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.
 

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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

Hello jau20,

The context is key here. If we are describing regular, typical behaviour then we generally use the present simple. We would use the present continuous only when we want to emphasise something about the action. For example, if this is a new habit which is not something we have done previously, and which we may stop doing at some point, then we might use the present continuous to emphasise its temporary nature. Take a look at these examples:

I go to school by bike. [my normal routine]

I'm going to school by bike. [at the moment, because my car is at the mechanic's this week]

 

The example of 'He's always laughing' is quite specific. This use of the present continuous generally has a representative function. In other words, we use the present continuous when the behaviour or action is somehow representative of the character of the actor: London is a wet city, the couple have a difficult relationship, George is a cheerful chap and so on. The present continuous is used for actions which tell us something about the nature of the actor.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello team,
We can use both simple present and present continuous to talk about something happens again and again; so how can I differentiate which tense is more suitable related to the sentence?

Hello masri.ahm04,

In general, the present simple is probably the best choice. In other words, if in doubt, use the present simple. The present continuous, as explained above, is usually used specifically with the word 'always' and it also often indicates a sense of dissatisfaction with the statement.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

and what about my examples with "NY"?

Please guide me towards right direction of using is and are?
The bestest place to live is heart and the finest place to die are arms.
Is this right sentence or not,kindly suggest me the right one,if did wrong.

Hello Mandeep Kaur,

If you use an online spell checker, you'll see that 'bestest' is not spelt correctly -- it should be 'best'. The sentence sounds a bit awkward because of the way the two body parts are phrased. I'd say 'the heart' and 'in someone's arms' or something similar for the last part.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,

Mary is going to a new school next term. - Currently Mary is not going to school ,she will go school in Next term,Action will be taken in Future so why we use it in Present Continues tense ? Can you please Clarify me.

thanks,

Hello Vishal Panchal,

We frequently use the present continuous to speak about planned future actions. Please see our talking about the future and Future Plans pages for more information on this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello
I don't understand the difference between 'going to' and 'present continuous ' ,can you bring more examples?

Hello Ran ous,

You can find more examples and explanations on our page titled Talking about the future. You can find it here. Please take a look at those examples and let us know if you are still unsure.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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