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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Hello AvramCiprian,

None of them are correct! I imagine (though it's hard to be certain without knowing the context) that the sentence you're looking for is:

I'm looking at that girl. She is wearing a nice jacket.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Norek on Sat, 25/04/2015 - 08:42

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Hello i just want to know What is the different between this:When I get home the children are doing their homework. and this: When i get home the children were doing their homework i guess 2nd one is correct

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 26/04/2015 - 07:41

In reply to by Norek

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Hello Norek,

The first sentence is correct and describes a typical situation: each time you get home, the children are in the middle of doing their homework.

The second sentence is incorrect. You would need to say 'When I got home the children were...' and it would then describe not a typical situation but one particular situation in the past.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ismail76 on Sun, 19/04/2015 - 20:46

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Hi kindly which one more correct between these two sentences: 1- She's buying a new laptop on Thursday. 2- she will buy a new laptop on thursday. and which one preffered to use?

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 20/04/2015 - 07:22

In reply to by ismail76

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Hello ismail76,

That really depends on what you mean. Please see our talking about the future for an explanation of how the different forms are used.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by andeo on Sun, 12/04/2015 - 14:31

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Hello dear BC team, this web site shows us why is the internet most valuable thing these days. It is really, really helpful to me. Anyway as I ask questions often I do not know if I bother your team. If do, please let me know. I have some quetions, if you can answer it would be great. 1.What sort of music are they listening to? Why TO at the end of the sentence? Is it possible to omit it? 2. What about the patternt "how to something" when we speak in general? Is it grammatical and formal? For example, if I am wondering "how to fix my car", or it is better to say "How can I fix my car? Do you have any suggestion on this kind of patterns? Other examples are: how to make a dessert, how to play the gituar, etc. Best wishes

Hello swxswx,

We try to answer the questions out users have, but sometimes it is not possible or it takes some time as it is not our primary role here. We're happy for you to ask, however, and answer when we are able.

The 'to' in these questions is different. In your first question 'to' is a preposition and it is necessary as 'listen' has an object in the sentence: 'what kind of music'. You can use 'listen' as an intransitive verb (without an object), but if there is an object then the preposition is necessary.

Are you listening? [no object]

You're not very good at listening. [no object]

Are you listening to me? ['me' is the object]

You're not very good at listening to what I'm saying. ['what I'm saying' is the object]

In your second question the 'to' is part of the verb form - the infinitive. For indirect questions you can use both alternatives:

'I am wondering how to fix my car.'

'I am wondering how I can fix my car.'

For direct questions we tend not to use the alternative with 'to':

'How can I fix my car?'

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by nkmg on Sat, 28/03/2015 - 18:55

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Dear sir : what is difference between something that happens again and again in the present and something which happens again and again can i say They always argue They are always arguing is these same meaning?

Hi nkmg,

'always' is commonly used with the present continuous to express the idea that something happens too often or more often than normal. So 'they're always arguing' implies that the speaker thinks they argue too much or more than normal. 'They always argue' is more a simple statement of fact, with no commentary.

Note that this is similar to your other question about present continuous and present simple. The use of the continuous aspect implies a perspective on the action.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ujma on Fri, 20/03/2015 - 04:22

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I'll be home in a one hour or in an one hour?

Hello Ujma,

Neither is correct. The correct version is: 'I'll be home in an hour.'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rasha2 on Fri, 27/02/2015 - 19:22

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Hi, Can you please explain point no 3 we can use the present continues to talk about the past i didn't understand it

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 27/02/2015 - 21:23

In reply to by Rasha2

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Hi Rasha2,

Usually we use past forms for telling stories:

I woke up and got out of bed. Then had a wash, got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast.

However, it is also quite common to use present forms (simple and continuous, as appropriate) in order to make the story sound more immediate and bring it to life, especially if the story is an anecdote or a joke:

So anyway, listen to this. I wake up and get out of bed. Then have a wash, get dressed and go downstairs for breakfast, and you'll never guess what happens next...

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by yh24 on Tue, 24/02/2015 - 18:43

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Hi all, Which is correct? and why? - "Sorry, I don't understand, what are you asking for." - "Sorry, I don't understand, what you are asking for." Thanks

Hello yh24,

The first one is correct because the word order in indirect questions is different. Please see our reported questions page for an explanation of this.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Peter Nguyen01 on Tue, 30/12/2014 - 16:06

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Hi Peter, Thanks for your prompt reply. I know the verb form of these sentences but I don't understand the exact meaning of them and how to use it. (Ex: He lived in London -> Its mean: He lived in London in the past and He doesn't live London now) Kindly help me to understand clearly about these sentences Thanks again for your help

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 31/12/2014 - 16:38

In reply to by Peter Nguyen01

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Hi Peter Nguyen01,

I'm afraid it's not possible for us to provide in-depth general explanations of numerous different forms and tenses in these comments sections. If we tried to provide such answers then we would have no time left for our main work, which is maintaining and developing the site. Explanations, examples, rules and practice exercises for all of those forms are available via the link I posted - this is the function of those pages - so please work through those and then we'll be happy to answer any specific questions you have about what you read.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Peter Nguyen01 on Mon, 29/12/2014 - 14:52

