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

Thank you Kirk for making clear to me, very helpful,

Regards
Tim

Hello learnenglish tram. Please, forgive me if i've been asking you too many questions, recently.
Today, my question is about when to use simple present continuous and when to use present perfect continuous(if my sentence is about something that happened several times in the past ans continues)
I've read a comment of Peter in wich he said that if the sentence contains words that carry meaning of and (like until), we would not use present perfect continuous. But if not, what should we do ? For exemple, these following sentences: "I have been watching that program every week" and "i am watching that program every week".
Please, could you tell me if both have The same meaning. If the answer is no , then please, give me cases in wich we can say each sentence.
Thank you
JAU20

Hello JAU20,

To describe something which you do regularly and which is part of your normal routine then the present simple is normally used:

I watch that program every week.

 

It is possible to use the present perfect continuous but it requires a very specific context. You would need to have a situation in which you did not watch the programme, then began watching the programme every week and still do so, but do not see this as something which you will continue doing permanently.

I have been watching that program every week.

 

The present continuous is very unlikely to be used here. While it may be possible to construct a context in which its use could be justified (something which is being done as a temporary habit for some reason) the exercise would not really have any point and would likely cause confusion rather than elucidation. Generally I think it's better to focus on what you want to say rather than looking for extremely unusual examples of usage of particular forms.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Than you very much for your good explanations, Peter.
But, i dont understand very well why the present continuous is unlikely to be used here. In my example, i want to say that i like the program very much and because it appears every week, i wacth it every week. In comparaison to the sentence, "He is always laughing", i thought that i could also say " I am watching that program, every week."
thank you,
JAU20

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

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