The present continuous tense is formed from the present tense of the verb be and the present participle (-ing form) of a verb:

Use

1. We use the present continuous tense to talk about the present:

  • for something that is happening at the moment of speaking:

I’m just leaving work. I’ll be home in an hour.
Please be quiet. The children are sleeping.

  • 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.

 

  • for something which we think is temporary:

Michael is at university. He’s studying history.
I’m working in London for the next two weeks.

  • for 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?

  • to show that something is changing, growing or developing:

The children are growing quickly.
The climate is changing rapidly.
Your English is improving.

  • for something which happens again and again:

It’s always raining in London.
They are always arguing.
George is great. He’s always laughing.

Note: We normally use always with this use.

2. We use the present continuous tense to talk about the future:

  • for something which has been arranged or planned:

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

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.:

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Hello

I undestand the difference between 'going to' and 'present continuous ' for the future is that 'present continuous' should be used for fixed plans. However, when you pay attention to conversations in movies, it seems (to me) that this is not always the case. I have the impression 'present continuous' is becoming even more usual than 'going to'. I'd appreciate some clarification or opinions about it.

Hello Rosanna-br,

That's very observant of you! In many situations, the line between an intention and a fixed plan isn't very important to speakers, so they may use these two forms interchangeably. Another thing to consider is that what exactly a fixed plan is may be different from one person to the next. In other words, I might consider a flight booked only once I've got a ticket in my hand, whereas for my brother just having the flight date in his mind might be enough for him to consider the plan as fixed.

In the end, the grammar rules that are presented here and in most other grammars are attempts to describe how native speakers use the language. And of course how people use the language varies quite a bit and changes over time. Perhaps you've caught on to a change that will become more and more common with time.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk

Thank you for your interesting comments. I was thinking about the way English is so dynamic and changes over time. And of course it's hard for books to keep up and explain all the aspects of a tense. Besides, I imagine it would be overwhelming for learners to understand everything at once.

What you said about 'fixed plans' meaning different things to different people was really interesting. I hadn't thought about it - and now that you mentioned, it does make a lot of sense!

Your explanations are really (really!) helpful. Thank you very much.

Rosanna

Hello! Which should I say between 2 these sentence?
"I don't have any jobs at the moment"
"I am not having any jobs at the moment"
In this case. Is the word "have" either state verb or action verb?

Hello Kankool,

'have' can be used in the continuous, but in this case, where it indicates possession, it's not correct. In other words, the first sentence is the correct one. Our stative verbs page doesn't mention 'have', but it might be a good resource for you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Can I have more examples of when present continuous is used to talk about the past as when we are telling a story? I don't get this part, and there aren't enough examples in the lesson

Hello Roseinink,

We can use present tenses whenever we are telling a story and we want to make it more immediate. However, this is generally only done in certain types of storytelling such as jokes, informal anecdotes and so on.

A joke might start like this:

A man walked into a bar and asked the barman for a glass of water. The barman asked why he wanted water and the man said...

If we were telling the joke to friends we might want to make it more of a performance and say:

So this guy walks into a bar and asks the barman for a glass of water. The barman asks why he wants water and the guy says...

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello!
This sentence is correct?
"what will you do next week?"
Thanks in advance.

Hello Ricardo A,

It is grammatically correct, though whether it is correct in a specific context is another issue. As is described above, to speak about the future, we often use a variety of forms besides 'will' -- see our Future plans and talking about the future pages for more information on these different forms and how they are used.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello
In this part "for something which is new and contrasts with a previous state", can we use "present simple" in these two sentences with the same meaning?

Pages