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

There is a specific usage of present continuous, where it follows a simple present verb, e.g. "I can't remember doing this", "I love doing that", "She hates working" etc. Is there a rule behind this that could explain how to follow it? Does that rule apply to "I look forward to seeing you" (or its mutations)?

Hello Asarhaddon,

'doing' and 'working' in your three example sentences are -ing forms (which are not the same as the present continuous). When we use a verb after another verb, the first verb often determines what form the second verb goes in. In the case of 'remember', 'love' and 'hate', the second verb often goes in the -ing form. Other verbs require a bare infinitive (e.g. 'let' or 'make') and others require a to + infinitive (e.g. 'want'). If you follow the links you can read more about this.

'look forward to' is a little bit different. In this case, 'to' is a preposition (not part of an infinitive). Verbs that come after prepositions always go in the -ing form, which is why we say 'look forward to doing' and not 'look forward to do'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you a lot for your answer, Kirk, it is very informative!

Hello Dear,

I would like to ask a question. When I would like to say something happens again and again should I use the present simple form or continuous form? and why?

Hello Mustafa,

Our talking about the present page discusses this a bit -- really it depends on how you see it. If you're speaking about a habit, for example, the present simple is the form you should use ('I eat breakfast at 7am.'). If you're trying to make a comment, e.g. you're not happy, about something that happens quite often, then the present continuous is probably the best choice ('It's always raining in London').

If you want to ask us about a specific sentence, please feel free.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I've another question please . I've found that the present continuous is used for a intention with a verb of motion . So if we find a verb of motion in present continuous does it always mean an intention or it could mean an arrangement? Thanks in advance , I really need help .

Hello Ilam,

As Peter explained, we don't comment on other sites' explanations. If there's a specific example you want to ask us about, please feel free.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello . I've found that we use the present continuous with always
● to show that a repeated action is unplanned
● to show irritation
● to show admiration .
Please help me to understand this use . I can't understand always with present continuous

Hello Ilam,

I assume those explanations are from another source (a book, website or similar). If so, then I suggest you contact the author for an explanation. We're happy to explain our own comments and examples but not to explain other people's explanations!

If you have particular sentences that you find confusing then please post them and we'll be happy to comment, and if there is anything on our pages which you find confusing then we're happy to try to explain those.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

So could you please explain why we use the present continuous with always in your sentence "George is great. He’s always laughing." Thanks in advance

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