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

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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

Plans for next month

2nd (Sat.) – my birthday. Party!
4th – day off
10th (Sun.) – flight OS462 15.40
11th, 12th, 13th – conference, Vienna
15th – dentist 3 p.m.
22nd – Mum & Dad arrive, evening
23rd – Toni's Restaurant (make reservation!)
25th – Mum & Dad > home
29th – payday

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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

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Submitted by abdulhaqcivil1 on Mon, 19/03/2018 - 08:45

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1) Now a days, i'm getting headache often. 2) Now a days, I get headache often. which one is correct it confuse me on picking verb "get or getting"?

Hi abdulhaqcivil1,

Both the present simple and the present continuous are possible here, but in general I'd recommend the present continuous if you're emphasising something that is abnormal (i.e. new and different).

I'd probably rephrase it as 'These days I'm having a lot of headaches (or 'frequent headaches')'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by khado on Mon, 05/03/2018 - 05:01

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Plz can you explain me i think the case bellow is for present simple not cont. for something which happens again and again: It’s always raining in London. They are always arguing. George is great. He’s always laughing.

Hello khado,

As the page says, we use the present continuous when something happens again and again. You could use the present simple here, but there is a slight difference in meaning. The present continuous suggests something happens again and again but is not part of a regular pattern, while the present simple suggests either something is permanent and unchanging or that it happens as part of a timetable or regular pattern of some kind.

Of course, language is always interpreted by the listener and we know how weather acts, so your meaning would be understood with either form.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team 

Submitted by el_gr on Sun, 25/02/2018 - 01:41

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Hi, It seems that both future continuous and present continuous can be used to talk about the future; how are they different? I think they are interchangeable in some (or maybe most) cases, but I believe there is a difference in nuance. Hope you could help. Thank you! Cf. 1) The plane will be landing in 10 minutes. 2) The plane is landing in 10 minutes. 3) I'll be meeting Peter for dinner tonight. 4) I'm meeting Peter for dinner tonight. 5) We'll be moving to Australia in November. 6) We're moving to Australia in November.

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 25/02/2018 - 09:09

In reply to by el_gr

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Hello el_gr,

Yes, both are used to speak about the future and both could be used in many contexts to say more or less the same thing, though usually there is a slight difference, often not so much in the action they are speaking about as about the speaker's perspective on the future action.

In general, the present continuous speaks about a future arranged action. The future continuous also speaks about a future arranged action with the additional focus on the duration of the event in some way, e.g. perhaps the speaker imagines herself being 'inside' the event. This can help understand sentences 3 vs 4 and 5 vs 6, for example. In 3, it's as if you're imagining your time in the restaurant together as a discrete event, whereas 4 is more a statement of fact. The same is true for 5 (I can see all the boxes around the house and it's going to be a difficult time) and 6.

This is quite a subtle distinction and so it can be difficult to see. I'd encourage you to look out for future continuous forms as you read and listen to English -- look at the context carefully, which should help you gain some insight into what the speaker or writer is trying to show with the future continuous form.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by omar123 on Tue, 20/02/2018 - 18:30

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for something which is happening before and after a given time: At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast. means that they are usually beginnig their breakfast before 8 o'clock ?

Hello omar123,

That is correct. When we say 'at eight o'clock we are usually having breakfast' we mean that the breakfast is generally in progress at that time. In other words, if you arrive at eight o'clock then we will be sitting down at the table and eating. Breakfast may start any time before that and finish any time after that.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sheikh Salauddin on Fri, 26/01/2018 - 14:14

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Is the sentence'he is reading for two hours' correct?

Hello Sheikh Salauddin,

When we describe an event which is unfinished and talk about the duration (up to now) we use the present perfect. The normal was to say this woud be:

He has been reading for two hours.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by abdulhaqcivil1 on Wed, 03/01/2018 - 17:28

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Sir, I confused here on the usage between present simple and continuous. point of my confusion is "At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast." it seems like routine habitual action ,why we have used present continuous rather a present simple?. light something on it sir. Thanks in advance, Abdul haq.

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 04/01/2018 - 08:29

In reply to by abdulhaqcivil1

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Hello abdulhaqcivil1,

The description on the page explains this. We use the present continuous for something which is happening before and after a given time.

 

Compare the following:

At eight o’clock we usually have breakfast.

At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast.

In the first sentence breakfast starts at eight o'clock - this is our normal time to have the meal.

In the second sentence we learn that at eight o'clock we are usually in the middle of breakfast. Perhaps it starts at 7.45, for example - we do not know.

The continuous aspect here is used to show things are in progress and incomplete at a certain time.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

THANKS A Lot and if you don't mind to answer another question of mine i can't find the perfect continuous tenses on your website does that mean that the perfect and the perfect continuous are the same ?

