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 nlvunguyen on Thu, 23/01/2014 - 15:19

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"At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast."

Can you please explain more why we use simple continuous here instead of simple present (as a routine)?

Also, both simple present and present continuous are used for "something happening again and again". Could you please give me more information and example? I'd really appreciate it! :)

Hi nlvunguyen,

As is explained above, the sentence "At 8 we are usually having breakfast" is used to speak about what is happening around a given time - it is not really talking about a routine. The difference is subtle, and has to do with the context the sentence is used in. For example, if you are speaking about the series of activities you do every morning, then you would use the present simple. On the other hand, if someone tells you that you she wants to visit you at home at 8am tomorrow, the present continuous version of the sentence would be more appropriate. This is because you're not really discussing your routine in general - rather, you are discussing a specific time of day.

As for your question about the present simple and continuous to to talk about something that happens again and again, note that, as is explained, the present continuous is used with always. This use of the present continuous often indicates some kind of emotion on the speaker's part. For this reason, it is often used to express our annoyance or dissatisfaction with something (e.g. the first example about raining), but can be used in other ways too (e.g. the other sentences).

These are subtle points and can be difficult to master - I hope this helps you.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by krishna0891 on Fri, 17/01/2014 - 16:46

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Sir,

I have come to know that some verbs like love, hate will always take 1st form (what I mean is, we don't use *ing forms of those verbs in general).

please explain them and mention the remaining verbs of such kind.

Thanks and Regards

Krishna

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 19/01/2014 - 11:11

In reply to by krishna0891

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Hello krishna0891,

Many of these verbs refer to mental or emotional states (e.g. believe, feel, hate, remember, want) and the senses (e.g. hear, see, taste), but there are others that don't fall into an easy-to-remember group (e.g. be, depend, fit, promise, weigh). Note that some of these verbs are used in the present continuous in certain contexts, but in general they are not used in continuous forms.

There are quite a few of these verbs. I would suggest that you learn them as you encounter them, but if you want a list, I'm sure you can find one by doing an internet search for "non-continuous verbs".

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by leejineui on Mon, 02/12/2013 - 14:14

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Present continuous : talk about the future

I thought I could use present continuous when i wanted to imply some future meanings in the sentence 

e.g I am meeting some friends after work ( future) 

so I have used this grammar in my email 

e.g) we confirmed that the following figure are appearing soon in the report

but one of my native friends said " It is wrong " and explain like below

numbers/figures on the report will change in the near future implying that either a new report will be printed shortly or the report itself has the ability to change figures by itself. 

he said I should have used "will appear" instead of "are appearing".  he told me that " Are appearing" means that the figure has the ability to change by it self.

but I cannot understand it since the future concept is also included in the present continuous. so I thought "are appearing" was able to use this sentence. 

 

Could you tell me when present continuous future concept can be applied to the sentence? and please explain for me why i cannot use "are appearing" in this sentence 

 

 

Hi leejineui,

You are absolutely right when you say that the present continuous can be used to talk about the future. More specifically, it is used to speak about future plans or arrangements. There is more on this on our talking about the future page, but also please know that speaking about the future takes a lot of practice.

I't sounds like "will appear" is the correct form in the sentence you mention. This is because as far as I can tell without knowing the full context, you don't plan for the figures to appear in the report - you already know this and so are simply giving information about the future, i.e. that the figures will appear in the report. Therefore, the correct form is will.

I don't agree with your friend when they speak about the figures changing by themselves. Perhaps I haven't understood the context well enough, but that doesn't sound right to me.

I hope this helps you.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amal.mahmoud on Sat, 23/11/2013 - 22:39

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If u plz tell me questions and negatives in present continuous

 

Hello Amal.mahmoud,

To form the negative we add 'not' after the auxiiliary (am, are or is):

I'm watching a film    >    I'm not watching a film

He's sleeping    >    He's not sleeping

To form questions we invert the order of the subject and the auxiliary:

I'm watching a film    >    Am I watching a film?

He's sleeping    >    Is he sleeping?

You can find more information on question forms here.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by granttod on Tue, 19/11/2013 - 14:30

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Hi, I did this exercise from http://www.cambridgeenglish.org the question was "Anyone ... after the start of the play is not allowed in until the interval." I got the correct answer "arriving", but somehow I did't know how to explain why this is the answer to the question. Could you please show me which part of the English Grammar should I learn, thanks.

Hi granttod,

Anyone arriving is a participle clause, which is explained on our Participle clauses page (look in the With the Present Participle section). Essentially, anyone arriving acts like the relative clause anyone who arrives would act if the sentence were written that way.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by TB01 on Wed, 11/09/2013 - 09:54

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Would it be correct to say 'John is arriving late. He is stuck in traffic'.

If it is, do people usually say this type of sentence (a fact) using the present continuous or use 'will' or 'going to' instead? Thanks!

Submitted by BigN on Mon, 02/09/2013 - 09:43

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Can you tell me about state verb?

What 's about the verb "try"? Is it the state verb?

When do we use " I try" or " I'm trying"?

Thank The LearnEnglish Team a lot!

Hello BigN,

You can find out about stative verbs here:

http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/grammar-reference/stative-verbs

As far as 'try' goes, it is not a stative verb and so can be used in a continuous form ('I'm trying...').  However, that does not mean that it cannot be used in a simple form ('I try...').  

Both forms are possible and are used in accordance with normal usage.  Thus we use 'I try...' for general/permanent actions:

'I (always) try to be nice to people.'

