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Present continuous

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


Present continuous 2


  • future plans or arrangements:

Mary is going to a new school next term.
What are you doing next week?

Present continuous 3


Present continuous 4


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


Present continuous questions 2


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


Present continuous negatives 2


Stative verbs

We do not normally use the continuous with stative verbs. Stative verbs include:

  • verbs of thinking and feeling:
(= believe)

  • verbs of the senses:
  • others:

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


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


hello. i´m new here and my native language is portuguese. i have one question about the present continuous tense to talk about the future. i´m told when you use -going- to talk about the future, must put the base verb too. for exemplo:

Mary is going to a new school next term.

Mary is going to go a new school next term.

help me get it, please.

Hello joca,

English uses a range of ways to talk about the future and we usually distinguish between the present continuous (' going to a new...') and the 'going to' form (' going to go to a new...'). The present continuous is used for fixed or certain arrangements, while the 'going to' form is used for plans or intentions, and also for expected results based on present evidence. You can read more about these forms on our Talking about the future and Future plans pages.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir
Is it necassary that present continuous should be used without mentioning time and present perfect continuous when a time is mentioned for example I am hearing a strange noise or I have been hearing a strong noise is also possible without mentioning time

Hi aseel aftab,

The present continuous describes an action happening around the time of speaking and so there is an implied time reference and it is not necessary to make it explicit. You can, of couse, use a time reference such as 'at the moment' or 'now', for example.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

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,


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

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,
The LearnEnglish Team


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

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

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,
The LearnEnglish Team