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

So the first one is related to "intentions" and the second one with "plans or arrangements", if yes then it's quite confusing to understand difference between plans and intentions, I'll be grateful if you clarify it .

Hello Ram ous,

The difference is really a question of how we see the action, not a clear-cut factual difference. If we see the action as being already set and certain then we tend to use the present continuous; if we think the action might change or not happen then going to is more likely. Plans are less fixed than arrangements. Plans may exist only in our head for the moment; arrangements tend to have gone further.

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Yes ,thank you for your support.

Hello Sir Kirk,
this sentence it's very hard to understand as compared to me :
and he's wondering what to do next when a man…

Best Wishes.

Hello medmomo,

This sounds like it's from a story or a joke. It's difficult to explain without more context, but essentially it's describing a person who is thinking about what to do. While he is thinking, a man comes and does something. Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello

I undestand the difference between 'going to' and 'present continuous ' for the future is that 'present continuous' should be used for fixed plans. However, when you pay attention to conversations in movies, it seems (to me) that this is not always the case. I have the impression 'present continuous' is becoming even more usual than 'going to'. I'd appreciate some clarification or opinions about it.

Hello Rosanna-br,

That's very observant of you! In many situations, the line between an intention and a fixed plan isn't very important to speakers, so they may use these two forms interchangeably. Another thing to consider is that what exactly a fixed plan is may be different from one person to the next. In other words, I might consider a flight booked only once I've got a ticket in my hand, whereas for my brother just having the flight date in his mind might be enough for him to consider the plan as fixed.

In the end, the grammar rules that are presented here and in most other grammars are attempts to describe how native speakers use the language. And of course how people use the language varies quite a bit and changes over time. Perhaps you've caught on to a change that will become more and more common with time.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk

Thank you for your interesting comments. I was thinking about the way English is so dynamic and changes over time. And of course it's hard for books to keep up and explain all the aspects of a tense. Besides, I imagine it would be overwhelming for learners to understand everything at once.

What you said about 'fixed plans' meaning different things to different people was really interesting. I hadn't thought about it - and now that you mentioned, it does make a lot of sense!

Your explanations are really (really!) helpful. Thank you very much.

Rosanna

Hello! Which should I say between 2 these sentence?
"I don't have any jobs at the moment"
"I am not having any jobs at the moment"
In this case. Is the word "have" either state verb or action verb?

Hello Kankool,

'have' can be used in the continuous, but in this case, where it indicates possession, it's not correct. In other words, the first sentence is the correct one. Our stative verbs page doesn't mention 'have', but it might be a good resource for you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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