We use 'I'm trying...' for temporary actions or action in progress at the time of speaking:

'I'm trying to fix the car, but it's not easy.'

 

You can find out more about continuous forms here.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abdorawa on Mon, 12/08/2013 - 20:57

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We use present continuous tense for something which is happening before and after a given time I thought that would the same meaning to (something happens again and again) and if that is the case this would be in simple present form e.g 'At eight o'clock we are usually having a breakfast'.

Submitted by Abdorawa on Mon, 12/08/2013 - 20:30

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Why is it? 'I'm just leaving work rather than I shall have leave work.what is the difference? I'm in comfussion about it.

Hello Abdorawa,

'I'm just leaving work' means the speaker is in the process of leaving - he or she might just be walking through the door, for example.  'I shall have left' would mean the speaker is still at work, but knows that he or she will leave before a certain time in the future ('...by five o'clock', for example).

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nikel8 on Wed, 24/07/2013 - 08:03

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Submitted by Kind on Fri, 21/06/2013 - 08:34

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Please may I know why my question was not answered? Anything wrong?

Hello,

Nothing is wrong - we just don't have time to answer all the questions on LearnEnglish. We're a small team and there are millions of people using this site.

We'll try to get round to your question as soon as we can, but if you need a quick answer, you may have to pay a teacher to help you.

Best wishes,

Adam

Submitted by Kind on Wed, 29/05/2013 - 09:53

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Hello,

Please can you explain why it is said:

"When I get home the children are doing their homework" rather than "When I got home the children are doing their homework.

Is it because this is this is something happening again and again?

Many Thanks

Hello Kind,

The first sentence, as you suggest, describes a typical situation for the speaker when he or she arrives home.

The second sentence needs a small correction.  It should be:

'When I got home the children were doing their homework.'

This sentence would describe a specific situation in the past.

I hope that answers your question.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

'When I get home.the children are doing there homework' why not a simple present form since it describes the typical situation for the speaker?

Hello Abdorawa,

The present continuous form is used to describe situations which are in progress at the time of speaking or at the time of another event.  In your sentence above, the speaker is saying that the children are in the middle of doing their homework when he or she gets home each day.  If the speaker used a present simple form, it would suggest the children start their homework when he or she arrives home - a different meaning.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nour3 on Sun, 28/04/2013 - 20:00

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Hello,

If you please, I need some help according to what's mentioned before that we use both the present simple and the continuous present to talk about sth is happening again and again, could please show me the difference clearly?

Also, we use both of them to talk about future so when can I use each?

Thanks in advance,

Nour

Hello again Nour3!

 

This is your third question about grammar! In my experience, learners often get confused when they concentrate only on grammar, and don't look at how we actually use English. Can I suggest you spend some time reading and listening to the materials on our site? That way, you will see lots of examples of the different tenses you ask about, and may be able to understand the differences and similarities better that way.

 

One useful tip is to use our search box - put, for example, present continuous into the search box, and explore some of the materials and exercises we have which deal with these topics. 

 

In answer to your questions, we use always with present continuous to emphasise that something happens a lot, as in It's always raining in London. Simple present is more neutral. As for using both present continuous and present simple to talk about the future, our page on talking about the future explains the difference clearly.

 

Hope that helps!

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

Thank you Jeremy bee for your advice I do appreciate that, and please excuse my questions it's just my eager to learn more as I teach English and looking to have a career step forward which makes me keen on being more professional and up to date as possible as I can that's why I am focusing a bit on grammar as it has more details and tricks and definitely will help to be more accurate teaching English Language specifically  the grammatical aspects.

Nour

Hello Nour3!

 

Oh, I see! I can understand you wanting to know a bit more about the grammatical detail - but remember that our site (and grammar explanations) are aimed at learners. We are expanding the grammar section soon, but if you want to dig more deeply, you may find detailed grammar references helpful. There are several on the market, although I like Practical English Usage (Swan). As a general teaching tip, though, while you may want to understand grammar in detail, as I say, it can be confusing to overload learners with grammar!

 

Don't forget our sister site, TeachEnglish, has a lot of resources for teachers, including teacher development.

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dashcaramel on Fri, 19/04/2013 - 18:07

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How can we use present continuous instead of past continuous? I've never experienced it. How about "when we were telling a story" instead ?

Submitted by Zaarlev on Sun, 27/01/2013 - 23:11

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Hello Everyone,

I want to know whether this sentence " We're thinking of going to Croatia for two or three days next month", is "for something which we think is temporary".

Thanks for your help. 

Hello Zaarlev!

 

Here, 'We are thinking...' is for something you are doing right now, not something which is temporary. For example, people in a relationship might say 'We are thinking of getting married' - and no-one gets married thinking it will be temporary!

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

 

 

 

Hello Jeremy Bee!

Here, it doesn´t concern about they will divorce or not. The "We are thinking..." is about whether they will get married or not, they are considering the pros and cons about getting married, when they make a decision, they stop of "thinking" and do what it's better for them. It's the same case for my example.

So I think, the case of personal pronoun + be + thinking, is always temporary.

Regards

Zaarlev

Hello Zaarlev!

 

Yes, that's right, and that's what I thought you were asking about! Glad you've got it clear - we don't usually think about something forever!

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hyphen on Sat, 18/08/2012 - 13:50

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Hello,

Is it correct to say: "He is talking in the middle of the show" ?

thank you