four new shops) to show a planned future action. It's used when the action is already arranged, organised or scheduled. It gives a sense of this 'plannedness' of the action. Yes, future continuous is possible too: ... will be opening ... It also conveys this 'plannedness'. You could use will here too: ... will open four new shops. But the meaning's a bit different. This is a simple factual statement, and doesn't contain that 'plannedness' in its meaning.

 

In your other sentences, the using the present continuous gives a sense that the actions are ongoing. That is, they are not momentary actions or finished actions, but ones that are still continuing.

 

All the alternatives you suggested are grammatically correct, but they have slightly different meanings. They don't have the 'ongoing action' meaning. For example, in sentence 2:

  • If you use are seen, it presents the action ('be seen') as a general fact that is unlikely to change.
  • If you use have been seen, it presents the action as a completed one.

So, by using are being seen, the speaker presents the action as something going on now, which suggests that it that can end or change at some point.

 

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello admins,

Sometimes I'm confused between future tense and present tense.
For example, "For a while, I will work from home/ I work from home/ will be working from home". Which one is correct??

Hello Rafaela1,

There is no future tense in English. What you are using here is will, which is a modal verb like may or should. It often refers to the future, but can have other uses too.

 

In your example, will (a prediction or statement about the future) and will be working (an expectation) are possible. You could also use am working (a temporary state).

Work is not possible because it would describe a permananet or normal state, not something temporary.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter for the clear explanation.
I go it! ;)

Hi teacher,

1. We now have a broader set of users who are utilising our product in various unexpected ways. - I would like to ask why the present continuous tense is used here. Would the simple present tense be equally acceptable?

2. The company has announced that it is cutting prices. - Why is the present continuous tense used here? I am confused about the use because I think the action of cutting prices is short. Could I say "it will cut prices" or "it has cut prices" instead?

Hello AsahiYo20,

1. The simple present is also correct here. I'm not familiar with the writer's reasons for using the present continuous, but I suppose it's to speak about something developing and changing.

2. Both of the alternatives you suggest are possible, though they all describe the action in different ways. I suppose the idea behind the present continuous is that it's something new (which you can also find on the page I previously linked to).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, The LearnEnglish Team,

I´m confused about something, can you help me?
We use Presente simple with adverbs of frequency like always, never, etc.
At the same time we use presente continuous when something happens again and again, normally with the adverb always. So what is the difference between those two?
The same goes for the advanced level, telling a story or summerising a book. What is the difference in use of this two tences?
Thank you!
Kind regars

Hello Alibel,

Generally, when we use the present continuous with an adverb of frequency such as always, forever or continually, it suggests that we find the habit irritating. For example:

He always parks the car behind the house. [a habit or typical behaviour]

He's always parking the car behind the house. [this habit irritates me]

 

However, we can also use the present continuous with an adverb of frequency when we want to emphasise or make clear that the action is in progress:

He always has a shower when I get up. [his shower starts when or after I get up]

He's always having a shower when I get up. [his shower is in progress when I get up]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, The LearnEnglish Team,

If something happens regularly at a certain time (I leave the office at 6 p.m., We have breakfast at 7.30),
Is it the only way to think and speak about it as ‘something is happening regularly at a certain time’, (I am leaving the office at 6 p.m. every workday., We are having breakfast at 7.30 every day)?
Is present simple for regular actions totally impossible and unthinkable here?
Thank you in advance!

Pages