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

Thanks it's helpful but I have a question. The present continuous is used to express something which happens again and again e.g. It’s always raining in London. I have read on Oxford Practice Grammar book that present continuous is used for repeated actions e.g.
It always rains at the weekend.

So, what is the difference between repeated actions and something that happens again and again cause I think they are the same?

Hello wesam.kamal,

The difference here is really in how the speaker sees the action and what the speaker chooses to emphasise. The simple form suggests something that is typical and normal, and to be expected as part of the normal order of things. The continuous form suggests that an event recurrs and that this is somehow worthy of comment. This may be because it is irritating, or because it affects our plans in some way. Like all questions of aspect, it is a change in how the action is seen rather than an objective change in the action itself.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi LearnEnglish Team,
I really can't get the difference between the simple present and the present continuous when use them in the future:
1- " We fly to Paris next week."
2- " Mary is going to a new school next term."

if we say in the first sentence: " we are going to Paris next week "
what the difference between the two meaning?

thank you
Romario

Hello RomarioGrey33,

This is explained on our talking about the future page. I think that should clear it up for you, but if you're still not sure after reading that, please don't hesitate to ask us again.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

Statement: "He's doing a Master's in Glasgow"

Why is this statement not "For something that is happening at the moment of speaking"

Regards
Nitin Sharma

Hello Nitin Sharma,

The idea is that studying for a degree is something temporary. We could say 'He's studying for a Master's' even on the weekend or in the summer (when he's not in class) -- in this case, we don't mean he's studying at the moment of speaking, but rather that it's an ongoing temporary (even if it takes a couple of years) action.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi All,

Could you please explain the difference between below given two sentence as i am unable to understand and use.
1.When I get home the children are doing their homework.- Present continuous
2.Mother will be cooking the dinner when we get home - Future Continuous

Thanks in advance.
Vishwa

Hello Vishwa,

Sentence 1 sounds like a statement about a typical situation, i.e. something the mother or father of these children says about their arrival home on work days. In this case, the present continuous is expressing an ongoing activity -- the idea is that the children begin working on their homework before she or he gets home and she or he finds them working on it.

Sentence 2 sounds like a statement about one particular day rather than a normal routine. 'will be cooking' is in the continuous aspect to show that the cooking will be in progress (similar to the children doing homework in sentence 1) and 'will' is used since it is a prediction or statement about the future (not about a regular occurrence).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, i am a little confused as i am studying today the present continuous, using always, can we also use the present simple?

It’s always raining in London. it's always rain in London
They are always arguing. they always argue
George is great. He’s always laughing. George is great. He always laugh

Hi Tim,

In general, the present simple is used to speak about actions that happen regularly. But we can also use the present continuous when the action is also happening more or less at the time we are speaking.

We often use the present continuous in this way to make a comment about something we see as regular. For example, imagine that you are in London and it's raining today. A friend of yours from home calls you and asks about the weather there. You could say 'It's raining. It's always raining in London.' In this way, you are not just making a simple statement about weather patterns in London, you're also making a comment, i.e. showing your frustration.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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