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Hi Teacher, Kindly help me to clarify the difference of sentences below: + He lives in London + He is living in London + He has lived in London + He lived in London + He has been living in London Thanks so much

Hi Peter Nguyen01,

You have six different verb forms there, including different times (tenses) and different aspects (progressive and perfect). In order, the names of the forms are as follows:

present simple

present continuous (progressive)

present perfect

past simple

present perfect continuous (progressive)

Explanations of these are available in our grammar section on verbs - click here for this. When you've worked through the relevant pages if you have any specific questions then we'll be happy to help.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rubyho on Sun, 09/11/2014 - 03:36

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I would like to know what is the difference between "sth that is fixed" in present simple tense and "sth arranged or planned" in present continuous tense. Also there are both "sth that happens again and again" in present simple and present continuous tense. How can i distinguish them? Thank you.

Hello rubyho,

A fixed time is one which is set by a timetable or a schedule, not one decided by an individual. It often refers to events which repeat regularly such as train times.

Something arranged or planned is established by or between individuals or groups. It is often a one-time event.

Both forms can be used to describe repeating events but there is a slight difference. The present simple is usually used to describe actions which are normal or common, while the present continuous is used to describe behaviour or activities which are representative of a person or thing in some way. The difference is quite subtle and the best way to pick it up is by exposure: through reading and listening to English and seeing or hearing examples in a natural context.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by archijais on Tue, 04/11/2014 - 23:18

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hi I just want to understand this rule.please explain me,thank you. for something which is happening before and after a given time: At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast. When I get home the children are doing their homework.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 05/11/2014 - 14:35

In reply to by archijais

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Hello archijais,

The present continuous is used here because the action is 'in progress'. For example:

At eight o’clock we usually have breakfast. - We start eating at 8.00.

At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast. - At 8.00 we are in the middle of eating.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SHUBHAM KANT DUBEY on Tue, 21/10/2014 - 19:43

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hi sir, please give me example of where we use the present continuous to talk about the past.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 22/10/2014 - 09:19

In reply to by SHUBHAM KANT DUBEY

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Hello SHUBHAM KANT DUBEY,

As the explanation says, we can use present forms (including the present continuous) to tell a story, usually when the story is an anecdote or a joke. It helps to make the performance (the storytelling) more memorable. For example, I could start an anecdote like this:

So, there I was in the city late at night. I was walking home and suddenly I saw a police car...

Alternatively, I could tell the same story using present forms:

So, there I am in the city late at night. I'm walking home and suddenly I see a police car...

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hornbyas on Sun, 28/09/2014 - 10:49

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hi please help what is the difference between, i always do, i am always doing.e.g I always lose my things and i am always losing my things,

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 29/09/2014 - 13:53

In reply to by hornbyas

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Hi hornbyas,

The difference between verbal forms really depends a lot on context, so it's difficult to say more than what's explained on this page and our present simple and present tense pages regarding those tenses in general.

As for 'I always lose my things' vs. 'I am always losing my things', the first is a more general, neutral statement, whereas the latter implies some kind of emotion, e.g. frustration or annoyance. The present simple is commonly used to express annoyance in this way.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Khallaf on Mon, 11/08/2014 - 16:04

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I got 100% but i need to know how we can use the present continues for the past like "3. We can use the present continuous to talk about the past: When we are telling a story: When we are summarising the story from a book, film or play etc."
Hello Ahmed, There's an example in the exercise, so you've already seen at least that one! Sometimes we tell stories set in the past using the present continuous, to give a sense of immediacy to them. Best wishes, Adam The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Oscas Po on Thu, 10/07/2014 - 14:22

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hellow teacher! Which one is correct among the two sentences below? 1. The apple in the basket is starting rotting 2. The apple in the basket is starting rot Thank you in advance for you time and consideration

Hello Oscas,

Actually, neither is correct. The to + infinitive form of verbs is used after the verb start - therefore, the sentence should be:

3. The apple in the basket is starting to rot.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Oscas Po on Wed, 09/07/2014 - 14:26

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Hi teacher! I get confused in one the example of present continuos for something which is happening before and after a given time "At eight o’clock we are usually having breakfast" as far as i got understand it, it is in form of present continous for something that happens again and again that is "we have a habit of having breakfast at eight o'clock every day" am I right or wrong please help me understand it.

Hi Oscas,

Both the present simple and present continuous can be used to speak about repeated actions, but the present simple is more generally used for this. When we use the present continuous to speak about repeated events, these events are somehow related to the time being discussed. So in this example, it could be that it is approximately 8 o'clock, or perhaps we are talking about some event at 8 o'clock.

I hope this helps clarify it for you!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abdul Qadir on Fri, 04/07/2014 - 06:45

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Hi I want to know how do I use (being) in present continuous.

