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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

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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

Comments

Dear Team,
Is there any situation we can use either the 'present continuous" or "present perfect continuous"? If yes, please give an example.
He is staying with us for 2 days.
He's been staying with us for 2 days.
Which is the correct one? If both are correct, why?

Hello DaniWeebKage,

We use the present continuous + for to talk about time periods stretching into the future, while we use the present perfect to describe time periods stretching back into the past.

There can be some overlap in the the present continuous can describe a time which is just beginning or one which is already in progress, but the present perfect with for does not go refer to future time, even if the action is unfinished and will continue into the future.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir Peter,
He is staying with us for 2 days.
He will be staying with us for 2 says.
He will stay with us for 2 days.
1)What's the difference between these?
I'm reading a good book.
I've been reading a good book.
2)What is the different?
When I phoned, she was having a piano lesson.(I phoned during the lesson)
When I phoned, she had been having a piano lesson.( I phoned after the lesson)
3)Is that correct?
Her eyes are red.I think She's been crying.
(You've explained me once)
In this sentence, it doesnt matter whether the crying action is finished or not but what it implies all about is the crying action.
Then,
4)why the use of Past perfect continuous implies that the piano lesson is finished?

Thanks a million,
I'd appreciate if you answered all my questions.

Hello DaniWeebKage,

We appreciate your keenness to learn but this isn't the kind of question we can answer in the comments section, I'm afraid.

The comments section is primarily for providing explanations relating to the tasks on the page or the explanations/information on the page. As we're teachers and we want to help learners we try to answer other questions too, including more general questions about the language. However, here you've asked four different grammar questions which each require quite detailed explanations. To answer this properly we'd need to write a comment longer than the material on the page, I suspect!

 

I don't want to suggest that you shouldn't ask questions but do please try to keep them short and directly relevant to the material on the page. We're a small team here offering a free service and we have to deal with a lot of comments from users every day. Much as we'd like to, it's just not possible for us to provide what would really be individual lessons in the comments sections like this.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

The pandemic is rebounding... :|

Hi again guys,

There is an issue with the exercise "Present Continues Negatives". When check your answers it shows wrong even though they are correct.

Best wishes

Hello knownman,

I'm sorry for the confusion! I've just fixed the exercise.

Thanks very much for taking the time to tell us about this.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hi guys,

You have been doing great job. I just wanted to say the exercise "present continues 3" is a little bit confusing, at least for me. I had difficulties to understand Steve's plan. I think it's difficult to understand.

Best wishes

Hi knownman,

Thanks for the comment. It's always helpful to know if things are clear or not and we'll take a look at the formating to see if we can improve it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi great team,
I don't understand one thing and want to ask that.
I learnt
-We use while with present continuous like" While she was talking to him, the telephone rang."

-And we use when with present simple like" I was preparing meal when my son knocked the door.

However, I sometimes see 'while' used with present simple or 'when' used with present continuous.

The sentences in the book
'When* the men were out working in the field, I helped with milking the cows. '
'We spent long evenings talking in my sitting-room while* he played the music.'

Could you clear my confused mind teacher?
Best wishes to all 'British Council Team'.

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