Hello omar123,

'Perfect' and 'continuous' are aspects rather than separate tenses. Each adds another layer of meaning to the verb and a verb form can have neither, one or both of these aspects. For example, all of the forms below are present forms:

[no aspect]  I live in Rome. [present simple]

[continuous aspect]  I am living in Rome. [present continuous]

[perfective aspect]  I have lived in Rome for five years. [present perfect simple]

[perfective and continuous aspect]  I have been living in Rome for five years. [present perfect continuous]

 

You can find information on the perfective aspect here and the continuous aspect here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Asarhaddon on Mon, 01/01/2018 - 11:58

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There is a specific usage of present continuous, where it follows a simple present verb, e.g. "I can't remember doing this", "I love doing that", "She hates working" etc. Is there a rule behind this that could explain how to follow it? Does that rule apply to "I look forward to seeing you" (or its mutations)?

Hello Asarhaddon,

'doing' and 'working' in your three example sentences are -ing forms (which are not the same as the present continuous). When we use a verb after another verb, the first verb often determines what form the second verb goes in. In the case of 'remember', 'love' and 'hate', the second verb often goes in the -ing form. Other verbs require a bare infinitive (e.g. 'let' or 'make') and others require a to + infinitive (e.g. 'want'). If you follow the links you can read more about this.

'look forward to' is a little bit different. In this case, 'to' is a preposition (not part of an infinitive). Verbs that come after prepositions always go in the -ing form, which is why we say 'look forward to doing' and not 'look forward to do'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mustafa Elhawary on Fri, 29/12/2017 - 07:28

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Hello Dear, I would like to ask a question. When I would like to say something happens again and again should I use the present simple form or continuous form? and why?

Hello Mustafa,

Our talking about the present page discusses this a bit -- really it depends on how you see it. If you're speaking about a habit, for example, the present simple is the form you should use ('I eat breakfast at 7am.'). If you're trying to make a comment, e.g. you're not happy, about something that happens quite often, then the present continuous is probably the best choice ('It's always raining in London').

If you want to ask us about a specific sentence, please feel free.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ilam on Sun, 03/12/2017 - 13:43

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I've another question please . I've found that the present continuous is used for a intention with a verb of motion . So if we find a verb of motion in present continuous does it always mean an intention or it could mean an arrangement? Thanks in advance , I really need help .

Hello Ilam,

As Peter explained, we don't comment on other sites' explanations. If there's a specific example you want to ask us about, please feel free.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ilam on Sun, 03/12/2017 - 11:16

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Hello . I've found that we use the present continuous with always ● to show that a repeated action is unplanned ● to show irritation ● to show admiration . Please help me to understand this use . I can't understand always with present continuous

Hello Ilam,

I assume those explanations are from another source (a book, website or similar). If so, then I suggest you contact the author for an explanation. We're happy to explain our own comments and examples but not to explain other people's explanations!

If you have particular sentences that you find confusing then please post them and we'll be happy to comment, and if there is anything on our pages which you find confusing then we're happy to try to explain those.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

So could you please explain why we use the present continuous with always in your sentence "George is great. He’s always laughing." Thanks in advance

Hello Ilam,

One of the uses of the present continuous can have is to show that the speaker is making a comment on the action. In your example, the speaker is showing that they think George's laughing is a great quality. We also often use 'always' in a sentence like this -- it makes it even clearer that we're making some kind of comment on the action.

The comment isn't always positive. For example if I say 'George is always telling me to exercise more' it could be that I appreciate that he tells me this, or it could be that it annoys me. Only the context or intonation can make the meaning of the comment clear.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by joca on Mon, 20/11/2017 - 02:02

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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 ('...is going to a new...') and the 'going to' form ('...is 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,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aseel aftab on Sat, 11/11/2017 - 23:36

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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

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 12/11/2017 - 07:58

In reply to by aseel aftab

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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,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Wesam K on Fri, 03/11/2017 - 16:11

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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

Submitted by RomarioGrey33 on Thu, 02/11/2017 - 21:33

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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

Submitted by nitinsharma on Thu, 02/11/2017 - 15:44

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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

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 03/11/2017 - 09:06

In reply to by nitinsharma

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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

Submitted by vishwa chauha on Wed, 25/10/2017 - 19:41

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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

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 26/10/2017 - 08:23

In reply to by vishwa chauha

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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

Submitted by Tim Leahm on Tue, 24/10/2017 - 21:33

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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

Submitted by jau20 on Sat, 02/09/2017 - 00:19

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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

Submitted by masri.ahm04 on Mon, 28/08/2017 - 01:17

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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

Submitted by Alex H on Tue, 22/08/2017 - 21:47

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and what about my examples with "NY"?

Submitted by Mandeep Kaur D… on Mon, 21/08/2017 - 09:39

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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

Submitted by Vishal Panchal on Thu, 27/07/2017 - 13:38

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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

Submitted by Ram ous on Sun, 16/07/2017 - 11:55

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