Hello Abdul Qadir,

Generally speaking, the verb 'be' is not used in continuous tenses as a main verb. It's most frequent use in present continuous forms is as an auxiliary verb in passive sentences:

I am being attacked.

We are being questioned by the police.

However, we do sometimes use 'be' to emphasise temporary behaviour which is different from that which is normal or expected:

She is being very rude today.

I am being a terrible bore about this, I know.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mrs Vahedi on Sun, 11/05/2014 - 07:58

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hello why we dont use "past continuous " for the past, in the story or for summarising? it seems apparently wrong? thanks for your attention

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 12/05/2014 - 08:05

In reply to by Mrs Vahedi

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Hello Mrs Vahedi,

Note that the explanation says that the present continuous can be used in these ways, but that does not mean that you can only use the present continuous to tell a story or to summarise. You can use the past continuous to do these things as long as it makes sense given the context.

If you have any doubts, please feel free to write a few sentences and we can check them for you.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ankita2219 on Tue, 06/05/2014 - 09:48

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In the example cited "I’m just leaving work. I’ll be home in an hour." shouldnt the first sentence be "I'm just leaving for work?"

Hello ankita2219,

Both are correct grammatically but they have different - almost opposite - meanings.

'...leaving work' means the person is at work and is about to leave to go somewhere else, such as home.

'...leaving for work' means the person is somewhere else, such as at home, and is about to go to work.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Samah10 on Wed, 23/04/2014 - 11:23

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Isn't the present tense used to talk about something that happen again and again . and here the present continuous also used to the *same purpose . so, what's the difference ??

Hello Samah10,

You are correct that the present simple can be used for habitual actions.  Generally, we use the present simple when the action is normal - it happens all the time and is standard.  For example:

He gets up at 6.00.

They eat lunch together.

He works at the bank.

All of these suggest that this behaviour is understood as normal, typical and not particularly noteworthy.

We use the present continuous, especially with 'always' or 'forever' when something is not so much normal but rather a frequent event or activity.  For example:

He's always getting up at that time. [it's something that happens frequently, but not necessarily all the time]

They're forever eating lunch together. [it happens more often than would be expected, and is therefore something noteworthy - i.e. it is seen as not normal or expected]

He's always working late. [again, the fact he works late is seen as worthy of comment, therefore something not part of the normal way of things]

It is a small difference in some ways but I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

thanks, that's much clear with the examples. If you may, I have another question . both present tense and continuous used for something that fixed or arranged in the future. so again, what's the difference ?

Hello Samah10,

When the explanation says "something fixed in the future", it is referring to events that occur regularly on a timetable, e.g. train or flight departures, film showing times in a cinema, classes at a school, etc. For these, the present simple is used.

The present continuous is often used for something planned or arranged. These are generally not regular events. For example, if you and I agreed to meet in a café tomorrow at 8am, I could say "Samah10 and I are meeting tomorrow at 8". If that was something we did every day, I'd use the present simple (for a habitual or regular event).

Note that the difference is sometimes a matter of perspective. If I am to catch a flight tomorrow at 10:30 and someone asked me about it, I could say both:

The flight leaves at 10:30.
I'm leaving tomorrow at 10.30.

In the first sentence, I'm talking more about the flight than my plan, and in the second I'm talking more about my planned trip.

I hope this helps!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, what is the difference between following words if i add word 'always ': He always gets up at 6:00 A.M. He is always getting up at 6:00 A.M. Thanking you in an advance!

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 08/02/2015 - 19:51

In reply to by rishi1234567

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Hello rishi,

'always' is often used with the present continuous to indicate actions that we think are done too often. In this case, the sentence doesn't just report this man's routine - it also includes the idea that the speaker or writer disapproves of the action in some way. It could be that 6:00 is too early or too late, for example.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Stivencin on Tue, 08/04/2014 - 21:44

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Hi, I am American and am helping a friend with his English, although he's learning the British variety. He often writes sentences such as "Today I have been to the store and then I have been to the gym". Because he specifies the order in which the events have taken place, this sounds wrong to me, although he's talking about things he has done today. Can you shed any light on the subject? Thanks much.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 09/04/2014 - 08:10

In reply to by Stivencin

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Hi Stivencin,

In general, we use the present perfect for events which do not have a concrete time reference and are relevant at the moment of speaking, but use past tenses for events which are finished and sequential.  

You could see the actions in your sentence as fitting into either of these categories - 'today' is unfinished time, which suits the present perfect, and the events are 'news' to the listener, to which again the present perfect lends itself; you could also argue that the events have present consequences (I don't need to go shopping and I feel good/fit/healthy).  On the other hand, you could see the actions are being completed and sequential, without any direct relevance to the moment of speaking.  In other words both of these variations are possible:

Today I have been to the store and then I have been to the gym.

Today I went to the store and then I went to the gym.

The choice depends upon how the speaker views the actions; there is no right or wrong alternative and I have certainly heard people using both.  I know, though, that in American English the past tense is preferred in sentences such as this.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Peter! All the best, Stivencin